Once again another Super Bowl is upon us, and millions of people will be watching, and billions of dollars will be flowing ever upward often from the small pockets of the poor and working class into the large bank accounts of the owners, coaches, players, ad executives, car companies, beer companies, shareholders, members of the boards of directors, etc., etc., ad-nauseam.
This is one of the many bad investments one can make: this emotional and financial investment as a fan of professional sports, because in many if not the majority of cases, there is often little or no return aside from a few hours of emotional enjoyment and escapism.
This problem, both with these sports organizations and the issue of greed overall, is not a simple one to address, nor is the underlying issue of needing an escape. The NFL and some players do give back to those in need and their local communities, and there are fans who do not even care that they support the greedy NFL or other sports organizations.
While I cannot go into great detail into every aspect pertaining to this issue, mainly because I’m not an expert nor psychologist, I will try to touch on them as best as I can. Why? Because I want to help generate awareness of an important issue. I want to add my voice to those voices already out there in order to help wake up those who may not understand that they are not benefiting from this one-sided transaction, and may even be taken advantage of and preyed upon. I am not here to say that we should deprive people of simple pleasures, joys or entertainment. I am not here to say we should disband or destroy these sports organizations. But the main issue of greed and the subsequent issues of the lack of significant improvement of the lives of the fans and their communities needs to be addressed.
These fans, many of whom are poor and working class, spend their hard earned money and their equally valuable time, buying merchandise and tickets, being lured (sometimes preyed upon) into making various purchases (i.e. “wear your jersey and save 5% on opening a bank account, leasing a car, or buying a package of unhealthy potato chips) to help all of the aforementioned owners, coaches, players, executives, etc., obtain a more comfortable, lavish lifestyle, yet, where is the return for these fans’ and their communities who dwell in the shadows of these organizations and their stadiums?
First, we must address the fact that the NFL and some of its players do give back to those in need, as rightfully they should, as rightfully we all should, those of us who are “fortunate”, meaning those of us who are able-bodied, not suffering with any serious health issues and can afford to. Our civilization and society should place those who are worse off at the top. We are no longer living in a time of “survival of the fittest”. And by worse off, I mean those suffering with any myriad of the physical and/or mental disabilities that plague our species. And by “treated like royalty”, I mean that they are the ones in society that should be driven everywhere by limousine and living in mansions, not those of us who are without serious problems. I do not know of every single organization that benefits from the charitable donations of the NFL and its players. I do know that there is enough evidence to prove that it is not enough. Just take a look around at the areas local to the various NFL teams and you will find plenty of poverty, slums, families struggling to afford school supplies, and public schools struggling with funding. Let us not forget that some of the charitable work is for PR purposes to make the sports organizations look good and not out of the pure kindness and generosity of their and even some players’ hearts. Even with all of these charitable contributions, I am sure there are plenty of fans suffering with issues that do not benefit whatsoever by charity whether it is directly or indirectly.
We cannot place all of the blame on the NFL for not improving the lives of its fans and communities. Some of the fans and communities do need to take responsibility for their problems, or at least those who are able-bodied and financially able to do so. However, we must keep in mind that we are talking about an organization where 10 of the NFL’s wealthiest team owners are worth a combined $61 billion! Not every community has that kind of economic resource available. Plenty of able-bodied fans are happy supporting their favorite sports team even knowing how greedy these teams and organizations are, and even when these very fans suffer from any number of physical and/or financial problems. But because these sports organizations are sitting on so much wealth, we live in a time where there should be measures in place to insure that much of that wealth is redistributed back to those who supplied it, not just to charities. This should be the case for any large company or corporation.
Then there is the fact that many people, if not all of us, need a goal, need something to live for, especially if suffering from a debilitating illness of some nature. Thus: entertainment and escapism. Again, I am not saying we should get rid of entertainment. But there is a problem that needs to be addressed in regards to the sheer amount of wealth and greed associated with those in the entertainment industry compared to the lack of such wealth, be it physical or financial, when it comes to the lives of the people and their communities that help those in the entertainment industry, be it sports organization or artist, achieve a life of luxury. Is not everyone deserving of that life? Why is it so one-sided? If the fans can each contribute $20 to help line the pockets of an artist, athlete or sports organization to the point where said entertainer or sports executive lives in the lap of luxury, does not the fan deserve the same in return?
While the responsibility of improving the lives of people and communities does not rest solely on the shoulders of the sports organizations, these organizations are sitting upon a vast amount of wealth, and there is often a significant disparity between the lives of the fans compared to those who benefit from being associated with these sports organizations. There should be more responsibility on these sports organizations to see that the lives of their fans and the fans’ communities are significantly improved. Or, at the very least, these sports organizations should be charging their fans a very small price when it comes to tickets and concessions so that these organizations are not making billions nor gouging their fans.
When those fans suffer with a hardship, be it a layoff, a medical issue (whether it’s themselves or someone in their family), do those owners, players, coaches, ad execs, etc., show up knocking on those fans’ doors or start sending those fans financial aid? No, of course not, for some obviously apparent reasons (like the fact they don’t know who their fans are, which could be easily addressed), but they should. They should be directly and financially indebted to their fans, especially those fans facing hardships. This goes for all those at the “top” of this system of hierarchy. However, I must bring up the charity work as mentioned above. But even with that said, is not the fan and their community also deserving of an improved quality of life as much as those who benefit from charity?
One would think that with all the money that gets siphoned into the bank accounts of the wealthy NFL owners, coaches, players, sports analysts, TV companies, cable companies, ad execs, etc., that the lives of the fans and perhaps even society would be improved as well, but that is not the case. One would think that with all those billions that there would be a significant and vast improvement in the towns and regions near these teams, such as a lack of homeless people, less poverty, and improved public schools, yet sadly that is not the case. There is not enough being done.
But therein lies the dilemma: who is anyone to tell anyone else what they should or should not do with their money? But we are not talking about the starving artist living a modest and meager existence and forcing them to live an even more meager existence by giving a portion of their meager earnings away. We are talking about organizations and individuals sitting upon billions of dollars. If we cannot force people to share their wealth, then maybe we need to change the system of wealth, or stop feeding these machines.
We haven’t even discussed the cost of the television commercials and advertising, not to mention the absurd prices for a Super Bowl ticket.
When you take a step back and look at what is happening from a universal perspective, when you see the forest for the trees, you are seeing an obscene amount of wealth being sent from the masses at the bottom to the few at the top, with little improvement in the lives of those at the bottom. Especially if those fans at the bottom are not capable of benefiting from this system we live in, meaning, they are not attractive enough to be a model nor intelligent enough to be a programmer and thus earn a 6 figure income, just to name a couple examples. But so is the nature of this beast, of this society and civilization, where a value is placed on everything from the ground we stand on to our own lives. However, that is not a problem that is solely isolated to that of the NFL. We also must remember that life is not about value, material possessions and money. Many people are very happy with less. But that is not what is being discussed here. The problem is that there are people who cannot afford health care, or the fact that there are neighborhoods sitting in decay while billion dollar corporations build skyscrapers, and numerous other problems, all of which are happening in the communities local to these sports organizations.
I stopped being a fan once I realized I wasn’t receiving a decent return on my investment. I was spending countless hours and investing my emotions watching these wealthy people, being forced to watch the carrots of beer and car commercials dangled in front of my face which would try to prey upon my feelings of inferiority for not owning a fancy car, and when the game was over, what was I left with? Time spent unwisely, and undue mental anguish because “my” team did not win the game. My mental or physical health wasn’t improved. I did not receive a raise at my job for supporting the local team. I was not able to add “NFL fan for 10 years” on my resume with the hopes it would help me get a better job. It didn’t help with any aspect of my life other than to provide me with an escape, which perhaps is a problem that needs to be addressed. Nor did I see any improvement in the lives of those worse off than me.
After realizing all of this, something happened to me: I woke up, just like I woke up when I left the Catholic church. I realized that I was wasting my precious commodities: my time and energy (although to be honest, there is less energy wasted when one merely sits on a couch watching television). When it came to being a sports fan, I was unhappy with my life in regards to what I wanted to make of it. And so I stopped kneeling at the altar of the NFL and the NHL, just like I stopped kneeling at the altar of the Catholic church, and in some cases, stopped kneeling at the altar of certain musicians. Now I had more time back in my life. More time to focus on improving my life, or at least spend the time wisely figuring out how to improve it, rather than wasting it on those who were not providing me anything directly in return, nor doing much outside of charities to help those in need. Is that greed on my part? Selfishness? Maybe. Maybe that’s the underlying problem with all of us and the entirety of this issue: our human nature.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do what I did: work on improving their life, especially when they have a disability. Does the NFL do it’s part to help the disabled? Perhaps, with whatever funds go to The United Way and various other charities. But even still, it is clearly evident that it is not enough. Why, this past winter (2017) I saw a man in a wheelchair waiting for a bus when it was snowing, and I live in the Philadelphia region which is very pro-sports. That is glaring evidence that someone is not benefiting whatsoever from the wealth that in his community. There was no limousine emblazoned with the local NFL team logo waiting to take that gentlemen to his destination. That is the problem.
The fact remains that fans are not receiving a decent return on their investment, and they should, especially the poor and middle class fans, disabled or not, because they are in many cases the ones doing all the dirty work of society: cleaning up the post-game spilled peanuts and beer, and mopping up the vomit and urine.
I must reiterate that I do not want to get rid of entertainment. I am much of a sucker for a good film or video game as the next person. Yes, it is fun to watch a hockey or NFL game. I love my escapism too. But perhaps it is the commercialized aspect that is the problem. Or perhaps it is what lies underneath that: the greed. I know that artists, NFL owners, musicians, film directors, video game developers, etc., need to eat too. We all do, even those of us that buy the products or tickets. But doesn’t there come a point when someone that receives so much wealth should return an equal portion back directly to those who helped that individual or group achieve such wealth? Return something more than simple pacification, and more than just help with charity.
Are we not one species, one community, one tribe?
Life may not be easy, there most likely is no answer or meaning, there most likely is no god, and nature and the universe could care less about us because they are not sentient beings and they do not have a conscience, so we are alone on this planet left with each other. Therefore, life in today’s society, which so many seem to herald as being modern, civilized and without blemish, should be a 2 way street. It should be “I’ll scratch your back and you scratch mine”. Sadly however, in many cases if not most, it’s a one way street that consists of “I’ll scratch your back while I struggle to find someone that will scratch mine especially in times of hardship”, or in the case of the topic here at hand it’s: “I’ll buy your expensive merchandise, concessions and tickets while you do little to help me or my community in return especially when a serious illness or dire financial situation befalls me”.
I do not know what the answer is. But something needs to change. Maybe people should stop buying tickets and merchandise? Maybe people should instead get together and support each other and their communities, but that’s difficult when everyone has been coerced to work too many hours in a day. Maybe we’re too selfish and our human nature will always get in our way and be our downfall? Or, maybe it is simply time that we stop putting so much money, time and energy into entertainment altogether when there are so many problems in society that need to be addressed. And once we have all helped to reduce the problems in our world, then we can go back to enjoying ourselves as if there wasn’t a leaky pipe or hole in the roof of this house to begin with.