I have a pet peeve about sports that I’d like to share with you: idiots who care about the “home team.”
Once upon a time we were all in high school, or most of us were anyway. As you may remember, a big deal was made of the football team and other athletic successes. It made sense in high school because our classmates and friends were competing under our school’s banner and you could get behind your friends even if your school spirit was lacking. Sure, it was obnoxious when non-athlete classmates would cry “we beat Smith High School” as though they had partaken in the victory, but sports were a reasonably wholesome diversion for the community, or at least the part of the community that didn’t get drunk or pleasured behind the stadium, or those who didn’t die from heat stroke, or get coronary disease from the stadium food, or meet other undesirable ends.
And then many of us went on to college and the athletics got bigger. Unless you went to a small college, you probably never met any of the players. At my college, they even lived in a separate dorm, although I did observe the occasional player or two in the dining hall for us plebes. I suppose, then, that the players were at least nominally of the community. But as we all know, college sports improves school spirit and increased school spirit translates into alumni donations. A visible and visibly successful sports team also increases applications for admission (which helps in the almighty US News rankings) the way advertisements do; if high school kids have heard of a school, they’ll view it more favorably. Nevertheless, it’s no harm no foul here because no one is getting swindled… with the probable exception of those athletes whose dreams of stardom are being taken advantage of for the college’s gain.
Unfortunately, these school programs prepare their graduates to be fleeced later on.
And that finally brings me to professional athletics. Most players do not hail from the city they play for and they rotate from team to team as trades and free agency arise. To say that the average baseball player is our friend or neighbor is more than a little stretch. Suffice it to say that there is nothing inherently Boston about the Red Sox except the franchise name, and the same goes for all other teams. Nevertheless, the sports business has convinced the public at large that such a connection exists, which gets people excited about “their” team. They then become willing to pay for tickets and t-shirts and all sorts of other expensive paraphernalia. In theory, that’s not a bad thing.
In practice, it means the rest of us end up having to fund, with our tax dollars, increasingly more advanced stadiums because the sports businesses threaten to move away otherwise. What other business can get away with demanding substantial government subsidies like that without the public becoming enraged about it?
I know the sports franchises often claim that athletics attract customers for other local businesses. Just a thought: if we took all that money that would be spent on a new stadium and applied it to something that would benefit local businesses more directly, I’m sure we’d get more bang for our bucks.