College football and professional golf exemplify the nauseating money-grubbing of today’s sports.
In the early second century C.E., the Roman poet Juvenal wrote: “. . . nam qui dabat olim imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se continet atque duas tantum res anxius optat, panem et circenses.”
Loosely translated, it meant that the Roman people had been seduced by cheap food and circuses provided by politicians.
In an updated version, Americans have been snookered by politicians, sold cheap pizza made with government-subsidized cheese, and seduced with ever-increasing commercialization of sports.
The commercialization is marked by hyper hype, breathless commentary, more inane commercials per hour than the minutes in an hour, more logos on display than even all of the tacky billboards in Houston, pre-game shows more interminable than a speech by Joe Biden, and contrived playoffs, where, like grade inflation in schools, mediocre teams make the grade.
The two seemingly different sports of college football and professional golf exemplify commercialization and money-grubbing.
Let’s start with football.
Unless you’ve been in a coma induced by a speech from the Oval Office, you know that the college football playoff will be extended to 12 teams by 2026; that the Pac-12 Conference, formerly known as the Pacific Coast Conference, has lost the California schools of USC and UCLA to a conference far removed from the Pacific Ocean; and that players can now make money off their name, thus confirming what everyone already knew: that college football was amateur in name only and was actually a minor league for professional football.
This is being written in Tucson, which is my adopted home, the home of the University of Arizona, and a third-tier city with a tiny media market. With the exit of USC and UCLA from the Pac-12, the University of Arizona Wildcats will have an even tougher time competing for talent and a TV audience.
You might be asking, So what? Good question.
Some would say that higher education and semi-pro football don’t go together, especially considering that most football programs lose money and most players would flunk out if it were not for academic standards being lowered for them. Others would say that because college football is a longtime American tradition, the two will never be separated. Both are right.
I say that there is something unseemly about the state of the marriage between the two today. In the case of the Wildcats, the team’s huge stadium and swank training facilities are on the edge of a poor barrio, in a city with a poverty rate that is near twice the national average, with a lot of poorly performing K-12 schools, and with a large homeless population.
Yet the football coach makes 75 times more than the average annual pay in the city. But that’s peanuts compared to the $95 million that former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will be paid over 10 years at Louisiana State, which of course is in Louisiana, a state with the second-highest poverty rate in the US and with abysmal K-12 test scores.
Then there is the fact that much of this extravagance is subsidized by tuition, and much of the tuition is paid with student loans, which have enabled colleges to be insensitive to cost, which in turn has driven up tuition, in an unvirtuous circle.
Such inherent contradictions have triggered cognitive dissonance among football fans on the left and right.
Those on the left in Tucson claim to care about the poor but don’t demand that the Wildcats football program be folded and the money spent on making college more affordable for the poor—or turning the Wildcats stadium into a homeless encampment, where at least the homeless would have restrooms, would have some protection from crime and the elements, and wouldn’t be blighting parks and other public places.
Those on the right rant about the tuition loan scam and the ever-rising cost of college but don’t rant about football being one of the causes.
Professional golf is ridden with just as many contradictions and as much cognitive dissonance.
Confession: I’m somewhat jaundiced about golf. This stems from working as a teen in my hometown of St. Louis at a country club that excluded Italians, Catholics, Jews, and African-Americans from joining as members. I was the only non-black on an otherwise all-black clubhouse staff of janitors, porters, cooks, and waiters. The club members treated me as black, however, because Italians weren’t seen as white back then. Now seen as white, we’re stereotyped in some quarters as being racist, fragile, and privileged.
Anyway, several years ago, the PGA embarked on public relations campaign to change the image of golf from being a sport for upper-crust whites to being a sport that embraced diversity, inclusion and social justice—or at least embraced clichés and platitudes on these subjects.
Among the initiatives to change the image, the PGA established a program called the First Tee, which marketed golf as a way for kids, especially so-called minority kids, to learn responsibility, hard work, and manners. Or was it a cynical ploy to get America’s youth to take up golf in order to stem the decline in the number of Americans playing golf?
The PGA also gives airtime to CEOs of companies sponsoring tournaments to tout everything they are doing to “give back to the community,” as if they had stolen something from the community—and as if they were personally paying for the giving back out of their own pockets instead of the pockets of shareholders and the wages of employees. In terms of message, speaking style, and mannerisms, all of them come across as having attended the same media training program.
Players also come across in interviews as having attended the same program.
Until recently, the size of purses for golf tournaments was rarely talked about on the air, thus leaving the impression that players were playing primarily for the love of the game. The new Saudi Arabian LIV tour changed that. Players have left the PGA to play for the Saudis expressly for the money. In response, to show that it can compete monetarily with the Saudis, the PGA has increased purses and now cites their size many times during broadcasts, as well as saying how much the winner will take home. (Rory McIlroy took home $18 million for winning the recent Tour Championship.)
Of course, athletes, sports organizations, and sponsors have a right to make all they can, as long as they’re not taking public money, such as the public funding of sports stadiums. Likewise, fans have a right to spend all they want on watching sports and gambling on sports.
I just wish they’d stop all of the hype, hypocrisy, hokum, and hogwash.
Are you fed up? Are you worried that America in rapidly sliding into a neo-Marxist state by the radical left in control of Washington with historically narrow majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and an Executive controlled by unnamed far leftists in place of a clinically incompetent President Biden? They are desperate to keep power and complete their radical progressive agenda that will change America and our liberty forever.
Americans just witnessed the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 without one Republican vote in the U.S. Senate and House (just as Obamacare was passed in 2010). The IRS will be hiring 87,000 new agents, many armed, to terrorize American taxpayers.
Americans witnessed the FBI raid at the Trump Mar-A-Lago home and property of President Trump, truly a first in all of American history. We know what that is about.
It is undeniable that the Democrat Party and the administrative state (the executive branches of the DOJ, FBI, IRS, et al) are clear and present dangers to our Republic and our liberty as they increasingly veer further away from the rule of law and the Constitution. What is the solution? At this critical juncture, there is only one action we can all take.
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