Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Sports Curmudgeon's Complaints

One of the wonderful things about getting older is becoming a curmudgeon. A young curmudgeon is dismissed as a brat or a bitch but when you get old being a curmudgeon is expected and even considered kind of cute.

Official Replays
No touchdown, no home run, no goal, no great catch or impossible shot is legitimate until it has been subjected to official review. I understand the intention is to "get every call right" but the result is to drain the electricity from an athletic event. All the excitement grinds to a stop as the referees stop everything so they can watch a little television.

Football, of course, is the worst offender but baseball and ice hockey are catching up. Basketball and soccer are still mostly immune from this contamination.

Absurd Celebrations

Every sport suffers from this epidemic, although pro football is the worst. At best the players just look like a fool like when Odell Beckham acted like a dog peeing on the field after a touchdown reception. Then there are the athletes who injure themselves celebrating. In addition to the ones in the clips above there was golfer Thomas Levet who broke his leg celebrating winning the French Open and Indian soccer player Peter Biaksangzuala who died after breaking his neck doing a backflip after a scoring goal.

There is a classic quote in football attributed to several players and coaches, "When you go into the end zone, act like you've been there before."

The Student-Athlete Lie
This one dates back to well before I was born. Colleges started paying people to play sports for them back in the 1870's and even then they found ways to disguise the payments as charity and entered them into non-degree programs so studying wouldn't interfere with their athletic duties. Basically, these dodges are still used today.

Besides the phony "paper classes" described in the links, the scholarship system is constructed to treat the athletes as indentured servants. High schoolers are required to sign "letters of intent" binding them to a university while the university can cancel their scholarship offer at any time up to the first day of class. Even four year scholarships can be withdrawn for any reason such as a career ending injury or the coach recruiting a better running back. The promise of a college education is hollow.

Publicly Funded Arenas
No politician knows how to steal from taxpayers like billionaire sports team owners. Thanks to a corrupt deal made by then Mayor Rudy Guiliani, the city and state of New York was stuck with a $1.2 billion bill for constructing a new stadium for the Yankees and an additional $600 million for the Mets new digs. The Yankees are the second richest franchise in sports and could easily have afforded to built the stadium without ripping off the public.

Across the country, sports teams are blackmailing cities with threats to move elsewhere if they don't get gold-plated pleasure domes. While the extortion is almost always rejected by the public if they get to vote on the matter, like in San Diego last year, local politicians are easy marks willing to open the municipal coffers so they can continue getting autographed photos of star athletes.

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