Pro Sports: It’s Not Just Bad Actors
July 25, 2007

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.

Clutzy Putzy Headline in Globe Sports
June 27, 2007

Banner headline on the Globe’s sports page today:

Putz keeps a closer’s eye on Papelbon

Honest! It really says that.

And Now, Boston Globe Sports, And Stupid Sports Writing
June 6, 2007

In the Globe’s sports section, on page D3, is a story headlined “Gold Cup Now Glittering Event”.

If you already know what this particular Gold Cup is, you’ll understand the story is about soccer. If you don’t know about the Gold Cup, you won’t get clued in until near the bottom of the second graph in the second column of the story.

Doesn’t do a lot to invite the curious who want to learn about soccer, does it?

In fact, I, who like soccer and know something about it, didn’t realize the story was a soccer story until the end of the third paragraph, first column, when the World Cup was mentioned.

Thanks, guys.

America’s Cup? Whazzat? UEFA Cup? Whazzat?
May 21, 2007

Does anyone remember the America’s Cup? Big gorgeous sailboats, all high-tech stuff and rich people, racing off Newport? A Very Big Deal not too long ago.

Today in The Boston Globe, on page D3, the AC got a couple of hundred words announcing that the American entry, owned by software mogul Larry Ellison, was tromped by the Italians (viva la Italia!) and will not even make it to what amounts to the semifinals.

In other sporting news, there was not one word of this Wednesday’s soccer final match for the prestigious UEFA cup, between AC Milan and Liverpool.

Not only has the irrelevant fallen, but the relevant can’t even get space on the sports page.