In celebration of today's National Football League Super Brawl I offer this memoir of my personal disenchantment with professional sports at all levels. I was born and raised in the midwest. I played sports as a kid, not very well until my growth spurt in high school. Then I was All-League in football, an average basketball player and even tossed the shot put my senior year. All of my brothers were football players, each of us lettered in at least two sports every year. We all dutifully followed the Detroit professional sports teams and in the 50s & 60s there were some teams worth following back then: Bobby Layne, Gordie Howe, Al Kaline.
But sometime in the 60s I began to lose interest in professional sports. There were too many other things to follow with real world consequences and then came the escalation of sports salaries that began in the 70s. By then I was watching the Super Bowl only for the commercials and found the glacial pace of baseball to be somnia inducing. By 1975 I was living in L.A. which had the Magic Johnson-Kareem Abdul Jabar Lakers and soon the Wayne Gretsky led L.A. Kings. I hung out at several local taverns with sports connections and got back into following some professional teams but I remember the moment it all ended.
In the 1983 NBA finals the Lakers met the Philadelphia 76ers. Someone scored tickets to game four at the L.A. Forum, it turned out to be the final game of a Philadelphia sweep of the Lakers. The lady I was dating was friends with the Forum's public address announcer who sat court side at the scorer's table and made all the the player introductions and game announcements. We walked down to see him after the game, he was devastated. I had never seen a non-participant in a game that upset over a loss. I'm sure he had a bundle bet on the game but it was after all just a game of basketball and wasn't real, they made it all up to entertain and distract; not to mention to make money. Well paid gladiators and their plutocrat owners.
Periodically I am reminded why I don't follow and don't care about professional sports. The latest reinforcer was this past fall when the NBA player's representative said that in the collective bargaining agreement negotiations the owners were "treating the players like slaves." Yep, slaves! Slaves who make an average of $5.2 million dollars a year.
Nevermind that sports franchises routinely holdup city, county and state governments for huge subsidies to build new stadiums. Studies have shown over decades that professional sports stadiums cost local governments tens of millions of dollars in bond costs and loss revenue while returning to the community income as few as eights days a year in the case of an NFL team.
To be honest, I do have one very positive comment on professional sports - on any given Sunday restaurants, theaters, museums and hiking trails are nearly empty during the "big game." I think a movie for me this afternoon, Go Bears!