Role Players

Frank Deford on the inanity of holding sports players up as role models.  Pretty refreshing after all the bullshit about how Tiger Woods “let us down” by cheating on his wife.  Aside from a handful of rubes who think this charade actually has something to do with morality, does anybody really care about who Tiger Woods is fucking?  Of course not.  The PGA (or NFL or NBA, etc.), along with its corporate sponsors, pretends publicly to be shocked, shocked by such immoral behavior while privately worrying only about when they can get back to making money.  And Tiger Woods puts on a public display of penitence, in order to appease the PGA and its corporate sponsors, along with his own corporate sponsors, so he can get back to playing golf and making money (and probably screwing more porn stars).  And the media, dutifully performing its role as PR flack for whoever happens to be running whatever show they’re reporting on, just parrots this nonsense.

But anyhow, back to Deford and role models.  He asks a pretty good question that nobody ever seems to consider:

But why? Why, pray, of all people, are athletes, pretty much alone in our society, expected to be sweeter than the average angel? It is politicians and clergy and those maestros of finance on Wall Street who ought to be held to a higher standard. Why aren’t they ever called “role models?” Why can’t some tearful little impressionable tyke sob, “Say it ain’t so, Goldman Sachs, say it ain’t so” — and thus change the pecking order in our cultural mythology?

(Could it be that these other people are considered to be so thoroughly corrupt that even the most impressionable nitwit would laugh out loud at the suggestion of making them paragons of good behavior?)

Or, as that great critic of American cultural stupidity, George Carlin, put it:

“If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.”

The National Pastime

Frank Deford taking a whack at the correlation between the size of a baseball team’s payroll and its chances of winning.  Now this particular dead horse has been beaten so often and so hard that it’s pretty much an unrecognizable lump of meat by now.  Deford, at least, does it with some style and wit.

But it’s not just the size of the payroll that matters; it’s also how it’s acquired.  Every team benefits from some amount of government largesse, but it turns out that one in particular (three guesses) is a bigger “welfare queen” than all the rest:

To sum up: The most successful, most opulent, and most hated baseball franchise in North America, widely known as “the Evil Empire,” receives an unprecedented amount of government giveaways in a time of recession and government budget-squeezes, with which it increases its already sizeable revenue advantage, partly by charging ticket prices that only the rich can afford. With all that dough safely pocketed, the team then shells out $423 million in free agent contracts for just three players, who help vault them back into the League Championship Series for the first time since 2004.

Back in the mid-1970s, when the Yankees were re-emerging from more than a decade of uncharacteristic mediocrity, a favorite negative stereotype on the political right was the “welfare queen,” living high off government largesse that had been intended for the genuinely poor. It’s an enduring puzzle in contemporary America that long after “welfare reform” restructured transfer payments to individuals, the corporate welfare queens—who by any estimation have been sucking more from the public teat than all welfare recipients combined—continue gobbling hundreds of billions each year, image largely unsullied.

So root, root, root against the home team tonight. It’s bad enough that they play in a fascist stadium; the real outrage is that you paid for it.

Whole article here.