Friday, July 4, 2008

A little break from footy...

But with the recent dealings in Seattle I just had to voice my growing discontent on professional sports in this country. In fact, I plan on publishing a book soon Why I've begun to hate American Sports.

And this whole debacle will be a chapter titled "Franchising is the death of everything: How public tax dollars are wasted on private sports ventures, which in turn screw the public."

There are countless other examples throughout the current and historic American sportscape. And will continue to be because they're not teams belonging to communities or cities, but "franchises". And the organizations that run the leagues are somehow continually getting away with taxing the public for private business. It would be one thing if a museum, library, or other civic institution was constructed -- but professional sports only exist to pad the pockets of the billionaire owners.

Now, this shouldn't be new to anyone with a brain. And I'm sure you're all aware of what has been transpiring in the Emerald City: how Howard Schultz was an inept owner, sold it to some OK City carpetbaggers who demanded a king's ransom to renovate a 13-year-old stadium, and Seattle (in typical city politic fashion) took the money to line their pockets. And the tyrannic David Stern, obviously not caring about public image after it was all but proven that his league is as palatable as boxing, welcomed the move.

I know MK Dons attempted this route, but it went through much negative hubbub. And, although some doom-sayers otherwise, it will probably never happen again. But, as far as I know, this type of greed would never be allowed to occur in English and European soccer. Yes, there was the Wembley racket and Cardiff's Millenium Stadium was financed partially from public funds. But those are national stadiums, used for a variety of events.

Imagine if Niall Quinn decided "screw it, Sunderland sucks. I'm moving elsewhere"; or if the new American owners of Derby County attempted to relocate to a larger locale because the public wouldn't fund a new stadium. Would anyone in England tolerate this? Would the BPL chairman Sir Dave Richards sit glumly by? Even I would probably riot in the fans' favor. Yet in America this happens all the time. And the league's allow it to, because it would terrible PR for them to be rebuffed by the people who actually pay for the event (consumers rejecting a product -- what a novel thought!).

I feel sorry for Seattle, but I also feel sorry for every team in every league. A precedence and formula has been established to make more money: purchase a team, alienate its fan-base, demand public funds to renovate stadiums that don't really need it in the first place, buy off the city government through graft, and then eventually move to your future destination. There are a few teams that would never move without some serious bloodshed (e.g. Red Sox, Yankees, Red Wings, Packers, any Philly team, Giants, Jets, Celtics, Knicks -- see a trend?), but every 'mid-table' club is hereby vulnerable.

And with the closed leagues, rewarding draft picks for under-performing, and salary caps, the trend will only continue to get worse.

Which is why any Rochdale, Bury, or even Liverpool fan can rest assure that their club will never relocate. Because their sports system does rely on money, yes, but mostly on results. The same cannot be said of here, where, allegedly, its about competition and the best being allowed to succeed.