Rome famously relied upon “bread and circuses” to keep the plebes from thinking too much; America relies upon food stamps and football. Also basketball and baseball and now ‘immigrants’ are adding soccer. Distraction is not exactly a new grift.
Top Roman gladiators were public rock stars; Americas’s top pros are billionaires. Winning team owners are super billionaires. And it’s all honest; the last big scandal was about the extinct Chicago Black Sox early last century. Well, except for Lance Armstrong. He was stripped of his titles for doping amid much publicity. All is pure again, right?
Rewards today far exceed those that forced the ancient Greeks to shut down their Olympics over rampant cheating, favoritism and fraud of scandalous proportions. But no worries, we’re clean; we must be better than those old guys, obviously. Sure!
The Economist wrote about today’s most popular form of sports cheating: Drugs. The Economist was a bit more realistic than most of us wish to be, it painted the picture explicitly. So much money is involved and the culture of winning to hype public interest is so prevalent that it requires more than top talent and athleticism to be competitive. So everybody who can benefit does drugs in order to compete with his peers, all of whom do drugs. Their team doctors often supervise and trainers supply the necessary. It’s just business as we see it.
The fallout hits the Olympics; the prizes and earnings are now too large to ignore whatever advantage is available, at least for marquee sports. Top athletes are no longer normal people. Naturally, this dumps down onto college and even high school key sports to varying degrees. But sports fans insist on not recognizing this; the NCAA and other bodies maintain what appears to us a sort of show to provide fans an excuse to pretend to ignorance. Plausible deniability, one might call it. It’s all from what we can see, a sham to keep the wheels turning out money. A bit like the reality of the head protection for amateur boxers and football players.
Musing upon this the other night in the shower, we noted how aptly it fits the ongoing evolution of Western society. We remember that Rome evolved from a republic of hard headed, upright farmers into its ultimately decrepit, degenerate Empire. We have evolved rather faster, likely assisted by technology, from our Founders’ Classical Liberal, Christian value system into today’s increasingly decrepit and morally degenerate (in Christian terms) moral relativism now revising the entire meaning of “marriage” in order to offer it to homosexuals.
Biology is about ready to provide us significantly ‘designer’ babies. Athletes will become not only chemically but also genetically enhanced; will they really be human anymore? Will fans continue to pay to see what will amount to ‘human’ pit bulls going at each other? We have no idea; some folks still pay to watch genuine pit bulls these days, at least until the cops arrive. But not many do that now.
If big sports loses its audience and starts to collapse, it will only be channeling what is happening to the societies within which they are sustained. And significantly, to the Christian churches that were their original foundations. It is no different in Europe and it can be difficult these days even to find many observant Jews in Israel. In Islam, it is a dearth of observance that has given rise to its Moslem murder squads such as ISIS. We suspect that at the top earnings levels in international competition, Moslem athletes are as drugged as the rest, for the same reasons. We’ll bet on the Russians and Chines, though of course we can’t be certain. But we’re reasonably certain of the amounts of money involved; we’ll go from there.
By this point, our shower was done, the soap rinsed off and out of our eyes. As we reached for a towel, there was time for one last thought: “In those big, international beauty contests … what’s really inside those bulging bras?