The Roman emperors provided bread and circuses to anesthetize the populace; our rulers provide food stamps and professional sports. This has been a smooth transition until today’s political Left has tripped over its own contradictions. (As political movements are wont to do.)
Pro football, the NFL, is under attack just now from the women’s side of the Democratic party; the ladies object to big time ball players beating up their wives and kids. Or maybe they object to their doing it in the news reports, it’s sometimes hard to tell about these things. Anyway, they object.
This has thrown the politicians into panic mode: If they dump on football, they antagonize men; if they don’t, they antagonize women. We’ll call that a lose – lose game. As usual in a political panic, nonsense prevails. For example, former Secretary of State (and black female) Condoleeza Rice is proposed to run the NFL. While that might appease the ladies, what would the men think of a one time figure skater in charge of football? Right. But it showcases the degree of panic. No one seems to be thinking about just calling the cops when a football hero goes overboard, the way all the rest of us are treated. No, that won’t do, the Government or at least, the NFL, has to Do Something.
Seems to us, this is a pretty good time to step back and review our sports structure for its public good, if any. It consumes billions of dollars, provides our kids many of their heroes and wastes weekend TV time to the max. Is it worth it?
“Many are called,” the ancient scripture says, “but few are chosen.” Some of the NFL players earn CEO salaries. Many don’t but you never read about that. All risk spending he second half of their lives impaired. And most are black, without affirmative action. In pro football, the disparity of blacks versus whites goes the other way. Shouldn’t that provide affirmative action for whites? Right, it doesn’t seem to, for some reason. Funny, that.
Let’s get real: All that money has distorted not only football, but education, journalism and athletics generally. First, public schools and universities are the breeding ground of the players, who notoriously fail as students. They are given a pass anyway, if they are good jocks. Education is thereby prostituted. A college football coach earns many times what a professor of physics is paid, is that good for society? Public high schools are the seedbed for the game, at public expense; is that a proper use of tax money? And what is the moral status for luring kids into the game at a high school, knowing that most of them will be discarded from the game on graduation … if they graduate?
Add the innate hypocrisy of the entire college sport system: It is all subject to a quasi-government outfit: the NCAA , which ‘regulates’ college athletics. Among other nonsense, it forbids colleges paying their athletes. In our reality, they do that anyway, facing elaborate penalties if they are caught and losing seasons if they don’t pay. It’s a pathetic farce that wastes huge amounts of money and teaches kids the wrong lessons.
There’s worse, though: Drugs. It is an open secret that where big bucks are involved in sports, steroids and other drugs that confer strength or agility are endemic. The hypocrisy was showcased in the punishment of bicycle racer Lance Armstrong, who never failed a drug test, in a ‘sport’ in which all knew that all the top players used doping. No one wants to discuss the effect of all this on aspiring high school players who too often, also have poor graduation rates.
As a side effect of this doping, short tempers and abusive behavior is typical. Women marrying big time pro athletes are taking on even more risk than is expected these days of high divorce rates; the added risk of beatings, or worse. Nor are any kids safe, either.
The entire structure is destructive, with its uncounted losers and few recognized winners, let alone the unmeasured premium paid by the school system. Putting Condoleeza Rice in charge of the NFL as a political appeasement and of course, a figurehead, will be a copout. She is likely too smart to lend herself to that fantasy in any case. That she has been proposed shows both desperation and hypocrisy on a grand scale.
The ancient Greek Olympics were closed down for hundreds of years over their version of this sort of thing. The University of Chicago dropped big time sports in favor of big time scholarship. Maybe America’s high schools could produce more scholars if less time, effort and money were expended in their producing fodder for pro athletics?.