big money sports

I was half watching the BCS and bowl game selection show coverage on ESPN, thinking about why Northwestern (my alma mater) got passed over by certain games and why Ohio State again gets to attend one of the lucrative BCS games while someone like Boise State, one of only two undefeated teams eligible for bowl games, will instead be playing in a bowl game sponsored by — get this — the San Diego County Credit Union!  It’s easy to see why, really, and most people, even those involved in the system, don’t try to hide the reason: it’s all ’bout the benjamins, baby (or the money, for those not up on their slang the past decade or so).

Bowl games, for the most part, have the right to choose who they will select to attend their games, so why not bring the teams to town that will sell the most amount of tickets and bring the most number of fans to the city to spend money and get excited.  Oh, and the TV stations, of course, want to get the most amount of people to watch the games to sell ads at higher prices.  Because Iowa would bring more fans than Northwestern, the Wildcats were passed over by a bowl with earlier pick of the crop to select Iowa, who had lost to Northwestern during the season.

It got me thinking about some words of Noam Chomsky shared, which can be viewed in the documentary movie “Manufacturing Consent,” which I highly recommend.  And while Chomsky’s words aren’t directly related to money, there is wrapped up in “big money sports,” be it college football or anything else, the idea of getting fans wrapped up in a frenzy and committing their time to sports instead of other things.  Here’s what he had to say:

“Now there are other media too whose basic social role is quite different: it’s diversion. There’s the real mass media-the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Six Pack — that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people’s brains.  This is an oversimplification, but for the eighty percent or whatever they are, the main thing is to divert them… Get them away from things that matter. And for that it’s important to reduce their capacity to think.

Take, say, sports — that’s another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it — you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that’s of no importance. [audience laughs] That keeps them from worrying about — [applause] keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about. And in fact it’s striking to see the intelligence that’s used by ordinary people in [discussions of] sports [as opposed to political and social issues]. I mean, you listen to radio stations where people call in — they have the most exotic information [more laughter] and understanding about all kind of arcane issues. And the press undoubtedly does a lot with this.

You know, I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? [laugbter] I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? [audience roars] I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team? It doesn’t mean any — it doesn’t make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that’s why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.”
(Excepted from freepublic.com, where commenters obviously don’t agree with Chomsky’s point.)

Now, I think there is likely some middle ground here to be had, but I do find Chomsky’s point intriguing and thought-provoking.  I’ll confess that I’ve played some fantasy baseball in the past few summers, spending time picking people for my team and assigning them to starting line-ups for certain days and such — and I think it’s important for all of us to have hobbies.  However (and now my point opens up to more than sports), when something begins to take up so much of our time and energy and interest that we allow ourselves to become oblivious to what’s going on in the worlds of government and economics and war and science and religion, areas that affect us whether we like it or not — when we forget about these areas to deal with things that have no personal relationship with us, we do ourselves and others a disservice.

It’s important that we prioritze our lives and recognize when things like sports or entertainment or other such areas of life can take over our time so much that we loose connection to the rest of the world around us.  We need to have the knowledge to make informed decisions about things like elections and investing our money, and if we spend too much of our time in other areas (even overwork can lead to this), it can become problematic for all involved.  So take some time to examine your time choices and make any adjustments you need to.  I’ll be doing the same for myself.

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