"What the market will bear"
This is the phrase that has been used, for at least the past couple of decades as far as I know, to justify unconscionable excess. It has been a favorite phrase used to justify why a CEO should take home roughly 400 times the compensation that the average worker does. And it has been a favorite phrase used to justify why someone with an above-average ability to throw, catch or hit a ball should make more money in one year than the average doctor does in twenty. “Hey, it’s what the market will bear!
So what they tell you every day, with this phrase, is that you the consumer has signed off on this excess. What they claim is that their particular skill is so valuable and so rare, and so necessary or important (or at least so much in demand) that they deserve to retire in luxury for a few years (if that) worth of ‘effort’. The excesses of the financial industry is now evident to most people, but I think that the obscene financial excess in big time sports is less evident to average person, even in this economy.
Anyway, who is ‘they’? This ‘they’ includes anyone who makes money off the system as it is. As it pertains to sports, the ‘they’ includes, of course, the owners and the players who make incredibly large amounts of money. But it doesn’t stop there---the ‘they’ also includes other conflicted parties such as the ‘journalists’, ‘analysts’, sports talk idiots, broadcasters, telecasters etc . Basically, the ‘they’ includes anyone who talks about, writes about, broadcasts or telecasts (and makes insane amounts of money from you because of) big time sports. And finally, the ‘they’ also includes millions of idiots who like to think of themselves as ‘true loyal fans’ and who therefore walk around mindlessly parroting the shit that they absorb from the mainstream media (such as ‘It’s what the market will bear’), without pausing to consider that they are actually only rationalizing their own exploitation. Yes, this whole thing is a lot like big time politics.
So what they tell you is that this whole thing is driven by you and your need to consume what they alone can produce. And this pisses me off because (i) It is true and (ii) It is only partly true, i.e. there is a part of this sports economy that John and Jane Q Public are directly responsible for driving, but there is an even larger part of this obscene economy that is allegedly driven by the Publics but over which the Publics have little meaningful control in reality.
The discussion about money in sports comes up regularly over the airwaves in the form of questions like “Do (pick a big sport) players make too much money?” or “In this economy does it look bad that Itchy McBallscratcher is being paid 25 million dollars a year?” And since the discussion is led and carried by our beloved conflicted ‘they’, it will never end up raising key questions or issues. For instance, people spend weeks discussing whether ballplayers should make more or less than the owners or who deserves what share of this obscenely large pie. But they never substantively address the issue of why, in a country where 50% of families are living 2 paychecks away from financial disaster-- where schools are woefully underfunded and so many already underpaid schoolteachers spend their own money for classroom supplies — and I could go on but you get the idea--- do two sports leagues (the NFL and MLB) alone manage to rake in about 11 billion dollars a year?
So my point is not about the raw numbers involved, as in X team or player makes Y million dollars; rather my point is to examine how and why X is making increasing millions of dollars at a time when the average American is making effectively less and less. My point is to examine whether it is really necessary that a major league minimum salary needs to be what an average American makes in a decade or more. My point is about balance. We show where we are as a society by what we choose to patronize and to what extent, in the context of the state of the common human of the times. When you take a good look at the sports economy it seems to provide yet more evidence (like we needed it huh?) that we are a society firmly in decadent decline.
The discussion should be about whether, not just in these economic times but at any time, we can afford to spend so much on professional sports, when it is coming at the cost of essentials such as education, healthcare, civic services etc. Sadly, far too many people aren’t even aware of how much of their money gets funneled into big time sports without their realizing it. And of course, far too many people don’t care. It is what the market will bear.
Consumption of big-time sports---it is the new opiate of the masses.
In Part 2 we’ll try and deconstruct some stupid ideas like “Support your local big-league team” and “Sure he makes $20 million a year but it is OK because his earning years are so limited”.
In Part 3 we take a good look at how a sports team can leech off a city in particular and the public in general. Yes, there are some cool numbers involved. We’ll see how, much like in the financial sector, big-time sport has its share of ‘welfare’ multimillionaires.
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