Thursday, July 14, 2005

Fisking Ralph Nader: Came across a new Web site this morning, The League of Fans, a “sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to increase awareness between sports and society.” I didn’t realize there was a deficiency of awareness that there are sports that some people play and some others watch and oftentimes money is exchanged when this occurs. But Ralph’s not the most hip and with-it cat on the block, so it’s nice to see he’s catching up. It’s also good to know that the League of Fans isn’t, in fact, a crime fighting team of painted-face, wig wearing, beer guzzlers with enormous foam fingers with which they battle evil. Or a Special Olympics baseball organization.

So what’s on the minds of these highly concerned sports fans, eh? I don’t have 9 hours to go through their “Core Principles,” so we’ll just cherry pick a little, meaning this is only a partial fisking (not fair I guess, but brevity isn’t Ralph’s strong suit, so I’m forced to do some skimming):

Sports are no longer outside the realm of everyday citizen concern. Many people, fans or not, are upset with what has become of our sports and would like to make a difference by encouraging the cooperative capacities that make the "sports powers-that-be" capable of helping, not just dominating, our society and culture.
Athletes are very popular, to be sure, but they don’t dominate our culture any more than movie stars or other celebrities. We have, in large part, become a nation of star-fu****s, but lobbying the NBA isn’t going to change that. The best we can hope for is for people to show a little good judgment
. Public money should not be used to further the profits of sports corporations. There is no justification for cities and states to subsidize professional sports franchises with taxpayer (or otherwise public) dollars to build new stadiums or arenas, nor to provide them with other forms of corporate welfare. It is not a public purpose. Major pro sports teams are private, profit-seeking companies with very wealthy owners working within monopoly leagues and should have no trouble surviving the tests of a free market.
Actually, I agree with the sentiment here. Publicly funded stadium deals are a scam and raise the prices of everything in sports, not to mention everyone’s taxes. I suppose if a local community votes via referendum to appropriate money for it there’s a case to be made for it, but, a public good it ain’t. Given recent trends in private property issues (Kelo, in particular) maybe it’s time we allow the free market it’s day on this one. Point for Nader.
Commercial advertising in sports has gone too far and is getting more intrusive, and should be scaled back. The ongoing commercialization of sports is shifting the primary focus of games away from showcasing skill and competition, and toward simply creating another forum to sell more things. This corporate branding destroys the character and virtues of sport with a commercialized vision where everything is for sale, and every waking moment an occasion for an advertisement.
Uh, Ralph, that free market thing you mentioned before? Guess what? That involves private businesses who wish to use their money to associate themselves with the leagues, teams, and athletes in question. So they can make money. The free market isn’t charitable contributions to the NFL. You don’t like advertisements, be prepared to have most sports become almost invisible or ridiculously expensive.
Fans of major professional sports should learn about the business practices of their favorite sports teams and leagues. The outdated and unrealistic romance fans still attach to major professional sports allows greedy team owners to work against the interests of fans, and to extort corporate welfare from cities. As much as fans love major professional sports, it is a pathological profit-seeking industry that cares little for fans and communities.
Leaving aside that I have no idea what “pathologically profit-seeking” means, this sounds about as fun for the average fan as doing their taxes. I can’t even figure out the infield fly rule, now I’m supposed to study salary cap rules and contract law.
It is better in the long-term for a sports franchise to work to maximize the number of fans in attendance with lower ticket, concessions and parking prices rather than maximizing profits with higher prices. Fans should be able to purchase reasonably priced tickets and concessions and be treated with courtesy and respect. Everyone should be able to attend, not just the elite. Collective bargaining should take sports fans and host cities into account. Fans should have the right to have their interests in the resolution of disputes effectively expressed, and cities that have subsidized the league in question should be compensated for damages due to any work stoppages.
This sounds like something else that should be left to the newly discovered free market Ralph mentioned earlier. Little thing called supply and demand, my friend. By the way, all that advertising Nader hates is what allows the average fan to watch games on TV for free instead of schlepping into downtown Boston and watch the Sawx play. As for fans rights in collective bargaining sessions, that’s laughable. Think the UAW guys at Ford want me in the negotiations voicing my interests next time their contract comes up? Fans have the right to consume or not consume. Watch or not watch. Cheer or Bronx cheer. That’s it.

I can’t go on with this. There’s like 15 more principles and I’ve wasted too much time already on this nonsense. Ralph Nader is a complete idiot, though, and no fan of sports, or the fans who watch them.


Razor said...

Ummmmm...has Ralph been to a European soccer [football] game? There the teams don't even wear their names on their uniforms, but rather their corporate sponsor's. So that means every fan who buys a replica jersey is actually buying a jersey for a telephone company, or a car company, or some other business.

How does Ralphy square this with his pro-socialist viewpoints?

enobarbus said...

Good catch, Flyer.

I loved that "fans should educate themselves" part. Most serious baseball fans I know never stop bitching about how baseball is a business first and foremost. And they carry in their head more knowledge about collective bargaining than most labor negotiators. Say what you want about Joe Sixpack, he ain't fooled by pro sports.