Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Stupor Bowl

I was listening to a local DJ rant and rave about a guy named James Harrison. Apparently, James Harrison is a professional football player, and apparently he was fined $75,000 for hitting another football player really hard and hurting him.

Now, of course, the object of football is to hit other players really hard and hurt them, so it’s not clear to me why anyone should be surprised when this happens (or why any player should be fined for doing it).

But anyway, this DJ was talking about a Facebook site wherein fans of James Harrison are encouraged to submit one dollar to help pay his fine. Evidently, 10,000 people have already contributed.

The DJ couldn’t fathom this. He kept calling these people stupid. In fact, he used the word "stupid" approximately ten times (which in my household would have cost him ten dollars). How, he foamed, could anyone think to pay a millionaire’s fine? How stupid could you get?

To an extent, I agreed with him. It is stupid for average football fans, folks who make roughly one one-thousandth of what this James Harrison character makes every time he steps on a football field, to pay his fine.

But what this DJ overlooked is, these people already have paid Mr. James Harrison’s fine. They paid it when they paid his outrageous salary, and they paid that when they paid the outrageous ticket prices charged to watch the football games in which he hits other people really hard, the outrageous product prices charged for official licensed team merchandise with his name and likeness on it, and the outrageous broadcast prices charged for pay-per-view and the other forms of media in which his antics are featured.

If it’s stupid to pay one dollar to cover some thug’s fine--and it is--how much more stupid is it to pay that same thug fifty million dollars?

Professional sports, in short, are paradigmatic of capitalist/consumer culture, which convinces relatively poor people to consume overpriced, disposable products (in this case, the games themselves and the merchandise associated with them) in order to enrich a tiny, select group of individuals lucky or unscrupulous enough to have acquired the necessary endowments for such highway robbery (in this case, big bodies, even bigger wallets, and shriveled, nearly nonexistent souls).

And it’s not as if non-fans like me are exempt from this stupidity. When the city in which I live built brand-new football and baseball stadiums to prevent these capitalist vultures from carrying out their threats to leave town, it paid the costs with taxpayer money. Supposedly, this was necessary in order to boost civic pride (something that never paid any hardworking taxpayer one single dime) and to keep jobs in the city (mostly, I might note, the low-paying, menial, benefit-less positions--janitorial, vending, food services--that sports franchises support).

And the amazing thing is, most people in my city--in all cities--are only too happy to pay.

So yes, we’re all part of the stupidity: the fans who send their hard-earned dollars to cover the fines of bloated criminals like James Harrison, the DJs (including the one who broke this story) who host daily shows to whip everyone up into a frenzy about the team’s latest escapades, the city officials who throw taxpayer money at gluttonous bazillionaires, the taxpayers who don’t storm city hall with torches and pitchforks and throw the bums out.

But you can’t say stuff like this to anyone. They’d think you were stupid.

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