Friday, October 16, 2009

Sportin' Man

Yes, thanks. I am feeling better.

One of the reasons I feel better, albeit a small one, came in the form of this editorial in the Los Angeles Times. The "center-left" editorial board actually displayed a sense of humor in analyzing the world-shaking news that Rush Limbaugh, the conservatives' mouth-in-chief, is not going to be a National Football League owner after all.

Limbaugh blamed his troubles on an "ongoing effort by the left in this country ... to destroy conservatism, to prevent the mainstreaming of anyone who is prominent as a conservative." But if politics were the issue, the league might well have embraced Limbaugh. Owners, executives and players give far more to GOP candidates than to Democrats. Instead, the league's problem with El Rushbo appears to have been the incendiary, polarizing way in which he advances his views. The league's practice of sharing a crucial source of revenue -- broadcasting contracts -- makes owners unusually sensitive to controversial figures who might scare off fans or sponsors. Unless, of course, they can score touchdowns.

It's odd that a business built around a quintessentially American game -- teams of oversized men pounding each other senseless to promote the sale of cars, trucks and beer -- would be run more like a socialist collective than a free market. But that's how the major sports leagues function in this country, thanks to exemptions from antitrust laws. The share-the-wealth approach is particularly helpful to football teams in smaller markets, such as St. Louis. But the collaborative structure also means that anyone trying to buy or sell a team has to persuade owners of 24 of the league’s 32 teams to approve the deal. The notion of owners sitting in judgment on their would-be competitors is richly ironic, given that their predecessors included unabashed gamblers and felons.

That's about as accurate assessment of professional sports in the US as I've seen in a long time. Corporate socialism: it's what's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There, now. Wasn't that better than a reprise of a six-year-old hiding out in a cardboard box?



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