Help Me To Understand …

Our friend Keith often suggests that when trying to start a conversation with someone who has an opinion different than mine, there is a better way to open the conversation than with my usual “What the hell are you thinking???” He suggests “Help me to understand …”, and so I am trying that here!

Could somebody please ‘splain to me America’s obsession with sports?  Can you help me understand why seeing young men chase after a small, ovoid piece of pigskin is more important than the very lives of those young men?  Could anyone enlighten me on why watching sports is a higher priority than almost anything else in this country, including libraries, education, health, poverty, housing, etc?

To date, 170,415 people in the U.S. alone have died of the coronavirus.  A staggering number of people have no jobs.  A jaw-dropping number of people have been or will be evicted from their homes due to their inability to pay their rent.  School children are either learning online from home or are being put at risk of death by being forced to attend schools that have opened prematurely.  And yet … despite all of this and more … people, including the so-called “president” of the United States, are more worried about whether college football will kick off on time than they are the loss of life and livelihood.  Something is seriously wrong here, my friends.  This nation seems to have its priorities seriously skewed!

Yes, yes, I understand that sports are ‘entertainment’, a way to relieve the pressure from day-to-day troubles, an escape, so to speak.  And normally, I have no problem with that, though I personally find watching grown men chase after a helpless, defenseless ball to be rather silly.  But these are not normal times and ‘entertainment’ is, in my book, so low down on the priority list as to nearly fall off the bottom!

But today, it seems that sports have turned into a political football as well!  After a number of college conferences decided to cancel their participation in this year’s fall sports season, sports fans went ballistic and blamed … who else??? … the democrats!  This line of reasoning, if it can be called such, was of course led by the talking heads over at Fox …

“The Left doesn’t care — they think removing joy from the fall will hurt Trump, so they’ll push to shut down football. It’s all political.” – Laura Ingraham

“We love normalcy. We love to be predictable and dream and pursue our dreams. What the radical left loves is chaos. They are doing everything they can, whether it be church and schools. Right now, football. These young men want to go out and play. The left is so concerned about keeping chaos in the process, they don’t mind who suffers in the process.” – Republican congressional candidate & former NFL player Burgess Owens

“College universities and athletic conferences need to put politics aside and come together to find a way to safely play college football this season. The players want to play. Shouldn’t their voices be heard too?” — Senator Kelly Loeffler

Now, help me to understand something else … why does everything … EVERYTHING … have to be political?  Why must every issue either be left or right, democrat or republican?  In this issue of “to play or not to play” football, for example … the real issue is the safety of the players.  HOW is this a partisan issue, for Pete’s sake?  It’s about the lives of these young men.  Do some people, then, find their ability to have ‘fun’ more important than human lives?  Oh wait … that question was answered when people insisted on flocking to the beach in droves. 

“Life is about tradeoffs. There are no guarantees that college football will be completely safe — that’s absolutely true; it’s always true. But the structure and discipline of football programs is very likely safer than what the lived experience of 18- to 22-year-olds will be if there isn’t a season.” – Senator Ben Sasse

Seriously???  What about all those 18-to-22-year-olds who don’t play sports?  They seem to manage to survive without the “discipline of football programs”! 

When people are willing to put human lives in grave danger simply so they can be entertained, there is something seriously wrong with our society. 

36 thoughts on “Help Me To Understand …

    • Well, it’s all in how you define ‘gambling’. We all gamble every day when we step out our front door, but in the more common understanding, spending money in hopes of a mega return on investment, I think it is a small minority who do, for most of us simply cannot afford to do so! I used to buy a $1 lottery ticket each week, until I realized that it adds up to $52 a year! 😉 Yeah, I’m a cheapskate!

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  1. I lost interest in the NFL years ago, and College Football a few years back. I think the biggest issue was the violence and lack of care for players at almost all levels of the game. The NFL has used the NCAA as their minor league or development league for decades. The NCAA thrives on the revenue, and the vast majority of the players end up never going to the pros and leave college with lifelong injuries that quite often shorten their lives, and never receive any financial compensation. College basketball players have a better chance of continuing to play and get paid after college, the NBA, and its developmental league are making strides that the NFL refuses to make. Likewise, many of the college players end up playing for good money in Europe and Asia, something that won’t happen with American football. They have also handled the restart of their season very well with a “bubble approach” to protect their players and staff. Baseball has been the best for college players with the NCAA requiring baseball players to at least finish 3 years of college before they can turn pro, and even college players usually begin in the minor leagues, but they should have followed basketball’s bubble approach, they had far to many infections. But I digress. I now follow European Soccer and the MLS which reopened without fans and completed their seasons with almost no infections. So I’m not missing much if the NFL and NCAA football seasons go down the toilet. I just hope that few of the players, coaches, staff members, and their families get infected or die from COVID19 because I think the close contact on the field, the locker rooms, and travel make these players more vulnerable than most other athletes to COVID19.

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    • Thanks for the enlightenment, Padre! It seems there is, in fact, little care for the players, and the motive is profit. One thing that put me off several years ago was the re-naming of stadiums for corporations. For example, here in Cincinnati, they re-named the appropriately named “Riverfront Stadium” after the utility company, and it is now “Cinergy Field”. Why? Money. I’ve never been a sports fan, so I am obviously missing one or two of the puzzle pieces, but I should think that turning it into just another money-making venture with little concern for the humans who are the ones on the frontlines, whose labours actually earn that money, takes away the concept of teamwork and sportsmanship.

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  2. I’ve never had any interest with sports, but many, especially men do. I wonder if it’s a macho thing..a throwback to the beating on the chest of early caveman, which impresses some women. I do know women who are fans…

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    • In the past, maybe, but these days I know as many women who are avid sports nuts as men! A few years ago, I attended some Little League games one of my pseudo-grandsons was playing in and … wow! Those women can be vicious, calling the umps everything in their vocabulary! This is NOT what sportsmanship is supposed to be about! They even cursed at the kids!

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  3. This is a tough one for me Jill, for I am a lifelong sports fan. I do miss it, but I’m also not so blind as to not see how putting young men at risk simply so I can unwind and enjoy the competition, is out of line. There are so many components to it. Economics play a huge part. Doesn’t it always? $$$$$ talks. College football, pro sports etc…are multi-billion dollar industries. Schools use money from football to finance many of the other sports on campuses. And all of these entities pump millions into local communities via restaurants, pubs etc…thousands of jobs are connected to them.
    And the thing is, fans are not part of the process right now, as far as attending games in person. Most of the $$$$ they’re going to receive are from TV and radio contracts. Some universities are going to have hard time recovering when it’s all said and done.
    The bottom line is that these industries will have to make some really tough decisions going forward. I get that there really are so many other important things to worry about these days. But if they think they can conduct the sports safely, I’m ok with them at least trying to do so. You’re right, every damn thing is politicized these days. It’s so frustrating.
    I guess what I’m trying to say to you Jill is that sports are such a fabric of our society and culture, and the economic hit to so many businesses and individuals associated with it, they’re going to do what they can to stay afloat. I see how it can be frustrating to a non-fan such as yourself. I’d only ask that you think about the ushers, restaurant workers, waitresses, souvenir shops/owners, journalists, reporters and everyone else associated with big time sports leagues and college athletics. These people will suffer, just like others are suffering in this country.
    The overall reality is that this year-2020- has been one huge cluster*$*#……I cannot wait till we can turn the page and start to get back to a scintilla of normalcy in this country. I hope that begins on November 3, 2020!!!

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    • I understand, Jeff! Well, sort of. I am disturbed by the fact that sports, which is supposed to be about fun and teamwork, etc., has turned into a major financial venue. It seems to cheapen the games. Sigh. Like you, this year will go down as the worst in our lifetimes … unless, of course, next year is even worse! Yes, bring on November 3rd, and then January 20th!!! Out with the garbage!!!

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      • Very true on that point Jill. The idea that the average salary for an NBA/MLB player is about a million a year tells you everything you need to know about how out of hand it’s gotten.

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          • Totally out of whack with the rest of us. But I kind of look at these guys as being in the entertainment field. Kind of like actors and actresses, musicians, pop stars and the like. Much like a top actor may command $25 million for a film, the top ball player can command $35 million….per season!!! It’s we, the public who pay money to see these people perform, no matter their expertise. And then the billionaire owners are the ones who give them these outrageous contracts. Crazy capitalism, eh? Totally nuts

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            • I can definitely see them as part of the entertainment field. But, like actors, musicians, etc … I don’t see the justification for multi-million dollar salaries. But then … I am basically a socialist who doesn’t see the justification for billionaires, either. Sigh.

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              • Excellent point! If they insist on free market capitalism, let’s at least tax the hell out of them like they did in the 1950s/60s/70s under even Republican presidents. The economy did pretty good back then, if my history is correct. When they asked FDR about comments from millionaires saying they’d leave the country if he raised their taxes, he replied something like…well, I’ll miss my rich friends…..In other words he called them out, and was willing to take the heat. How refreshing!!

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  4. I am a big sports fan, but over the past few years I have become disillusioned with big-time college sports. It is so driven by money that it is no longer as enjoyable as it once was. At least it was nice to see come colleges opting not to play football this season; I am sure that is costing some schools a significant amount of money…

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  5. Thanks for the shout out, Jill. I think Hugh said it well. It is a diversion. But, what is driving this issue is the old fashioned one – money. Pro football and big time college football drive huge amounts of revenue for all sports and some for the university. I read Ohio State University had $210 million in revenue in their current budget.

    As for the blame game, I am very weary of this. The president cannot have a press conference without running down the opposition. Others have fallen in line.

    Yet, he will not accept accountability for his failures, missteps and lies. It “is what it is.” America’s failure to get ahead of the coronavirus can be traced to his downplaying and misinformation, which continues to this day. People are dying and out of work. We need to keep our eye on that ball.

    Keith

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    • Yes, it seems that EVERYTHING boils down to money, doesn’t it? I, too, am weary of the blame game, for it is leaving We the People out in the cold! In fact, I’m pretty much sick of everything about our government today, as you’ll see from my morning post (a rant). Sigh.

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  6. Real sport is about Health and Fitness; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Nowhere did the Ancient Greeks equate sport with money. Although the Ancient Romans knew all about monetizing and politicizing sports.
    You are fighting a losing battle here Jill. 😈

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  7. As one who has leaned on sports all my life for support, I can say it is a huge release from tension. It helped me get through a very demanding undergraduate education and four years of graduate school. They remained a large part of my life for the rest of my life to this point. It is only recently that I have had to stop participating in sports of some sort and I truly miss it. But I still watch it and do understand, to a degree, why folks want it. It is a diversion, if nothing else. And for those who have little else in their lives the absence of sports on the telly lives them empty. And, of course, there is the competition and even the gambling that goes along with sports these days.
    As far as the link to politics is concerned, I would guess that the politicians will latch onto anything they think will get them closer to those who they hope will keep them in office: exploit the unrest for their own twisted priorities. And, finally, we must remember that the phenomenon is world-wide and not just limited to this country.
    Phew.

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    • Well, you have helped me to understand, but I still don’t think it’s worthy of putting human lives at risk. Perhaps those people whose lives are empty when deprived of their beloved sports might try picking up a book and reading it? They might actually learn something! Yes, I’m being snarky … sorry … comes with the times, I think. Thanks, Hugh!

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  8. Oh dear, Jill. A woman after my own heart so to speak. I too would love to hear a rational explanation for sport being the number one priority, not just in the USA, but across the globe. Back in the early days of the pandemic, mid-March, schools were closing but one of the most ‘important’ fesitval in the horse racing callendar, Cheltenham, went ahead with thousands attending. Now everyone is being a bit more sensible and professional sport happens ‘behind closed doors’, in other words without an audience in what I believe you guys over there call the bleachers. Instead it’s shown on TV with even amateur clubs having their own web channels to stream live coverage while the mainstream TV channels clear the schedules to show ‘important’ games. Professional sportsmen are among the most wealthy everywhere, paid millions for chasing a ball around a field. Their fame is such that they can earn even more by endorsing products. Sportswear enables companies to print logos on shirts, shorts, footwear and charge double for it. See! You got me started on a favoiurite hobby horse! You really ought to know better. It is true that many annual sporting events were cancelled at the start of the pandemic, including the Olympic Games and Wimbledon. But professional sport is now up and running, golf, soccer, tennis, cricket, horse racing, Ireland’s beloved GAA, motor racing (all forms). Rugby will be starting soon. And yet the performing arts are in stasis with theatres and concert venues losing money and the freelance technicians who serve them unemployed. Makes no sense to me.

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    • Hi Frank, makes perfect sense to me, just follow the money. Also humans are tribal in nature, subconsciously we crave a challenge, resistance, a fight. Polarized opposition gives an illusion of purpose, belonging, identity. This tendency manifest greatest in sports and politics, where emotions and ideology run amok.
      Sports and politics, neither are rational, noble, for the common good, ideally they should be but human consciousness is too low at this point in history.
      Also the human experience/ experiment is meant to be lived, and that includes the risk of death. If young sportsmen want to risk life, health, disease, that’s their prerogative.

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    • Thanks, Frank! I was beginning to think I was the only person in the world who doesn’t have a passion for sports! Ah yes, I remember my friend Gary, who lives in Yorkshire, having a bit of a rant about the horse-racing fervor in the midst of a pandemic! And golf … such a boring, stupid little game, yet Trump does it 3 times a week at his ‘exclusive’ clubs where they charge the Secret Service outrageous amounts to rent golf carts to protect he-who-does-not-deserve-protection! And nobody cares, for … it’s a sport, y’know! And yet, as you say, the performing arts are largely shuttered, libraries & book stores still closed … and for good reason, but it’s a sign of people’s skewed priorities. Sigh. Such is life in the 21st century.

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