Originally created 5/15/2007
It has become increasing clear that the sports world is in reality, and despite the fawning platitudes of sports writers or misty eyes of longtime fans, just entertainment, no different from movie stars or rock gods of rock. And when sports figures do stupid things, especially recorded for posterity on video or digital pictures or voicemail, it seems always a surprise. Perhaps the public is putting their entertainers too high on a pedestal, especially given that these people would in an age less dedicated to leisure time be either jestering the court for scraps (and likely executed if they failed to please) or swinging an axe on the battlefield or a pick in the mines.
So when the horribly out of context pictures of Brady Quinn surfaced, it is not all that surprising that it happened (and just because it was Brady Quinn in question); although one cannot sure what context those would make sense other than: “Getting ourselves worked up for the gay sex at the country club.” This is not to mention Tom Brady spreading his seed like he was coming to America; the much publicized exploits of Stephen Jackson and Pacman Jones; and Craig Bellamy’s golf club incident. So what is the reality of entertainers? They are not only like everyone else, they are like everyone else if everyone else was given a backhoe full of cash, a myriad of sexual partners and all of the narcotics known to mankind. Absolute power corrupts absolutely—absolute fame and wealth turns many a player, whether court, screen or stage, into a conduit of the basest animalistic impulse. But give anyone that kind of hock, especially if they’re under thirty, and there is a statistically significant chance that they’re going to wind up knee deep in a cocaine drift surrounded by underage vagina.
That being said, I have always been a sports fan and am particularly fascinated by how certain series and teams can become so compelling (despite the fact the sports are still more or less unproductive entertainment). The recent run of the Golden State Warriors is indicative, although it appears, at least, to be ending in the land of the many wives. The Warriors don’t have any big name stars and even the Goliath Dallas Maverick players don’t have tremendous name recognition other than maybe Dirk Nowitzski. The intoxication of this series, as most such series, is the combination of the Warriors’ balls to the wall style of play, combined with the underdog story, the enmity between Don Nelson and Mark Cuban and finally, the electric atmosphere of the Oakland fans, reminiscent of college games rather than the artificially orchestrated fandom of most NBA arenas. Sports seems to be cultivating itself in the Season of the Dog, whether because of the advent of salary caps or the dilution of leagues through expansion or just plain expansion of the talent pool. The underdog rags to riches trend seemed to have begun with the St. Louis Rams, arguably the worst football team of the 1990s, promptly winning the Super Bowl in 2000. Then there was the New England Patriots upsetting the Rams not two years later. The Boston Red Sox somehow defeated the New York Yankees down 3-0 in a series where they were destroyed in game three. The Chicago White Sox won the first series since their players threw the championship back before people knew what plastic was. Peyton Manning exercised his demons by not only beating the Patriots but winning the Super Bowl. George Mason went to a Final Four. Even the left for dead Edmonton Oilers made the Stanley Cup.
The Warriors series did show how a city deprived of the playoffs for more than a decade can decidedly go beserk upon achieving that goal (especially with the Raiders in full rebuilding mode and perpetrating one of the more awful seasons ever in 2006). However, even more nauseating than their inability to put games away on the Utah Jazz, was this email recorded on Bill Simmons website from a disgruntled Warriors fan about the disappointing Game 4: “I have been a Warriors fan since age 3 and attended every home playoff game this year at different locations — Warrior fans in the first round were worthy of the praise bestowed upon them by the media (you included). Last night, I was disgusted to be at the Oracle. The Dallas series was packed with REAL fans, a raucous arena full of people who had really been waiting 15 years. Once we upset the Mavericks though, we became obscenely trendy. Now, rich suburban families who couldn’t name half our roster decided it would be fun to take the family to a game, and prices went up to $250 a seat for the lower bowl. Goodbye real fans, hello normal NBA crowd. The arena was subpar in the Game 3 win, but was absolutely SILENT in Game 4. I got in fights with fans around me after screaming at them to make noise. It’s a sad day for Bay Area basketball. The fans get credit for the wins, we deserve the blame for this loss.”
This discussion about “real fans” vs “rich surbanbanites” leaves a bit to be desired. The sentiment is nothing new: the real fans getting priced out of the arena to those who view sports games as merely a social event. However, sports are merely such an event. It’s more that some people treat the event as a passing fancy to socialize around while others socialize by vicariously living through the event. However, it seems natural that whoever puts that kind of money on the line gets to decide how they act. Certain other us undoubtedly have the right to lament the loss of “real” fans, and possibly lay some of the team’s loss at the doorstep of the yuppies (he was right, even on TV, the crowd was noticeably more subdued)—but they coughed up the chunk of change for it.
Tangential case in point: during the St. Louis Cardinals improbable run to the World Series in 2006, nobody was getting into Game 5 against the Tigers unless they knew someone or were willing to throw down around $1000 for a ticket. I myself didn’t have the funds to do so, but I went to Hrabosky’s Bar (that’s right, it was named after a guy with the sobriquet “The Mad Hungarian”), which is maybe a half mile from the stadium. They had tents set up outside with heaters and TVs. I went there for free. The crowd was packed in, drunk, my age group (mostly in their 20s) and raucous the entire time. Arguably many of these people weren’t “true” fans who could name the full starting lineup. But they were also the ones who got priced out of stadium. Would the stadium have been more raucous it our demograph had supplied the fans? Yes. But they didn’t have the money. We wound up storming the stadium anyway (they were letting people in) after the game and were able to participate in some small way in the win.
Will Hutton’s recent article on the role of Mao Zedong in the rise of China begins with the assertion: “Nobody wants to be an apologist for Mao. Even the Communist party, five years after his death, delivered the verdict that his crimes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution meant that he had been 30% wrong. Mao was undoubtedly responsible for monstrous crimes, but if today’s China ever completes the transition to a more plural economy and society it will be more obvious than ever that he was the man who partially laid the platform for today’s China. And from this may one day emerge a country with the liberties of the rest of Asia and the west.” Obviously, we would never hear these things about Hitler and the rise of the German economy—he built the autobahn!—even though Mao slaughtered, either by intent or policy, 50 million people, more than Hitler could have hoped for in wildest martial dreams (note that the book referred to in the link is specifically mentioned by Hutton). But possibly the most grating comment is this:
“Few western critics today appreciate the scale of the task confronting any moderniser of China in 1949. Western economies created the surpluses to finance industrialisation through incredible exploitation – of their own working class, and in the US via slavery. It was never likely that China could achieve self-sustaining economic growth without great collective pain to achieve its own surpluses, or that this could be done without the involvement of the state. Spontaneous market-led industrialisation is a myth.”
Most of the inventions that transformed industry were privately invented and put to use by private capital, whereas the government, in the service of old guard merchants, occasionally tried to prevent such people to putting them to use (not the mention the Luddites).
Slavery the United States, far from providing a “surplus” was antithetically opposed to industrialization. Large slave plantations were flatly uneconomical in a free-market—they necessitated the ultimate government cruelty of forced labor. One might counter with the claim that the industrialized North was able to build its capital on the back of slave labor, but that notion is at odds with the economic conditions surrounding the States War. The northern factory owners, in particular the textile industry, worked to enact tariffs preventing foreign goods from competing with their own. This not only caused the agricultural South to in general pay higher prices for such goods but also restricted their own exporting opportunities, where the large cotton plantations in particular built their wealth by selling to England. The Northern industrial interests generally sided with the politicians (like Abraham Lincoln) who favored a strong central government and a more centralized economy—where tariffs could be enacted to detriment of some men for the benefit of a wealthy class. The difference in these interests led to the bloodiest war in American history.
Any argument about exploitation is bound to revolve around whether or not the rise in living conditions through the 19th century in industrialized nations was worth the supposed oppression of the work force. Whether the work force was really “exploited”, particularly in the true sense of exploitation of either slavery or indentured servitude, is a matter of debate. But to conclude that spontaneous market-led industrialization is a myth, is not only flat wrong, but potentially dangerous manner of thinking that would lead to the conclusion that the state is well justified in confiscating property, using force and restricting liberty and rights to sacrifice on the alter of industrial progress—just as Mao, in the extreme, or the myriad of African dictators, or Josef Stalin did. There are examples of capital being generated in the absence of government impetus—and even in the face of it. To claim that individuals with rights and property protected will not industrialize through voluntary exchange and saving is to effectively imply that these people are either too stupid or too lazy to enhance their own well-being or that of their children.
The recent Fort Dix attack plot featured another bizarre “terror” plan in which several extremists would assault a heavily armed military base in order to kill “as many as 100 soldiers” with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s. Unless they were unbelievably lucky, one has to guess that these clowns could have killed maybe 5 people, including themselves in such a suicidal offense. One really can’t call it a “terrorist” plot, inasmuch as it didn’t seem to target civilians but the military and seemed to focus on annihilating the enemy combatants rather than inflict terror upon the populace in order to extract concessions. Whatever the motivations, it is interesting to note that two of the central players in the conspiracy, Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka, could be associated with the Kosovo Liberation Army. The KLA of course were the United States during the bombing of Serbia during Bill Clinton’s administration. And the KLA just may be connected to Osama bin Laden.
This song is getting old.
In what is quickly becoming the forgotten war, the US Army formally apologized for a number of soldiers slaughtering civilians after a suicide attack: “An Army commander apologized and paid compensation on Tuesday to families of Afghan civilians killed by marines after a suicide attack in March, marking the first formal acknowledgment by American authorities that the killings were unjustified. Col. John Nicholson, an Army brigade commander in eastern Afghanistan, met on Tuesday with the families of the 19 Afghans killed and 50 wounded when a Marines special operations unit opened fire along a crowded stretch of road near Jalalabad after a suicide bomber in a vehicle rammed their convoy. ‘I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people,’ Colonel Nicholson said, recounting to reporters the words he used in the meetings. Speaking in a videoconference to reporters at the Pentagon, he added: ‘We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government’ and paid $2,000 for each death. The incident is already the subject of a criminal investigation by the Pentagon. But the decision to issue a public apology now reflects the military’s growing concern that a spate of recent civilian casualties have led to widespread ill will among Afghans and could jeopardize military operations.” If nothing else, this sad event is evidence that no matter what precautions a military might take, it cannot change the fact that all wars are crimes. (And this includes American actions in World War II).
It is somewhat satisfying to know that such a different culture as India has its own version of the Kennedys in, of course, the Gandhis. The world awaits for Rahul Gandhi to fist some nubile young girl in public and incur the wrath of the morality police, like Richard Gere. I think the Indians had ample reason to get indignant about Gere slobbering all over the only hot woman on the subcontinent. Either that or it was because Gere and hamster played their own version of the Fantastic Voyage.