With the NFL’s version of “labor strife” soon to be settled, our democracy can soon return its full attention to more important matters. For example, without the business of sports hogging the headlines, we the people can focus on the villainous fiends who, apparently, comprise our professional athletic class. Far be it for us to blame the crooks on Wall Street for our tanking economy when we have Big Bird, teacher’s unions, and criminal athletes to take the blame.
I know what you are saying right about now; “I thought this was a sports rant.” and “Mike Vick is rehabilitated, so why is his picture gracing the top of this article?” Well, Vick is here because I like the pick, am in the media (sort of), and can frame the discussion as I see fit. Can you identify the fundamental problem with this construct? While browsing the sports pages (and by pages I mean web-pages), I came across two examples of why all of us should be deeply suspicious of everything we read (to include this humble domain).
With the lame duck Congress in full feather, The Rational Middle has much to muse on this week. We will discuss the most recent judicial ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the notion of compromise, and the ceaseless rantings of the deficit hawks. For me, this is the first Monday of winter, having endured a real storm this weekend and the ice it left behind. I endured a political storm over the weekend as well, finding myself in the kill box with Liberals to my left, Progressives to my right, and conservative friends chuckling all around.
If I am brave, The Rational Middle might revisit the President’s bipartisan agreement with Republicans on taxes and working class benefits, but there is much to cover. Don’t forget that when I run out of space in the RM, or patience with a rational approach, friends can find the results at the Pigeon Post. My article there last week on the President’s latest sin against the liberal faith drew hundreds of readers, but lacks the criticism and conflict that I long for. So please, help a lonely writer feel loved by sharing your opinions in the comment section. Now, on to the Musings!
I have often wondered about the influence of the media on decision making in Congress, but I have no doubts about how much influence is wielded by the fourth estate on professional sports. Otherwise qualified general managers and coaches regularly make poor decisions in response to, or in the hopes of avoiding, media attention. In baseball, the trading deadline has become such a media frenzy that teams and their fans now see a lack of action by competitive teams as a failure. In football, the media hype surrounding the so-called major colleges and the draft has limited the abilities of some teams to acquire talent in an age when the real talent pool has never been larger.
The media puts enormous pressure on team decision makers by stirring up the mob. Sports editors, beat writers, and the prancing fools of sports television use this pressure to try and be the team decision makers. Why buy a team or work your way into team management, when you can write columns and “break” stories, using “anonymous sources” of course, that steer teams into the directions you desire? Fans like to play this game on bar stools and in living rooms; they have for years. But I would argue that fans have a right to this playacting; the media does not. The sports media in 21st Century America has an awful habit of anointing players, professional teams, and colleges; those anointed live and play by different standards than their peers.
Fall arrives quickly in the Midwest, bringing with it hints of melancholy winter. I am not alone in dealing with a change of season cough, it being just warm enough during the day to convince one to be under-dressed for the chill of evening. The natives love the color change around here, but the dust and bugs stirred up by the harvest rob me of joy. It may be strange coming from a heat-loving desert rat like me, but I long for the first freeze of winter: it at least has the benefit of killing off all of the flies and gnats.
And so ends another season in wrath; my Dodgers played with all the inspiration of a dust-mop. They did manage to win 5 of 6 and close out Joe Torre’s career on a decent note. The ignominy of finishing below .500 (after two straight bites at the apple in the NLCS) is matched only by the team’s fool of an owner. I am soothed by the Browns (they beat the Bengals) and the Fighting Leathernecks (4-1 and nationally ranked). We won’t discuss the Reds of Liverpool…
The Minnesota House rejected a $791 million proposal to build a stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Good for them! The Vikings, in the mold of every single member of the thoroughly out of touch NFL old boys club, whined about it in a statement to the media. The statement was a not so subtle message that the Vikings would leave if the House failed to pass the measure by 2011. Friends, if any of us tried doing something like that, we would be tried and convicted of extortion.
During the last two decades, U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $8 billion on welfare programs for professional sports owners. We the people screamed bloody murder about a similar investment made by the federal government in an attempt to keep General Motors afloat, and that company directly employees many times the number of folks that sports franchises do. We the people are charged every bit as much, and more, to view professional sports events, as we do for any comparable entertainment; and yet we are forced to subsidize this major going concern.
With Nate taking the week off, I thought I would take a break from politics to write about what is truly important; the first round of the NFL Draft. As a Browns fan, this annual extravaganza is usual the most exciting football event on my calendar. This year is no exception, but I will play expert and share my thoughts on the round…after all, Mel Kiper Jr. does it every year, and I have played more football than him.