Sports are a distraction from reality. Food, clothing and shelter, the three necessities in life, they are not. You do get some exercise which contributes towards “good health” (unless you have a heart condition but those instances are thankfully rare) so that is a positive but when considering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, I’d say that sports fall in in the “self-actualization” stage for most.
Professional sports are even more of a distraction – they are a luxury. When I was an undergraduate, I stopped spending my money on Sports Illustrated and started a subscription to National Geographic in part because I came to realize how “trivial” pro-sports really were. There were much more important things going on the world to learn about than who was favored to win the Big East that year. What I knew to be true then still is true today.
Now, after years of watching – and loving – modern day gladiators battle each fall Sunday for my enjoyment, and watching the scores of “Real Sports” specials on the trauma that befalls former NFL players, I have to say that first off, even though that I do love football, I will not suffer from any sort of depression if the upcoming 2011 NFL season is cancelled. Football is a luxurious distraction for me – it is not something I need. Second, while we are on the topic of the current work stoppage, I will go on the record and say that I am 100% on the player’s side in this impasse.
I wholehearted agree with Howard Bryant’s ESPN article about the current NFL work stoppage. He said,
What will the fans do with this power? Will they take the old, tired positions and blame the players, calling them greedy for wanting to be a true business partner? Will they take the “shut up and play” position we’ve seen so many times during previous labor impasses across American sports?
Saying players should be grateful to be paid millions for playing a kid’s game is, at its worst, an unsophisticated position, for professional sports is not a kid’s game. Kid’s games don’t charge $75 to park, or $1,200 per ticket to attend the championship game. Kid’s games don’t generate $9 billion in revenue.
It is this expectation of unsophistication that at least in part emboldens owners to force labor unrest onto the public, for they believe the fans’ wrath will always be levied worse against the players. And they have often been correct in this assumption.
Normally, I only post a short quote or two from an article and then link to it. In this instance, I think the article’s words are so powerful they deserve to be pulled forward. So, here is another quote from the article:
The public tends to blame the player because it believes the cadre of ownership has more legitimate skills than simply being able to run really fast. Fans think that Robert Kraft is taking more of a risk (because he has the money) than, say, Peyton Manning.
But today, following the Year of the Concussion, the suicides of Andre Waters and Dave Duerson, the startling and disturbing medical evidence that the sport is contributing to depression, and the statistics that NFL offensive linemen live 18 years less than the average American male, who would suggest that players risk less?
I suggest you read the rest of the article. I feel for everyone who will miss a paycheck during this work stoppage, from the players to all the support staff – the personal trainers, marketing executives and everyone in between. I also feel strongly that the owners do not have a product without the players and that they should stop thinking about dollars and start thinking about the people that enable them to generate those dollars.
The main issues that separate the players and the owners right now are about how the players want to (rightfully) be compensated for the rigors and harm that they do to their bodies, their families and their lives for playing this brutal sport. The average NFL career is about 3 years. Most players have non-guaranteed contracts. It is a very true statement that no one is putting a gun to anyone’s head and saying “Play football or else!” but at the same time, the players aren’t looking for more than their fair share, just their fair share. So, I’m with the players. I’m with labor. I hope you are too.