Thursday, March 17, 2011

And All This Time We Thought It Was The Players Who Were The Problem

by Dick Mac

Professional sports has become a joke in America. You can barely witness any athleticism for the commercial interruptions. And if displays of skill, prowess, and acumen are being displayed, they are interrupted every eight minutes for the insertion of a commercial, due to contractual obligations not to the ticket-holders but to the broadcasters.

The contract between team and ticket holder (both explicit and implied) means nothing anymore, because the ticket holder is just a consumer and must rely on the vagaries of the marketplace and the rule of caveat emptor. The contract between the team and the broadcaster, on the other hand, is treated like the eleventh commandment, the missing amendment on the Bill of Rights, or a blessed page directly from the handwritten diaries of Ayn Rand.

Never shall a single second of commercial advertising be missed, even if it means the winning goal, shot, hit, or touchdown is pre-empted so you can watch (for the thirtieth time this evening) about the latest in erectile dysfunction, watery beer, or douche bags.

The popular notion about the onslaught of advertising in sport broadcasts is that the incredible rise in player salaries means that the teams must make more and more money. It's always the staff, the players, the workers, whose salaries are the problem. It's never the 8- or 9-figure salary collected by the CEO, it's the twelve bucks an hour for the sweeper and the million-dollar contract for the point guard.

The Tea Party, which is funded by the guys earning 8- and 9-figure salaries, and their mouthpieces at Fox News, have most of middle class America furious over the salaries of people nowhere near the top of the food chain, and the party supporters will tell you that it is unthinkable to discuss the remarkable salaries of the few guys at the top.

In order to support the vulgar salaries at the top of the economic food chain, the organization must make sacrifices. Never is the CEO's hundred million dollar salary up for discussion, it's the employee's health care or the 35-year usher's retirement fund. Even lower management isn't safe. If cutting the health care benefits of lower- and middle-management means protecting the CEO's salary and the EOY ROI of the owners, then the manager can go without top-notch health care and the floor sweepers can . . . well. . . who really care about them anyway.

Team owners reap untold social welfare benefits: tax-exemptions, free water and sewer services, free security and infrastructure support from the municipality, often free rent in a government-owned or operated facility. These are the real welfare queens of America: the rich. These are the people not satisfied with their personal success, they demand that the government (that is, you and me) give them even more, because that is somehow patriotic or the American way. Allowing children to be homeless, hungry and uneducated seems to be, by Tea Party standards, also the patriotic thing to do.

Sports teams are of particular interest to me, because they bring no benefit to a community, yet they demand untold financial aid, tax loopholes, and government benefits all at the expense of the taxpayer. This would be less egregious if they were good neighbors and good employers. They are neither.

I owned a condominium near Fenway Park for many years, and I can tell you that the owners of Fenway Park were horrible neighbors. Even with the gazillions of dollars of government subsidies and free services, they are unable to figure out how to be a good neighbor. Why? That might cut into profits and, after all, being a good neighbor isn't patriotic, ensuring profits is the patriotic thing to do.

Sports teams are not good employers, either. A very tiny percentage of the organization is well-paid, and the CEO is often paid dramatically more than them; but the majority of the staff is paid at minimum wage or just above it, receive no benefits and work seasonally. This is hardly the kind of employer our tax dollars should subsidize!

One particular sports team lives rent-free in the Staples Center, in Los Angeles and is owned by a very successful businessman, Donald Sterling. Mr. Sterling has the means to live very well and his enterprises earn enough money for the employees to be paid well and receive top-notch benefits.

As you might expect, this is not the case.

Mr. Sterling had an employee who worked as a manager in his organization. The manager was well-paid and received health benefits. Like most of us that pay for health insurance, however, this manager's insurance didn't cover him when he was really sick.

For want of seventy-thousand dollars (less than one night's rent at the Staples Center which his employer uses rent-free), this guy was going to miss the medical treatment that would save his life.

Mr. Sterling was unable to find any way to help his employee. The organization paid his salary and provided his insurance and that was that.

Well, this is true. Mr. Sterling and the Clippers organization had done everything that they were required to do. To expect them to do any more implies that we expect people to care about each other.

Mr. Sterling was by no means required to assist his employee, even though the employee was fairly high-ranking in the organization and the employee's skills very much defined the ability of the team to earn more and more money. No, the Clippers had no obligation beyond what was already done.

So, this manager for the team would lose his job as he became ill, and he would die, and his employer would continue profiting from free rent and tax breaks, free municipal service and security, access to the tax payers' infrastructure, and a replacement would be found for the dead guy.

Hey, that's America.

And would you expect anything else from the NBA, a league that brings the notion of criminal and sociopathic behavior to a new level? No, of course not. Most of us have pretty negative opinions about basketball players off-the-court. We are force fed stories about the criminal activity of athletes like Ron Artest and Michael Jordan, men whose crimes range from the simple and quaint to the violent and outrageous.

In this story, however, four NBA players, employees of the Los Angeles Clippers, took action, intended to remain private and secret, that would save the life of a man their employer had dismissed as unworthy of further assistance.

Corey Maggette, Marko Jaric, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand all chipped in to pay the seventy-thousand dollars their supervisor needed to live.

Mr. Sterling did nothing.

The rich, especially the owners of America's industry, financial institution, and entertainment conglomerates, are not required to help anyone but themselves.

And those of us who think they should, perhaps, chip in a little more, are called socialists and liberals and are treated by America's stupid with disdain.

Well, Mr, Sterling represents everything that is wrong with America: the rich are only expected to get richer and people at the bottom (or even in the middle) can just go fuck themselves! This is America and if you can't make it on your own in a system that's rigged against you, then too fucking bad!

This is America having a tea party.

One lump or two?

Players chip in to save coach’s life after Clippers decline medical coverage

No comments: