Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Politics and Sports Redux


A suicide bomber attempts to make his way inside a stadium where the French and German national teams are playing a "friendly", with the President of France in attendance. He is turned away and detonates himself on the street, the explosion audible inside the stadium. The choice of targets was not accidental.

The state of Florida, while struggling with desperate financial issues, has a fund that teams can apply to for, essentially, $1M a year in free money for facilities upgrades. All they have to do is ask. In their arrogance, the Bucs - with a franchise valuation of $1.5 billion dollars - still blew it.  Meanwhile, the owner of the Jaguars is holding the threat of relocation over Jacksonville's head as he alternately tries to crank $18M out of Florida or $45M out of Jacksonville proper for "facilities upgrades".

The student protests at Missouri gain critical mass when the football team signal their support en masse. If the players had stayed off the field, Mizzou would have owed BYU a cool million dollars. That gave the players, and through them, the student protestors, unique and powerful leverage.

Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain produced a report detailing the millions of dollars the US armed forces spend for PR moments at major sporting events. This "paid patriotism" cost taxpayers $6.8M at last counting, or, if you prefer, slightly more than the 8th congressional inquiry into the events in Benghazi.

New allegations suggest that the Russian Olympic team at Sochi was fueled by an extensive state-run doping scheme, and that FSB agents (that's "new-fangled KGB with rebranding", in case you were wondering) were present in the doping labs at the Sochi games to make sure the results came out "right". It's one thing for athletic federations to have dopers and PED users. But when the state sanctions the use of its secret police to ensure the participation of its roided-up snowflakes, that's another.

With all that in mind, the next person whose response to the NFL's bare minimum moment of silence is to holler "keep politics out of sports" needs to understand that ship sailed long, long ago. Sports trade on the group identity of political entities - countries, cities, states. They use public money for specific purposes, arguing that it is for the public good. They use public land to specific ends. This is the very definition of politics, and why the two will never, ever be separated, no matter how much you might want them to be.

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