Sunday, November 2, 2008

Capitalism Is Killing Sports and It's Deadly Weapon Is Television

That might be an unpopular sentiment, but it's the truth. I'll give you three pieces of evidence.

1. The 2008 Major League Baseball postseason, culminating in the World Series.

Everyone not on the West Coast was upset about the late start to Game Three. Upset turned to apoplectic when rain interrupted Game Five and caused it to be finished two days later. The experts came out of the woodwork to blast Bud Selig and MLB for its handling of the situation, for compromising the integrity of competition's ultimate stage.

Now, those same experts propose we save the "integrity" by moving the World Series to a neutral site. Presumably a warm weather site or a dome so that weather would not be an issue. Or start the season earlier. Or shorten the season.

Forget the wild card and interleague play, those ideas would really soil the purity of the game. Those ideas are really proposals to change the very fabric of baseball purely for the sake of profit. Not to also open the championship to more teams. Not also to allow fans access to players in both leagues.

Just to squeeze more and more money out of the sport.

That doesn't compromise the integrity of competition?

And some such brilliant stroke will ultimately be the solution. Because the answers that make the most sense are total non-starters. Those would be to play more playoff games in the afternoon and to remove the unnecessary off-days inserted to generate extra television revenue.

But they won't even be broached because the only sacred thing left in sports is the almighty dollar.

2. Notre Dame Football

Do you ever wonder why it is so rare to find an adult fan of the Golden-Domers who doesn't have some sort of personal connection to the school? Seriously, almost every ND fan either went to the school, had a relative who went there, or lived in the area.

If you are a college football fan forged in the last decade and you don't fit the above description, chances are you intensely dislike ND. Why?

They haven't been very good. They've been barely relevant to the national title chase. They don't even have that many big wins. And yet nothing unites a diverse college football crowd like the sight of Notre Dame getting shellacked.


The answer is simple enough: National Broadcasting Company and the Bowl Championship Series.

Notre Dame is the only team in the country to have its own, exclusive network deal. Right or wrong, this breeds contempt like rotten chicken breeds maggots. It doesn't help that the broadcasters can't help but be biased for a team they watch week in and week out. I actually think they do an admirable job of trying to be even-handed, but they're in an untenable situation. Even if they spent all week researching the other team, they'd still know more about ND simply by proximity and familiarity.

Even less forgivable is the BCS. back in the days when ND was BCS-eligible, they always got tabbed for a big-money game despite getting annihilated almost every single time.

The reason for both the network deal and ND's BCS-darling status is, once again, dolla dolla bill y'all. Specifically (but not exclusively), those generated by the idiot box.

3. The National Basketball Association.

If you believe the word on the cyber-street, the NBA is losing fans about as quickly as Brett Favre. I'm still hanging on, but I can see why so many have been driven from the world's best cagers. And it's got nothing to do with tattoos, corn-rows, or criminal superstars (OK, maybe it's got something to do with that).

The problem is excessive timeouts.

Seriously, watch the last five minutes of a close NBA game. Better yet, watch the last minute. I promise it will take at least 10, maybe 15. Each team has, what, 10 timeouts over the course of the game? Not to mention all the television timeouts allow the teams to save almost their full allotment.

The result is a timeout with every basket or change of possession for the last couple of minutes. Not only does this kill almost all the excitement of the moment, it makes the end of the game unbearably long and choppy. No momentum or flow that sucks in the viewer.

The problem is a postseason that lasts almost as long as the regular season (or so it seems).

Good lord. Those Turner Broadcasting System promos seem to last from April until baseball's All-Star game. No back-to-back games. No overlaps. Off-days to stretch out series in order to guarantee weekend, primetime games. It's insane. God forbid you get too many seven game series otherwise you might be crowning an NBA champ alongside a World Series one.

In each case, the respective offender has made a conscious effort to utilize television to its maximum revenue-generating capacity. In each case, that decision is directly and significantly causing damage to reputation and, eventually, that very same bottom line.

And these are only three quick examples.

How about MLB moving some of the postseason games to cable?

How about the NFL network forcing fans' hands by showing certain games on that channel only?

How about the total affront to human logic and intelligence that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its habit of hiding behind its scholastic mission statement to retain tax-exempt status while completely ignoring its most profitable athletes' educations?

Or how about the last person to subject the most important presidential candidates in our country's history will be Chris freakin' Berman? I don't mind Berman, but is that a damn joke?

I know, I know. This country was built on capitalism and that's just what the respective offenders are doing - maximizing revenue stream through television by any means necessary. Surviving by being the financially fittest.

But therein lies the problem

They aren't doing this just to survive. Neither the NBA nor the NFL nor MLB would be hurting for money if they eased off the accelerators. The same is true of college football and basketball. In some cases, they are driven by pure greed.

And in several cases, the foot on the revenue pedal is what may end up costing them their livelihood altogether.

Capitalism is killing the sports we love, the sports it helped make so beloved. It's using television to do it.

Yes, capitalism made this country great. It is responsible for many of our strengths. But every idea has course that includes its time and place. And every such course runs out.

Fannie Mae. Freddie Mac. Wachovia. Washington Mutual. Enron. WorldCom. Global Crossing. Tyco.

Almost 30 years of Reaganomics (the perfection of capitalism) created them and then destroyed them.

And, now, they're slouching towards our sports.

No comments: