I read the headlines in the press today where someone pointed out the obvious with professional sports, particularly with the NFL, that it had 45 billion reasons to sweep dirt under the carpet.
While I don’t mind sport, I think it has a constructive effect on someone’s life with training, discipline and working to a goal to constantly improve, I really have heartburn with the hype and forgive the term, b*llshit that goes with trying to make something more than it really is. In some respects, I think it is an American invention, where our pride thinks boasting and hyping is simply necessary. No one bothers to ask anymore, "but is it a good thing?"
The most fun I had watching American football was last years super bowl through an Austrian TV group broadcasting out of the gift shop of the Marriott Marquis. There were two announcers dresses in what i would guess were Mondrian inspired garish attire. I had no idea of what they were saying, but they were animated and fun to watch. What I did get to watch, was an actual football game, sans all the hype and external b*llshit. Even thought the game was terrible, I still remember how nice it was to simply watch the sport, uninterrupted by the entertainment and commercials.
There is nothing wrong with entertainment, but when a sport has to use entertainment to hype itself as something more than it is, you get the Vince McMahon WWE syndrome where it might make a lot of money, but it sort of is a side show, a type of carnival or circus act that has the audience mesmerized by too many lights, camera edits, or bodies created not by eating Wheaties and getting proper rest, but by a chemical company. They are talented athletes, but they are putting on a "show" versus actually competition.
There is something odd that happens within the sport culture. Even working a football game here, you have a club of sorts forming where it seems the entire life existence of the people is the sport, club or team. I saw it with my ex and the NBA team. What frightened me was going out after a game and hearing the discussion and talk of management and fans alike. “This is our life, that is all there is.” Perhaps we all act this way, but with the professional sports, it was more like you took a bunch of people and stamped them all out of the same mold, like we would order thousands of the same toy for show merchandise.
I guess what mystifies me is that fans pay to put up with all this. Why? I really don’t know. Is this all they have left in the American dream to hold onto? Is the marketing machine so well oiled in the United States where people don’t see? It is a question I would love to know. I think of the lance Armstrong story and have to say there are probably a whole bunch of them that have been swept under the carpet in all professional sports.
Perhaps that is why I find all the brouhaha of the latest domestic violence incident in the press so odd. Why this guy? Why this time? This is nothing new behind the scenes of keeping the “image” safe at all cost.
I guess the best reason I can give was when my ex sister in law invited me to an NBA all-star break. It is a well oiled marketing machine where people who love basketball and it is their business all get together for the yearly pow wow. Yes, I felt completely out of place, as I really knew nothing about basketball, yet, each person attending was drinking what I would call at that time the David stern juice. That comment is not a crack at David stern, he took a near bankrupt entity and turned it into what we know of the NBA as today. Here is the best example I can give about the lunacy of how the leagues get away with it.
There was some post-game function in New York for the all-star break. I had spent the previous few days studying every aspect in my visual sight about how much it cost for the NBA to throw the event, and how much media impact they were getting for the relatively small investment. I was impressed.
Then I had to take a pee. So I go into the rest room another guy walks in and is a few urinals to my left. While I really couldn’t tell you many basketball players, I had to look up at the height of the guy and immediately recognized Kareem Abdul Jabbar.
Common sense, or is it some sort of code, but you just don’t start yakking away at the urinal about how ones bowel movement or the power of the piss stream is, you just pee, go wash your hands and get out of the place. Men are a simply wired different than the female species, who seem to like to go to the rest rooms in herds and god only knows what they talk about or do in the lavatories. But men are pretty simple; we excrete dung, take a piss and get out. On a rare occasion we might stand around as some guy who drank too much and ate spicy ethnic foods makes amazing inhuman noises from a bathroom stall, might hold our attention for the freak show of what a human body can do. But basically, you get in, do your business and get out.
So there I am taking a piss. Two urinals away is one of the most famous players in the history of the NBA, taking a piss. It was a really weird moment.
But nothing was as weird as hearing a fans voice behind us, “hey Kareem, can I have an autograph?”
I tried to hole my laughter in, but I couldn’t. The poor guy could not go into a bathroom to take a piss without a fan or an autograph collector asking him for an autograph. I had a few seconds where I was laughing that I had to ask, “is this guy going to pass him a pen and hold up some photo to sign while Kareem continued to urinate? Now, THAT would be impressive to see.
PLAY BY PLAY ANNOUNCER: "yes folks, do you believe the sheer athleticism of Kareem not only taking the time to help his bladder, but also, make the wishes of an overzealous fan come true while in the urinal! amazing!"
Instead, I heard Kareem sigh, as if this was nothing new for his life.
He politely said, “Dude, can’t you see I am taking a piss?”
The star struck autograph hound finally realized what he was doing, “oh, uhm, ahh.. sorry man.” and left.
i just had to shake my head in disbelief and try not to pee on myself from laughing.
The aforementioned example is the only analogy I have for how the leagues get away with what they do.
One day, I hope the fans realized to pay for the sport and leave off the entertainment cost to the games and get some sanity back into what is important in life.