Monday, September 29, 2014

Let Us Put Childish Things Aside

"Hey, how ‘bout that NFL?”

I used to play American football until I stopped growing for awhile in 7th grade.  I continued to play some neighborhood soccer, intramural basketball, tennis and ran track, but I left all of it.  I chose not to be a jock.  However, this society markets the idea that being a jock is the best part of an education - so much so that academic or practical learning becomes second-class. 

Yeah, you will find a place in the NFL, the NBA, the NHL or the MLB.  Right.  You’d be lucky to become a high-school coach or a sports physical therapist. More likely your fate will be gaining weight while watching games on TV.

There was a time when sports were innocent games.  The excitement of high school sports, especially football on a cool fall evening. Playing all night under the hoops.  Powering it against the tennis backboard.  Sweating on a summer day in a partially mowed field with a soccer ball. Not any longer.  Sports is a business and the NFL is the ‘business-iest’ of all.  Let’s look at this outfit.

The NFL itself is listed as a ‘non-profit.’  Don’t laugh.  The government in 1944 gave them a special waiver to declare themselves a non-profit.  Yet NFL commissioner Roger Goodell makes a base salary of $3 million a year, but in the last 5 years collected $105 million with his other bennies.  In 2010 he was reported to have made $44M alone. The NFL made $326 million in dues, licensing and royalties in fiscal 2012, and that amount has probably increased.  The top five managers of the NFL made more than 50% of the earnings in 2010. They say they lost money in 2012, but analysts put that to the many mortgages they hold.  Real estate is one of their prime assets.

Football itself brings in about $10 billion annually, according to CNN.  Yet in spite of this lucre, many teams don’t pay their cheerleaders minimum wage.  This from very profitable franchises. They  behave sort of like the Wal-Mart’s of sports.  At least 5 teams are being sued right now for back pay by members of their cheerleader squads. 

Most teams blackmail the towns they live in to kick in money for new stadiums.  Of course Green Bay can’t and never will, as Green Bay is municipally owned.  We saw it here in Minneapolis.  Hell, this town has gone on a stadium spending spree – new ones for the baseball and football teams, a new one for the local state college team, and even a new one for the semi-pro baseball team is in the works.  They had to override democratic rules that would leave this up for a vote of county citizens – because they would have lost the vote.  Yet not one capitalist economist says there is ever an economic payback to the general public from this corporate welfare.  These upgraded stadiums are now home to upscale consumers instead, not the proletarian masses.   The $5 buck ticket in the bleachers?  Gone. What is really ridiculous is that for football stadiums, there are perhaps only 8 home games all year.  As a defender said in the local paper, ‘executives’ moving to Minneapolis (or your town) need a professional team and stadium as part of their ‘cultural’ experience. This monied audience is the real target for the 'upgrading' of sports.

Detroit has been the victim par excellence, as exposed by its bankruptcy.  The powers that be put Detroit on the hook for a new baseball stadium to replace Tiger Field, while shafting a mostly black retired Detroit municipal workforce out of part of their pensions and health care.  Now the Red Wings want a new arena with municipal funding.  The Lions abandoned the Pontiac Silverdome 12 years ago, which is now a wreck, for a new stadium in downtown Detroit, also partly funded by municipal money.  This has helped a few bars and restaurants around the field, but basically, people come to watch the games, then leave. 

This scam is not limited to the U.S. NFL.  South Africa’s World Cup stadiums are mostly empty, and the towns are struggling to pay for and maintain them.  Brazil will now face the same problem.  Russia’s Sochi Olympics were the most expensive in history.  Those structures will begin to decay as the years go by - more white elephants.   

The parallel between militarism and American football is obvious, especially when there are jet flyovers, celebrations of the troops and military color-guards at every game. The game itself is violent, much like war.  Don’t be surprised that a militaristic society also loves militaristic games. 

The NFL is haunted by concussion issues.  So are colleges and high schools.  Many NFL players, whose work life is very short in the league anyway, are still affected by slams to the head.  Early death, dementia, chronic encephalopathy or Alzheimer’s is their fate, much like the indentured ‘wrestlers’ of the McMahon-controlled World Wrestling Federation. In 2012, there were 251 diagnosed concussions in the NFL, in 2013, there were 228.  They were sued in a class action that settled in 2013 on this issue.  To top it off, a significant number of players go bankrupt or are in significant financial stress after they leave the NFL – around 78% over 5 years.  They are not prepared for the temporarily high salaries, and instead spend freely. 

Then there is the domestic violence and male chauvinism.  Recently we’ve all had to look at bruises on 4-year old bodies or a woman viciously attacked by her husband-to-be in an elevator.  Both of these by black players. Earlier it was the bullying and isolation of an openly gay player by some white Neanderthal.  Legal run-ins by NFL players are constant.  As someone joked, they should announce their legal charges along with their statistics and Alma-mater when they play.  American football is violent and, like soldiers, some carry this logic off the field.  It is based on a macho culture similar to the army.  Which might be why it is the most–watched sport in the U.S.

Then we have the bigotry of tradition, i.e. the "Washington Redskins.' Even though Native Americans oppose that name, big fat white rich people don't.  'Nuff said.   How about the 'Alabama White Boys" as a team name?  Or Georgia Peckerwoods?  Montana Palefaces?  White Phoenix Little Dicks?  Washington White Skins?

For all the people pining after their golden youth, and want their kids to follow the same path.  For those who can’t let go and instead spend their lives obsessed with football - on Saturdays, Sundays, Monday nights and now even Thursday nights!  I’m talking especially about residents of the southern U.S., who put football above even Jesus…  For all the football wives and widows.  These fans must be exhausted!  It’s not a game, folks, it’s a business.  A very corrupt business.  What is wrong with the NFL is what is wrong with capitalism.  Take the sport out of the hands of its billionaire owners, municipalize the teams and stadiums, remove the advertisers, de-professionalize it and ‘perhaps’ you can bring back real football. Honest football.  But perhaps, even as a game, it cannot be rescued anymore. 

Red Frog
September 29, 2014 

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