Keep Marion Jones out of the garden

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day Marion Jones’ recent admission that she lied to Federal investigators about using steroids has gotten me thinking a lot about gardening.

It’s not as much as a stretch as it might seem. See, I’ve become a fan of gardening. But long before I liked to plant things, I became a huge fan of sports. I spent hours glued to my grandmother’s television in the study off the dining room during the 1984 Summer Olympics, and when I wasn’t watching, I was outside, conducting my own imaginary Summer Games, in which I medaled in track, field, dressage and rhythmic gymnastics. Don’t get between me and my ribbon, people. On my grandmother’s patio, I scored perfect 10s with my undulating strip of purple satin.

I ran track in high school, and so, by the time Marion Jones came on the scene, was more than aware of what it meant to run as fast as she did. I knew that for me to even come close to her in a race, my feet would have to go approximately twice as fast as I could make them go on my most adrenaline-charged days, and the very fact that she had the sheer cahones to go out there and shoot for five gold medals? I swooned. Marion Jones was my hero that year, and when she didn’t make her five golds, I felt a weird combination of incredibly sad for her that she hadn’t achieved all she’d set out to do and thrilled that she’d still medaled five times.

She embodied pure sport. Watching her, I could imagine what it felt like to come off the curve of the track onto the straightaway of the 200 meters—my absolute favorite moment of that particular race—when you slingshot down and just hold on for dear life, arms pumping, feet serving as nothing more than propulsive devices. And when she won, Marion Jones looked so grateful, and beautiful when she smiled, and she celebrated without—like some other athletes—making the U.S. look like a bunch of ungracious, unsportsmanlike jerks.

So we’ve come to find she cheated. I wasn’t surprised, to be honest. My opinion of world-caliber athletes has been dropping by exponents in the last five to seven years, as more and more test positive for one steroid or another. Rafael Palmeiro? You broke my heart. Floyd Landis? You’re a dirt bag, dude. Jose Canseco? That’s Jose Cansucko, thank you very much.

I used to lump steroids in with athletic programs from despotic nations—countries so desperate for the win they couldn’t help but turn their female swimmers into oddly-shaped, hairy rectangles. But now I don’t trust anyone operating at a truly elite level.

I love pure sports. Sports that demonstrate the dazzling skill of athletes and what the human body can do. Not the human body plus a bunch of poison. Just the human body. Alone. Fabulous and amazing.

And for that reason, I choose to plant my yard and not add a bunch of chemicals to the soil in which I’m raising my food. Much as I believe in the purity of sport, I believe in the purity of food—that it should be nourishing rather than poison, and that it should come from a balanced environment that has been as nurtured as the plants that grow it.

I’m not a total purist. I still attend Major League Baseball games, and I am already plotting for how I can watch as much of the Beijing Olympics as I possibly can, even though I know not all the cheaters get caught. I don’t always buy organic vegetables at the store—in fact, often, I’ll pick the locally-grown item over the organic if the option is one or the other. This is not a perfect world, and I do believe that the environmental impact of shipping food long distances is far worse than the environmental impact of pesticide and fertilizer use.

But when we talk about acting locally in the global fight against environmental catastrophe, the one place we all have the most control is in our own yards. We have the choice: use Scotts Miracle-Gro? Or Terracycle? Dump a bunch of chemical fertilizer on the vegetables we plan to eat, and let that leach into the soil and run off into the local water supply, or try a less harmful product? We might lose a little in terms of how big our tomatoes grow, but we gain a long-term benefit that we can’t even quantify yet.

Whether we’re growing vegetables in beds or annuals in pots, as garden and landscaping consumers, we make a choice every day: Preserve the purity of the environments on our own properties, or choose to cheat a little bit. Or maybe cheat a lot. We can take what nature has given us and appreciate that amazing bounty, or we can get greedy and grab for more than we deserve. And, like Marion Jones, we can only go down that path for so long before it catches up with us. Cheaters never win, and when it’s the health of our planet that’s at stake, there’s only one choice my values will allow me to make: I can’t cheat in my own yard.

18 Responses to “Keep Marion Jones out of the garden”

  1. 3 steven October 15, 2007 at 7:03 am

    I was never a huge sports fan, but from a very young age I was hooked on the San Francisco Giants. I was saddened when Barry Bonds started growing freakishly large, even his head grew fergawdsake. So it goes with Miracle Gro and the like and they have no place in my garden. I DO have one use for Miracle Gro.. I’ve used it on fresh concrete to induce a lovely bluish mineral patina.

    Sports and chemical fertilizers are big business these days and IMHO the only pure sport left is skateboarding, it’s gaining a lot of big money sponsorship, but it’s still the kid, the deck and the talent and no amount of steroids can give you the reflexes and agility necessary.

  2. 4 inadvertentgardener October 15, 2007 at 7:17 am

    Really? To induce a patina? Steven, that’s really quite scary. And you know, you’re probably right about skateboarding, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t using steroids just to help their bodies recover faster from their spectacular falls. But I’m cynical like that…

  3. 5 Robin (Bumblebee) October 15, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Very interesting analogy. Like with Marion, it’s a slippery slope that seems to easy at the time. Actually, the analogy works really well for me.

    I also wrote for Bloggers Action Day.

    Good going!

    –Robin (Bumblebee)

  4. 6 Stuart October 15, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Preach it Genie!!!

    I loved your illustration drawing on the experiences of the sporting world. Very precise.

  5. 7 kate October 16, 2007 at 1:19 am

    Thanks for this post, Genie! I suppose we Canadians had our major steroid shock when Ben Johnson was disqualified at an earlier Olympics. After that, it seems just, well, commonplace. Sadly.

    I agree with you about doing what we can in our own gardens and not cheating …

  6. 8 inadvertentgardener October 16, 2007 at 5:57 am

    Robin, thanks for the heads up — I’ll go check out your take on the issue.

    Stuart, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

    Kate, yes…the Ben Johnson scandal was really shocking — kind of the tip of the iceberg, if you think about it…

  7. 9 Katherine October 16, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Really great post, Genie!

    And I feel exactly the same way. Also, I too spent hours watching the Olympics and having my own pretend gymnastics show, (except it was for an earlier Olympics! I was of the Olga and Nadia era!) but I think I watched in the same den and on the same patio! Thank you for bringing back that memory for me.

    Also, do you know what happened with the Community Farms vote?


  8. 10 the mint killer October 16, 2007 at 7:51 pm


    if you are talking about the community food projects that genie posted about recently, the answer is something and nothing at the moment. the senate vote on the farm bill has slipped to next week at the earliest. the good news is that the cfp projects are now part of mandatory funding for usda which means that the program is saved! the bad news is that cfo is stuck at $5million — which is not enough. there’s still time to call in and urge your senators to step up to the plate for local food!

    thanks for all your support and interest. the numbers, and the farm bill may seem abstract, but it means a lot when the proverbial rubber hits the road… or some such metaphor!

  9. 11 inadvertentgardener October 16, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    Katherine, The Mint Killer’s given you even more info than I already had–and now we both know the 411!

    Mint Killer, thank you for that interjection! I was actually planning on emailing you to check status–you are quicker on the draw than I am tonight.

  10. 12 Bare Bones Gardener October 19, 2007 at 4:41 am

    Lovely analogy, sadly no country seems immune to the steriod issue either..

  11. 13 inadvertentgardener October 19, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Bare Bones Gardener, you’re right — everyone’s getting into the act, unfortunately. It’s sad…and leaves me not trusting competition anymore…

  12. 14 cooper October 20, 2007 at 12:58 am

    That was a great post, and a perfect wait to fit Blog Action day in to your blog.

    I ran distance in high school. I follow track and field events to this day even though other than snowboarding and skiing I do not have much interest in sports. I was not surprised at the admission either.

    I’M rather an avid gardener, or at least as much of one as I can be using a plot of land a few blocks away from my apartment.

  13. 15 inadvertentgardener October 21, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Cooper, thanks for the comment, and for stopping by. Good that you’re finding ways to garden, even if it requires a teeny commute!

  1. 1 » Keep Marion Jones out of the garden Trackback on October 15, 2007 at 3:32 pm
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