Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ah. Baseball in Washington. Terrific.

Turns out Michelle Malkin and I are more or less on the same page where sports and tax money are concerned. I realize this will set me at odds with many, many bloggers, even the conservative ones, but I have to say it again:

Professional sports athletes, particularly those playing either baseball, hockey, basketball, or football, are nothing more than (charter) members of the Whining Millionaires Club and their owners are members of the Billionaire Opportunists Club.

Michelle rightly points out that any effort by government at any level to sponsor these teams is nothing more than taking your hard-earned money and converting it into so much government pork. Or, put another way, I get to pay tax money to have a team I can't afford to watch in person represent my city so that my elected officials can point with pride to them as a status symbol. The Washington Expos (or whatever they end up being called) will become "America's Team." The president will throw out their first pitch every season. Think of the symbolism. The leader of the mightiest nation on earth will pitch the ball to a catcher who probably makes a minimum of five times the president's salary. Funny, no?

Now, to set myself even farther apart from most other male animals: The smartest thing Los Angeles ever did was whatever it took to get rid of first the Rams, then the Raiders.

Sports fanatics don't get this. The tradition of sport, according to them, is a noble one. The honing of the human body to someone's idea of physical perfection, and the mastering of a complex physical art can, indeed, be noble. The idea of competition is certainly a time-honored one. Even our political process is nothing more than a competition, with supposedly higher ideals. When done properly, even athletic competition carries with it the idea of "sportsmanship" which states that the game is the thing, not whether one wins or loses, and that athletes are just as gracious in defeat as they might be in victory.


In professional sports, "sportsmanship" is just another word for "loser." The athlete who is guilty of "sportsmanship" is the athlete who will be on the club's farm team for the next seven years trying to prove that he has what it takes to play with the big boys again, and make the serious salary. "Graciousness" is another word for "weakness," as in, "Sam Doe was gracious in his fifth loss in six games." This translates to: "Sam Doe will take a 20% salary reduction next year and can only hope to keep his endorsement contract with Baggy Pants, Inc. to avoid bankruptcy court." Sam's agent will continue to receive his 20%. May have to shop for another client, though. Can't be seen to represent a loser, er, sportsman.

Professional athletes are above the law. They define their own social responsibilities. Or lack thereof. They took the "in your face" attitude to a level that makes it more desirable than "turn the other cheek," or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." In their world, if we did unto them like they do unto us, they'd have us in civil litigation faster than you could blink. And they'd win.

Now, before you unleash the nasty letters informing me that I have no clue what I'm talking about, and comparing my ancestry to any given terrorist, let me assure you: There are exceptions to my rule. There are a few shining athletes who seem to be above reproach, and who really like to share their wealth with the communities to which they're attached. They seem to epitomize the rules of fair play, and, yes, even graciousness.

But they are the exceptions. They are token nice guys in the world of sport. The rest bow to the union gods which decree that they shall be guaranteed a salary that most of this country can never hope to achieve in their lifetimes. They keep the phrase "vanity clause" in our vernacular. They become franchises unto themselves. They can send an entire nation into impassioned frenzies by threatening to walk out or strike. Sports reporters have introduced "Athlete Arrest of the Week" features into their stories. College athletes are learning fast, and finding ever more creative ways of working around the rules to get noticed by the pros even faster. Even the once-venerable Olympics have the taint of "doping" and endorsement contracts to deal with. Listening to the coverage this past summer, you'd have thought that, yeah, it's nice to win that gold medal, but we'll see this guy/gal on a Wheaties box before the end of the year! Now that's the definition of success, ladies and gentlemen!

Did you know that this year, nearly as many people watched the Super Bowl to see the commercials as to watch the game? It's been trending in that direction for years now, and speculation as to who will advertise captures as much print as analyses of the game itself. No one, of course, watches to see the half time show, even if they know in advance that Janet Jackson will have a "wardrobe malfunction." Wardrobes can malfunction? Who knew?

The game is nearly meaningless in itself, except that the winner, of course, gets to suffer through the next season as "the Super Bowl Champion So-and-Sos," as in, "the Super Bowl Champion So-and-Sos are struggling this year at 1 and 15." Also they get to wear rings. And get endorsement contracts. The cycle of life continues.

This year, of course, fans of hockey are in a dither because of the lock-out just imposed by the owners. Remembering that I live in Southern California where we boast both the LA Kings and the Mighty Ducks, my personal response to this tragedy was, "Hey! SpaceShipOne is gonna try for the Ansari X Prize next week! Go, Burt!"

That about sums it up for me.

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