Sports GREED

Head-Hunting, Anyone?

Sports competition has been a part of most cultures, civilized or otherwise, for mega-millenniums though it's sometimes hard to determine which. General awareness of sports events and individual/team accomplishments has been effected as the means to transport information have advanced from print to teletype-print to radio to television. Many methods have been employed and upgraded, such as presses and satellite programs, to make this trail possible.

With awareness enhanced, sports-popularity has increased exponentially, along with the resultant quadrillions of dollars to be made as more and more people became involved as participants, organization-owners or spectators. The amount of riches took off when TV came on the scene, affording visual as well as vocal access to sports events, thereby exploding the spectator-population hungry for new ways to spend dollars on entertainment.

This has been good up to a point. Physical activity is beneficial health-wise, certainly, but also mentally. Coaches are quick to make the point that the ability to think can make an average competitor into a top jock...the old brains over brawn thing. Entrepreneurs making sports an industry often grow fabulously wealthy not just by the sports-efforts and gate-receipts but by capitalizing on the adjunct enterprises such as advertising, food concessions, hotel bookings and the like.

As usual, when money enters the picture the unscrupulous operators go to work, inculcating everything from outrageous athlete-salaries to gambling to “fixing” the outcomes. Team-owners/coaches/managers will often stop at nothing for both the win and the cash. This is the cause of the ever increasing episodes of injuries during athletic contests. Indeed, a few years ago, bounties were paid to members of the New Orleans Saints NFL team for inflicting injuries to their opponents, the objective—win at all costs, even those accruing to blood-lust.

Delivering brain-concussions to opposing quarterbacks became the same as tracking down horse-thieves (dead or alive) in the old days and collecting the rewards. The NFL—ostensibly because it gave no concussion-warning to athletes—has paid out more than $870 million to thousands of former players to satisfy claims related just to brain concussions, though it's hard to believe the players at the time didn't know they were sacrificing their brains for cash, being unable after a hard hit to remember the day or month. The drugs they took/take to become bionic men made/make them become the vicious scourge of the field but often societal psychos, as well.

Thanks to TV, the Cincinnati Reds' first baseman, Joey Votto, recently signed a 12-year contract paying him $251.5 million—not the largest in baseball—on a woefully losing team. The NBA (basketball) involves 450 players averaging $5.1 million for 82 games and, respectively; MLB (baseball), 750, $4 million, 162; NHL (hockey), 690, $2.6 million, 82; NFL (football), 1,696, $2.1 million, 16. In post-season games, players/managers rake in huge windfalls in addition. The base-price for a 30-second TV-ad in the football Super Bowl last February was $4.5 million or about $2.19 billion altogether for CBS, the real winner. That's $2,190,000,000 collected in maybe four hours.

As in everything from politics to big-business to the slush-fund Clinton Foundation (receipts of $140 million in 2013 with only $9 million given out in awards), money is the driver, with cheating in sports recognized by most folks as simply part of the game. Violating a rule in order to incapacitate a quarterback for the rest of the game (or better, the rest of the season) costs a 15-yard penalty, so any ethical approach is considered laughable.

Not too long ago, referees and umps made decisions and—right or wrong—that was that. Now, their decisions are placed under investigation by third parties either at the game or in New York City (baseball), thousands of miles away...cameras everywhere, with a whole new industry instituted.

The fact that things even out eventually for the teams—as once the case—is not accepted...too much money riding on every call. This third-party waste of time has made the games far too long, not to mention TV-advertisers simply calling time to get their peddling done, with league approval, of course. Money calls the shots and the love of it is trivializing sports, once an activity in which to excel for reasonable compensation, sometimes no more than simple pride in accomplishment.

More's the pity, but things will get worse. Remember Deflate-gate! Egad!

And so it goes.
Jim Clark