There’s a drug problem in America that claims less than ten people a year yet everyone is up in arms over it. It’s called steroids and it’s been the source of a nationwide witch hunt by way of scandal for going two decades. The steroid issue reached critical mass recently as it somehow has invaded America’s pastime, baseball. How could this have happened to our favorite sport? How could the sanctity of the game be tampered with unbeknownst to fans, the media and the upper brass? Filmmaker Christopher Bell knows why. It’s because in America, we like our heroes to be “Bigger, Stronger, Faster.”
Bell’s documentary is an absolute must see for anyone taking part in any kind of debate about steroids. Be it the media, politicians or friends at a local sports bar, what most people don’t know about “the juice” is about one hundred times more than they do know. This is laid out clearly by Bell as he talks to people who gladly use steroids and don’t have a problem with it as well as politicians and “experts” who really don’t know the first thing about ‘roids other than “drugs are bad…m’kay?” Yet these people are leading a charge against something that’s costing tax payers tons of money to fight and the question is, do we as a nation really care that much? One of my favorite singer-songwriters Todd Snider said it best in his song “Tension” when he opined, “But you know this war on drugs is funded by the tobacco and alcohol commissions/It’s not what drugs you’re strung out on they care about as much as whose.” While the film does a great job laying out what steroids are, what they do and how safe or unsafe they are, there’s also a personal angle as Bells older and younger brother are current steroid users.
I graduated high school in 1989 and I knew at least 6 people who were on steroids at that time. When Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire evolved into “The Bash Brothers” me and all my friends knew they were juiced. Same for when Sosa and McGwire single handedly revived baseball and the same for when Barry Bonds came into training camp five sizes bigger one Spring. While we all kind of joked about it, we also thought the owners, the media and the other players knew these guys were artificially bulked up and didn’t care. And you know what, they did know it. They knew it and chose to say nothing because chicks dig the longball and that’s a very key point in “Bigger, Stronger, Faster.”
“Bigger, Stronger, Faster” is surprisingly funny and also incredibly insightful as Bell has really done his homework on the subject. The most fascinating parts of the film are when Bell examines American culture and heroes like “Rambo,” “Rocky,” “Conan the Barbarian,” Hulk Hogan and others who are all roided up and always have been. In one scene in which Bell interviews a Harvard psychiatrist we see the evolution of the male action figure from average looking (G.I.) Joe in the 1960’s to the basically inhumanly buffed action figures of today. I guess what really clicked for me about the film and what Bell is getting at is, we’re all to blame for steroids and performance enhancers because America has a win at all costs mentality. If everyone other countries Olympic athletes are doing them, do you really think America will play martyr and play by the rules? If Barry Bonds is watching lesser ballplayers put up big numbers while juiced, why the hell wouldn’t he do them too? We play to win in America, win at all costs.
As we get to know Bell’s steroid using brothers Mark and Mike we see two men who are passionate about power lifting and professional wrestling, respectively. However we also learn that everyone in those sports is using steroids and to not use them would render their dream totally useless. Filmmaker Bell is into fitness himself and claims he’s always trapped in a moral dilemma on using steroids or other illegal performance enhancing drugs and says he never has. But as Bell introduces us to several steroid users and doctors, we see that maybe the drug might not be as bad as we thought. Or better, the fact we’ve been living with steroids and other performance enhancers longer than most people realize kind of renders this sudden national debate rather moot. Also rendering debate and attack against steroids rather pointless is all kinds of other forms of doping and cheating. Did you know Tiger Woods has Lasik Eye Surgery and now his vision has been corrected to beyond 20/20? Isn’t that cheating? Did you know that the vitamin and supplement industry in America has laws and rules so flimsy basically anyone can create and sell them? Did you know you can head over to google right now and buy steroids within 5 days?
“Bigger, Stronger, Faster” is a tough pill to swallow, no pun intended. Bell says things we’ve been programmed to not believe or trust. Plus, there’s no denying steroid abuse is bad news. Yet steroid related injuries are almost the 150th biggest reason for emergency room visits. But the point of view Bell takes is sure to raise controversy and, more importantly, educated debate. A film like this needs to be seen in order for people to have any kind of educated and personal view on the subject.