It’s a Money Game

I know, in my writer biography (does anyone read those?), I explicitly state that I will not write about ‘silly things’ like the NBA lockout.  But now I’m going to write about the NBA lockout.  Not directly – but more as a way of looking at the larger problem of American sports.

This year has been full of sports-related problems: the NFL and the NBA were both locked out (one until just a few days ago).  The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA finals and the talking heads didn’t know how to not keep talking about the Lakers and Heat.  Dan Wheldon died in a horrific NASCAR crash in a race he didn’t want to participate in on a track that was too small and too fast.  Penn State, Syracuse, and the University of Miami have all been rocked by scandal this year – between child abuse and Ponzi schemes, they have the worst covered.  The Los Angeles Dodgers were ripped to bits in the owners’ ugly divorce and watched as Matt Kemp nearly won a Triple Crown but lost the MVP to Ryan Braun.  What holds this potpourri of problems together? Money.  Lots and lots of money.

The average Major League Baseball team is worth $491 million – with thirty teams (pardon my non-statistical analysis) in the league, that figure comes to $14.73 billion.  The average National Basketball Association team is worth $369 million and even a relatively cheap National Hockey League team will set you back at least $240 million.  Oh, I forgot – want to own a National Football League team?  $1.04 billion, please.  At least there are still college teams to enjoy – the game is more pure, right, because the players aren’t paid and are in it for the love of the sport?  Well, does a $90 million-plus revenue, with nearly $70 million in profits, sound pure?  Ask the University of Texas’ football team.

So much money.

Money is an insurmountable issue in American sports, both professional and college, and unfortunately there is little to be done as long as our culture drives us to rabidly consume game scores, fantasy updates, and trade rumors on ESPN and buy neon-colored merchandise and absurdly highly-priced tickets.  If I want to go see the famous artwork of any number of world-renowned artists, I can do so for often little more than five or ten dollars.  Even if I take a seat at a Vienna Philharmonic concert I can expect to shell out, at the high end, around $1,200.  That’s not pennies, sure, but it pales into comparison to the price for a BCS Championship Game ticket – over $1500 for a ticket in Section 605, Row 18 – I might as well watch the game from the moon.

It seems the news media has figured out that the NBA lockout was always going to end at some point.  After the NFL lockout fiasco – months of drama resulting in not a single game missed – it became clear that much of the lockout hype was simply being leveraged to gain publicity in the off-season.  A well-written piece in our very own Student covered this angle concerning the NBA lockout – explaining that the NBA strategically cut out the most boring part of the season and is poised to begin on Christmas, with a shorter season that will bring more frequent games and a more-rapidly developing playoff race.  There is no 99 percent in these sports – both professional and high-level college – everyone is in the game for the money, whether it be coming in minute by minute, years down the road upon the signing of a professional contract, or under the table as persuasion or hush money.  Regardless, there seems to be little care for the common fan – who unfortunately remains oblivious, glued to the television set and snatching up goodies as quickly as ever, because American culture is completely overrun by sports.