Below, with his permission, is Volume 1, Number 25, from 12/28/11, expressing some of the dismay regarding big-time sports that's going around.
RebelMart's Mimeograph Machine, on Sports
VOL. 1, NUMBER 25A RebelMart video
Fun. Despicable. Macho. Colorful. Epic. Eccentric. Racist. Capitalist. Good exercise. Sexist. Drunken. Homophobic. Adrenalizing. Musical. Classist. Memorable. Bonding. Violent. Lucrative. Divisive. Seductive. Life-affirming. Deadly.
I find it hard to explain to people why I like sports. It used to be because I ran with lots of political activists who deplored sports. They're right to. But they're wrong to toss it out with the bathwater.
They were also wrong to dismiss sports' enormous implications in the world today. A lot of sporting elements flail about in the world of political activism. In the battle royale of The People vs. The Man, knowing about sports is a vital thing. I'd say "tactic," but that makes the whole world-revolution thing sound exploitative. I like the whole world-revolution thing, you know.
I'm still a lefty and I still have that discussion all the time. I guess what I really mean is, I find it hard to explain to myself why I like sports. At least, still like sports.
And that's the rosin-caked razor's edge my sports-love balances atop.
I like sports and deplore sports. What other thing, besides life itself, contains as many descriptives as the top of this issue of the Mimeograph Machine?
Michael O'Keeffe, one of New York's best sportswriters -- hell, one of the Apple's best journalists, period -- once told me "Sports makes it hard to like sports."
I got on this jag about sports today after reading an article in the New York Times today -- about the New York Mets' desperate finances. Too many belly-button-examining books have been written about sports'n'culture'n'politics. Still, it made me think again about a very basic issue.
Sports fans are incredibly smart. Via sports, we can crunch numbers, solve complex geometry in milliseconds, explore military strategies, fathom chemistry, analyze financial formulas, present a sprawling vista of facts at the drop of a hat, beat Lincoln and Douglas in a debate, and most importantly, detect bullshit instantaneously.
So how come we sports fans are such fucking idiots?
We love our teams, our players, our games all the while knowing they're none of those things "ours." Jerry Seinfeld once famously said "you're actually rooting for the clothes." [AYR: see the video] Civic pride is a pretty unquantifiable thing -- yet it's always used to justify all the wasteful projects spend taxpayer dollars on.
There's more, of course. Tickets are obscenely expensive. Television cable packages, merchandise, parking, stadium concessions, ditto. We spend billions on this stuff.
All of us, not just sports fans, allow sports-team owners, league officials and their elected enablers to reach into our pockets and take our hard-earned dough for new stadiums. All of us do. We...allow...it.
Study after study has shown that publicly-financed stadiums are money losers for the public. In this current repression (recession+depression), that's sick. Not sick as in "Yo, man, those new Nike Jordan's are sick." Sick as in "paying $180 for shoes that cost Nike $3.50 a pair to manufacture makes me sick." (That's from the Campaign for Labor Rights.)
We can triangulate stats and know a coach/GM/player is lying at a press conference and blow our Joe Sportsfan gaskets -- but we sit in silence when owners and leagues rip us off. Sometimes fans sniff around concepts of "rebellion" and "boycott." But sadly, it's only when we're deprived of our games -- usually because of labor disputes. As soon as the contests resume, we flood back, all forgiven, and happy to pay even more for the privilege.
The constant and clichéd refrain of "it's the millionaires vs. the billionaires and we poor fans get screwed" is pathetic and tiring. Sports fans have made the millionaires millionaires, and billionaires bigger billionaires. We. Us. Us and our purse-strings being cravenly loosened while we stare at LeBron and Tebow and Kobe and Pujols as the roofie's slipped into our Bud Light.
Sports fans have the power to bring this system to its knees. To force it to be equitable. To make the system see that we are the bosses.
If it were up to sports fans, the Exodus to escape Pharoah would still be tailgating short of the Red Sea.
We live and die sports and hold its participants to impossibly high standards. But we turn, cower, and flinch at every ghastly maneuver by the sports power brokers.
It's astonishing to see grownups this mixed up. If it were our kids, we'd think they had learning disabilities. Or were developmentally challenged. Or had been stillborn and we'd not noticed for years.
This isn't even bringing the racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, childish machismo, commercialism and worker exploitation (hullo, concussions!) to the table.
Sports fans talk quietly among themselves about these things. We do. But as soon as a perceived outsider brings them up, we circle the wagons and yell "shut up, faggot" or a variation on the theme. It's a big problem, sports fans knowing what's wrong with this big chunk of our lives yet doing nothing about it.
Sports Fan 1: "Hey, our house is on fire."
Sports Fan 2: "Yeah I know. Sucks."
Non-Sports Fan: "Hey, fellas, your house is on fire."
Sports Fan 1 and 2 (together): "Shut up, faggot."
Is this an unfair description of sports fans? A little bit. There're sports fans of every stripe. Political, class, gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality -- all are represented at the S-Mart. I wish it really spelled "smart." But it doesn't.
Like conscientious cops drowned out by the Blue Wall of Silence, progressive sports fans have never risen to fight the power. Not in appreciable numbers. To do so is to be unpatriotic. Or just a killjoy.
"It's just a game, why do ya gotta suck the life out of it?" It disempowers the argument for change right away. It's also ridiculous to be told by a stadium full of fans cheering an F-16 flyover as the National Anthem ends that politics and sports don't mix.
We sports fans are smart people. Except when we're stupid.
You must be thinking "wow, Scott M.X., for a guy who hates sports this much, how come you still watch?" I'd ask that question. By now I must sound like an giant slobbing fool.
I don't watch all that much. Don't have a television, and live sports is the last bastion of t.v. programming that isn't available for free on the internet tubes. (Yes, there are dicey sites, too dicey for me.)
Increasingly don't care because of the escalating narcissism in today's sports. In what seems like a contradiction, I'm also bored by the leagues' desperation to erase eccentricity, political statements (except for pro-war/pro-soldier easy jingoism) and entertaining oddballs from rosters.
End of the day, sports fans are infused with self-hate. We root for athletes that disdain us, unless they're contractually obligated to attend fan events or are that rare modern athlete that remembers when they were a fan. We shell out ridiculous amounts of cash to owners who steal candy from babies and then roll the pram in front of a bus to eliminate the witness. We refuse every opportunity to party for our right to fight, preferring to fight for for our right to tailgate.
There's no doubt that the excitement, the miracle finishes, the beauty of unparalleled athleticism, are all wonderful things. There's also every reason to believe that we could have those things without the tar-pit morass of today's sporting world.
Rooting for a shirt is one thing. Doing it while losing the ones off of our backs is another thing entirely.
December 28, 2011