I have a confession to make. Despite my attempt to look and act like a revolutionary, I have some weaknesses. I won’t go into detail about everything I do that makes me doubt myself, but today I would like to talk about sports. I thoroughly enjoy sports. I enjoy playing them, but even more so (due to my lack of friends and presence of giant gut) I like to watch them. I watch every NY Giant game, I stream the Brooklyn Nets, and I’ve been a die-hard Mets fan for the vast majority of my life. I rationalize it like this: despite watching, reading about, and getting excited over sports I do not support them with any of my money. I don’t go to games, I don’t buy gear, I don’t own a television, and so on. I also refuse to get into fights with drunk fans at sports bars and I don’t let any kind of game (especially one that I have no control over) effect my mood when I’m living my non-sports watching life. However, it’s getting harder and harder to watch games.
I understand more and more that professional sports in the United States is a business. I was able to fool myself for years, that although it was a capitalistic enterprise, it wasn’t like other corporations who take advantage of their workers and use unfair business practices. When I found out that certain sports team owners also own horrible corporations, I told myself that they probably keep their teams separate; after all, the minimum salary in baseball is well over a million per year and the season only lasts six months. When the NY Mets knocked down Shea Stadium (named after an actual human) and then used billions of dollars in tax money to build a stadium whose naming rights they sold to Citibank, I was hurt and stopped following them so religiously. Still, I convinced myself that as long as I wasn’t supporting them financially, I was innocent. When Jay-Z, his Russian billionaire friend, and the NJ Nets knocked down public housing, thereby making thousands of new homeless people in Jay-Z’s home borough, and built yet another new stadium with billions in tax payer money, I began to see connections between sports and everything else I fight against. Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens last week may have been the nail in my sports watching coffin.
The average life span of a National Football League player is 55 years. These people give up on, on average, having an extra 20 years of their life for a little bit of money and fame. NFL players make less than any other sport and their contracts are the easiest for owners to break. The National Football League makes more money than any other sport- this means that owners and league officials (who live to be in their 70’s, 80’s, and beyond) are breaking the bank, while players make an average of $1.9 million. This seems like a lot, but when you consider taxes, agents, and the fact that most of it isn’t guaranteed, it isn’t much. The average career of an NFL player is 3.3 years, meaning most players will make around $6 million (before a third is taken for taxes and another twenty percent goes to their agent) and be done in their mid to late 20’s. Their careers aren’t so short because they invest their money wisely or because they move on to better things, but more often than not it ends because of an injury sustained while making an owner even richer.
When Baltimore takes on Pittsburgh, it always proves to be a great, close game; many consider it to be the best current rivalry in sports. Yesterday the Steelers starting quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger was out due to broken ribs. [On a side note, Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of rape more than once, but is afforded the benefit of the doubt that non superstars do not get. (He’s one of many athletes who have gotten away with rape, murder, and other disgusting crimes.)] I turned on a close game in the fourth quarter and watched Pittsburgh’s backup, Byron Leftwich in severe pain. Every time he threw the ball, the camera showed him clutching his side while grimacing. After the possession was over, the sideline reporter announced that Leftwich wasn’t even visited by trainers or doctors while on the sideline, even though he was in obvious pain. The announcers remarked on how important the game was. The next time this man went out, he was hardly able to throw the ball. This is a man that can easily throw the ball 60 yards, but was having trouble reaching receivers half that distance away. Why was he doing this?
The best case scenario for Leftwich would have been to win the game, then go on to win the next couple games. The end result would be that Roethlisberger comes back and then Leftwich (now probably damaged beyond repair, with years taken off his life) goes back to the bench. The team is happy, the owner made a few extra million, the sponsors make a few extra million, the networks made a few extra million, but what about the man who will now die in his 50’s? [Update- it turns out that Leftwich had multiple broken ribs]
On that same Pittsburgh team last night, was a man named Ryan Clark. Clark has suffered two concussions in the past three weeks, but despite the NFL’s stricter stance on head injuries was allowed to play. Sure, he may be risking his life, but he’s wearing a helmet filled with Teflon, so he’ll probably be OK. This comes on top of the hundreds of debilitated former NFL stars suing the league because they claim the league doctors covered up the connection between constant hits to the head and brain damage. That’s right, these warriors were constantly told not to worry, that the dizziness and loss of memory they are experiencing are coincidences and have nothing to do with the fact that they were hit in the head repeatedly. The owners would rather spend millions on paying off doctors, than on taking care of the people who made them richer.
I realize that just watching this so-called “sport” makes me guilty. So what if I don’t physically give my money over to these slave owning killers? I get entertainment by watching grown men kill each other for the benefit of the rich. Even if I’m not playing a part in these men dying, I’m allowing myself to be murdered in a different way.
While thousands of people remain without power, without homes, and/or without jobs, luxury highrises continue to be build in Manhattan. Luckily, some people are taking action.
The indispensable Noam Chomsky speaks about Israel’s latest aggression.