I think it’s very safe to say that for most folks that know me, they wouldn’t guess I am a ‘sports guy’, in that, I love sports. I am always the ‘movie guy’ or the ‘horror guy’. Or whatever other label someone wants to tape to my back. I mean, we all have labels that people put on us and we put those same labels on other folks so we can quantify them and have a feel for where they should fall on our radar.
It’s a bit tribalistic but hey, humans aren’t always the most growed up as a race of peoples.
I love sports though.
I played school sports for all of twelve seconds but played them with the friends I grew up with.
I even had a basketball hoop in my driveway and shot hoops all the time as a budding teen. I went to University of Michigan football games with my dad for, gosh, fourteen years. It was a chance for us to spend time together as I turned from teen to young adult, but it was also a way for us to share our love for U of M football.
It’s funny because as I got older it became more of a bother to go to the games, mostly because I wanted to do stuff with my friends and this got in the way.
Or sometimes I had to work it around work.
I’ve gone back to games in the ensuing years but it’s not the same.
It’s more crowded.
It’s not as fun.
And honestly, the atmosphere of it all is different.
As much as I love sports, and really, I love sports – heck, I listen to sports talk radio all the time just for something to listen to that isn’t just music or a podcast – but there’s been a gradual change over the past few years that is ruining the fun of it all. I thought it was the advent of gambling that made me start to dislike sports but really, that’s just an outcropping of a deeper issue, and that’s greed.
Greed is something that corrupts everything.
Everything quaint and good is destroyed by greed.
The small business that does well enough for a big company to notice and they buy it and ruin the charm.
The band that seemed to engender the voice of a moment that got picked up by a major label only to be convinced that their message could be blunted a little and reach more fans.
The news source you love because you can rely on it and trust it suddenly becomes acquired by a conglomerate that wants to help them reach their potential…by firing the staff and instilling a corporate policy on what will be covered and which colored lens it will be shown through.
The entertainment you love that suddenly goes up in price because someone somewhere thinks they can get a few more bucks out of the people that are so reliant on that form of escape.
It goes on and on and on.
It’s easy to point and complain when you can pay your bills.
It’s easy to complain about people taking the money when we ALL take someone’s money at some point.
Greed is an inherent part of the system we have in place.
Most of us want to live better than we do, to do better for ourselves and not just a little better but a lot better.
It’s not like greed is new, novel, or something surprising.
It’s part of who we are as a culture.
For me though, it’s that greed is heralded now as so much a part of us that we’ll make decisions and accept decisions that are morally wrong or which change the very thing they want to capitalize on. Greed is not the devil we live with but the devil we are.
I cannot say I am a fan of golf but take golf as the prime example. In a bid to take pressure off of their constant human rights violations and the murder of an American journalist the Saudis have formed their own golf league. Hooray? Taken aside from the evil the regime commits, it’s a big fat MEH because it’s rich people making competition for the big established golf league. Oh well. The problem is that the new tour, called LIV has come with wallets open and they are essentially buying loyalty and membership. You have seen dozens and dozens of players big and small head to this new league not because it promises more fairness or better competition but because they are willing to overpay these people to be there.
They are buying their consciences.
And again, it’s easy to point fingers at people and say they are making terrible moral decisions when I am not being offered that money but I am not going to feel bad for rich people that are just trying to get richer.
This is their living.
They make a living playing golf.
And that’s great, because they earned that, but don’t cry to me about how you deserve that money when 9 out of 10 of you aren’t exactly hurting for cash and haven’t for years.
Don’t expect me to think you’re not greedy and conscienceless because you ONLY make a million or several hundred thousand dollars a year and they’re offering you millions when most of us have to make it work for less than fifty a year.
Gimme a break.
They chose money over conscience.
They chose to look the other way for it.
These golfers and commentators aren’t the first, and won’t be the last, but man is it fascinating to see how easily people shrug off literal evil so long as they get paid.
Oh, but if you were offered that same money…
Except I wouldn’t be.
No one is hiring a mediocre writer who works a day job for an ocean of money to…what…pretend to be a monkey for a kid’s party?
If I were to be offered it we’d have to assume I already was established, which means I already am making good money if I am being offered this sort of a thing and ya know what – I’d say no.
Yeah, easy to say, of course, but how much money do I need?
Say it was writing and I was offered, right now, a contract for a hundred grand to write a book but it was from a publishing house Trump owned.
Would I do it?
Because 1. I want what I do to actually matter and I’d never be able to trust that what I wrote, whatever it was, wouldn’t be watered down to the IP and put out so it didn’t resemble anything I intended or 2. If they saw something in what I am doing that means there’s something there so maybe someone else will too. Sure, not for that much, but who knows?
There is no 1:1 I can offer with myself so yeah, there’s no way to know if I would take blood money from evil people for my services, other than to know my own heart and that at my age, I’d rather know that the sins I earned in my life are mine and weren’t paid for by people I’d never want to be in a room with alone.
But that’s me.
We can turn the flames down a little and look at college football, which has only become about money anymore.
It was bad enough that the focus in the sport has become NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP OR BUST, killing the legitimate fun for everyone to just watch the games and cheer on the culminating bowl season where teams with good enough records square off against one another around the country. It goes back a while, I guess, to when the naming right of every bowl got bought, to when more and more games were created because a sponsor had enough money to blow on the rights to it to promote themselves before they went under. It’s been bad for a bit but the focus on CHAMPIONSHIP OR NOTHING has boiled all sports down to frustration and disappointment so that the journey is lost within the end result.
There are no more good seasons, there’s only the winner and the losers.
As football has quickly become monetized, the universities and colleges choosing to save themselves the money and not pay the kids to play sports (because if we’re honest, that’s why they’re there and an education was always third on the list of things they cared about) they let companies do the dirty work. Now it’s companies small and large that can pay kids for their name, image, and likeness and keep them or woo them to this school or that. It’s fast becoming a matter of which boosters and alums have the deepest pockets and which ones can barely afford an athletics program.
It’s always been the haves and have nots, always.
The bigger schools have a budget to travel around to court players to their universities. They have the best facilities. They have a bigger stage. On and on and on.
So I can’t pretend like greed in sports is new.
And really most of the kids getting into college sports don’t exactly come from money so their wanting to get something for their families and themselves at least makes sense.
Sadly, a lot of these kids will soon find out that they are only as valuable as their on field success and when that falters they are relegated to the bench and then whatever dreams they may have had, however good they may have been in their school, region, or state, will mean nothing.
They’ll be old news and out of that warm spotlight.
Greed and sports are married.
That gambling was finally out in the open isn’t surprising, it was inevitable.
Maybe overdue so that the people who bet didn’t have to deal with the shadier elements and could deal with a more soulless one.
And while these folks may take your house, at least they won’t break your legs?
Who has insurance these days?
With gambling being such a big part of the sport more and more people are interested in all of them again, though just as far as they can make money off of these kids. With all the interest and attention comes more demand for games to be broadcast and bidding wars for rights. And with that money comes the desire for the conferences that exist to want to get bigger and encompass more of the country.
The quaint conference system where teams of regions were put together to play one another and build rivalries is a thing of the past.
Rivalries, like tradition and bowl games are antiques.
The things that drew people like me and the generations before, the ties to the school, the love of the sport, and the thrill of seeing these kids slowly become the men that will dominate at a professional level are all gone.
So as things move on we’ll see the haves join up into two or three super conferences where everyone there is just there because they know someone cool, not because they themselves are desired themselves. The rest of the schools out there will have to fight for the scraps.
They’ll join up, they’ll create their own conferences. Maybe they make some waves. Maybe they shake things up once in a while with the odd win against a big team.
It won’t be the same though.
Because money decided that things needed to change.
And change happens, but in that change, it also kills things.
And greed kills far more than it creates.
So sure, there will be things about the ‘new way’ that people will like.
Things that will make folks fall in love with these sports and these kids anew.
Maybe it’ll be for the best?
For me though, the charm is gone.
The connection is fading.
These are kids looking to cash in on their talent and fame – get it while you can, kid! – and universities cashing in on kids, and bettors cashing in on anything they can bet on.
To all of it I was naive, as I am with a lot of things.
Naive to think that money wasn’t at the heart.
Naive to think that greed wasn’t the heart that pumped the blood that made all of these sports popular.
The greed is just out in the open now, the gambling done via apps during the game, and the players not being cagey about wanting more, more, more.
Sports have simply become about people with talent and skill going to whomever will pay them the most to borrow those traits until one side or both bore of one another.
For me sport had been about seeing the unexpected.
Seeing the things that humans could do if they trained hard enough and tapped into skills I never had.
It was about taking in joy in victories that meant nothing in the grander scheme but everything in the moment.
For me, it was about more than money.
But I guess I am getting older because that sounds like something my father would say, something outdated and out of touch and sadly true.
And time just moved on.
Greed moved it on.