Pro Sports: It’s Not Just Bad Actors

Vick. Vinokourov. Donaghy. Bonds.

A popular athlete who brutalizes and kills dogs. A popular athlete who dopes his blood. A popular athlete who uses steroids to get ahead. A pro referee who throws games for money.

People read about these guys and say, “Oh how terrible. These are bad people.”

Well, not so fast.

Vick is bad people if he did the things he’s accused of. He should rot the rest of his life for that.

Donaghy, the ref, he gambled when he shouldn’t have and couldn’t take the heat.

Bonds and Vinokourov? Cheats, yes, but ‘bad’?

All these guys are just players in a vast system of corruption. Where money rules, the actors are ruled by money.

Where does Vick fit into that schema? He didn’t do dogfighting for the money, from all accounts. I can only assume he did it because he loved the cruelty of it, because that sort of psychopathic, savage behavior excited him. But I have to wonder, if he hadn’t been such an excellent football player, if he hadn’t been able to tap into the vast flow of NFL money, would his brutality have visited itself on human victims?

Pro sports are no longer sporting. They are, in the opinion of many, entertainment. But if so, then at their core they are empty, they are devoid of meaning. Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nothing but the increasing lust of the populace for more action, more violence, more danger. The upsurge in popularity of unbridled cage fighting demonstrates the essence of modern sport.

Modern sport isn’t about the town team anymore. Hasn’t been for a long, long time. Athletes follow the money, and there are rivers of it. The old excuse that they had to have high pay because their careers were so short no longer applies, and in fact it was a laugher even then.

Once upon a time sport had some redeeming social value. The Boston Red Sox don’t play for Boston. They play for the money. All the players play for money. You can’t point to a Red Sox player, or a Yankee player, and say with any pride, “He plays for my town.” That meant something once. That justified the sport being played for money by local men. That’s gone.

Of course there are still fans. But fans of what? Players come and go, whatever their skill level. They follow the money. They are certainly overpaid underperformers. No one is worth the money they get.

And the money they get is based less on performance than on media ratings, television ratings. A solid third-baseman with unspectacular baseball numbers isn’t worth much. A confessed cheater who hits a lot of home runs is worth  tens of millions. People watch the cheat. They don’t watch the third-baseman. When the cheat plays, the TV ratings go up. When ratings go up, ad revenue goes up. The TV people suck up to the cheat. He makes them money.

Pro sports aren’t corrupt because they’re professional. They’re corrupt because greed trumps honesty, ethics, morality, integrity, and decency.

No one knew that Vick slaughtered dogs? None of his teammates? No one in the Falcon’s organization? Do you believe that?

No one knew that Vinokourov was doping his blood? None of his teammates? No one in his organization? Do you believe that?

No one knew that Donaghy gambled, that he threw games? None of his fellow refs, none of the players? Do you believe that?

No one knew that Bonds used steroids? None of his teammates? No one in baseball, no one on his team? Do you believe that?

I don’t believe no one knew. I do believe many knew and they kept their mouths shut because too much money is at stake. And I do believe the corruption will continue, and the fans will choose to stay deluded.

Apparently that’s the American way now.

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7 Responses

  1. To be honest, I was kind of enjoying baseball more when they were all jacked-up freaks, and I don’t think I’m alone in this. When the difference could be minor-league $100k money versus a guaranteed $12 million a year for 8 years, how could people not take steroids? The crux of the issue to me is still MLB’s leadership for ignoring the “problem” it knew existed, then criticizing the players when they got caught. The steroid era was their baby, and they should take full responsibility.

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  2. Very true analysis of sports. Fortunately really not big fan of basket ball, base ball, foot ball. Tennis fanatic which is very clean gentlemen and ladies sports. Love the game and the players who should the role model polite, always speaking good about opponents, modest even with plenty of money and recognition. Change the sport guys become Tennis fan.

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  3. I think if they really all were jacked up freaks (good phrase), I would have less objection. As it is, anyone who tries to play an honest game loses out unless he’s naturally highly gifted, and then how would we know? We’d suspect him of doping with something.

    And when we believed everyone was playing an honest game (naive as we might have been), we could feel some identity with the players. They weren’t, after all, too much different from the rest of us. That no longer holds. They are very different from the rest of us, some for their use of drugs in pursuit of ego and records, and virtually all of them for the vast wealth they accumulate for playing ball games.

    And how many families can afford to go to the ball game now, more than once a year? And when you do go, packing the kids with you, what do you tell them about the game and the players? Can you tell them what a great American pastime baseball is when the top stars pretty much all use illegal drugs? Can you tell them that the playing of football, the actual play, is what matters when the TV people interrupt every five minutes to put on two or three minutes of commercials?

    The core of every game is corrupt. The games exist now for one reason – to deliver an audience to advertisers, which is the core mission of television. Beyond that, it’s pretty much a freak show.

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  4. I do love tennis. And as a personal aside, if you haven’t played tennis on the Wii, you haven’t lived. Okay, that might be extreme, but it’s seriously fun as hell and roughly as addictive as heroin.

    Did you hear about the White Sox selling their game-time naming rights to 7/11? Now, for a few hundred thousand a year, all their home games start at, I kid you not, 7:11 pm. How insane is that?

    Still fun to watch baseball. And you can’t have a much better time at a ballpark than going to a minor league game. It’s really becoming sort of a golden age for them where the teams are breaking away from their parent teams and forming their own local identities. Sure, the players change, that’s the nature of the minor leagues, but the team identity, the ballpark, all of it really adds to a great local flavor. AND they’ve had a steroid system in place for a long time, so the minors has always been much cleaner than the majors (didn’t have that nasty MLBPA, Major League Baseball Players’ Association, to contend with).

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  5. I was re-reading it and felt I should clarify “steroid system.” Meaning “steroid TESTING system.”

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  6. The best pro ballgames I ever went to were those of the Pawtucket Red Sox. No matter where you sat you got a good view of the game, and the players were actual size, rather than the inch tall ones at Fenway. And there’s a lot less ego going on.

    Why anyone would want to go to a major league park escapes me. Been there, done that. It pretty much sucks. I suppose for the folks sitting down front between home and first and home and third it might be okay. Otherwise it’s pretty much a joke. An expensive, way overpriced joke.

    The White Sox thing doesn’t surprise me. Have you noticed how everything is for sale in sports? “The replay of this humdrum (catch, basket, hit) is brought to you by this sucker of a sponsor.” Pro sports have pretty much allowed themselves to look stupid. And succeeded at it.

    I’d be afraid to get a Wii. I suspect I’d never get around to doing snarky blog stuff. Bad enough I haven’t finished Unreal Tournament 2004 or Half Life 2 yet.

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  7. Fortunately I had a few friends get the Wii. All the fun, none of the life-destroying obsession.

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