Comments from The Outpost

24 January 1997

by Dan Murphy

Superbowl? Or Superbore!

Good evening.

Although we try to stay well informed here at the Outpost, there are certain things of which we attempt strenuously to remain ignorant. One of these is professional sports, and usually we can maintain our ignorance without much actual effort. Recently, however, even considerable effort has failed to prevent us from becoming aware of a football game scheduled to be played in the near future.

See one football game and you've seen 'em all, I figure, so my TV set won't be turned on this coming Sunday -- one of the few in the country in that state apparently.

Still, the hoopla and nauseating enthusiasm of recent weeks does provide an impetus and a bit of an opportunity to comment on some of the aspects of pro sports and of the local football team in particular.

One of the recurring themes in this and other cities is figuring out how many ways taxpayer money can be used to support some of the local pro sports teams. Fortunately for us, there are a few sensible souls in the Massachusetts legislature and governor's office who have squelched all of the more egregious schemes of this sort in the recent past.

Having government money support pro sports, by building stadia for their performances for example, is an absurdity even greater than the amounts of money that fans pay for tickets and, in any event, all a part of the racket which pro sports manages to perpetuate year after year. After all, what other businesses have a sizable fraction of their employees paid in amounts figured in the millions of dollars? Even 8-figure contracts are becoming relatively commonplace nowadays. Despite this, thousands of ordinary people who make modest 5-figure incomes are expected to support the sports establishment with their tax dollars.

It's true, many of these same people with modest incomes pay unconscionable amounts to support the sports establishment in the form of ticket prices. They may complain now and then, but they continue to buy tickets even as the prices go higher and higher, and the players add another million or two to their annual compensation. At least here, it's individual choice at work. I don't understand it, and wouldn't make that choice, but if it's your cup of meat, then be my guest.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of all this is the idolization of pro sports figures and their influence as role models. If your ideal of a good life is to make truck loads of money pretty directly out of the pockets of low- and moderate income people, to pursue conspicuous and lavish consumption, and to treat the world with arrogance and disdain, then there are lots of pro sports figures to choose from. Kind of hard to make much distinction between them and most of the overpaid corporate executives in the country, except that the latter are usually less visible.

Anyhow, the football game will be played on Sunday whether I watch it or not, and I'll no doubt be unable to avoid hearing more than I want about the outcome. May the best team win, as they say, but isn't that what happens by definition? Just spare me the post game interviews with players, most of which basically say something like, "We won because we got more points than the other team!"

Is there an alternative? Well, one alternative would be to be outside and as far away from a TV set as possible. Go cross-country skiing, or, if you must, just throw a football around yourself. You know, if more people played sports and fewer just watched them, we'd all be healthier in a lot of different ways.

For this week, that's the bah humbug from the Outpost. For WMBR, this is Dan Murphy

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