Paul M. Banks has an exclusive interview with Dave Zirin discussing the past, present and future social issues at the heart of sports
On a recent episode of “The Simpsons,” Mr. Burns bought a basketball franchise (Mark Cuban made a guest voice appearance). On that episode, Burns opened up a new arena by telling the crowd “Welcome to the American dream: a billionaire using public funds to finance a private playground for the rich.”
This joke had a lot of painful truth to it, as that’s exactly what happens in each one of our cities when a new billion dollar stadium is built. Our hard earned tax payer dollars go towards financing a private building that each one of us must pay $50 every time we want to go see the inside of it. That money could be going towards solving the health care or climate crisis; or towards our badly under-funded infrastructure, public transportation and school systems. As a sports fan and journalist, I have to put these awful truths aside in order to enjoy watching the games I love so much. I asked Zirin how most sports fans do this. Is it cognitive dissonance? How come there have been no protests or organization against these heists of public funds?
“Huge percentages of people, according to polls like Rasmussen oppose public funds for stadiums, so the sentiment is there. I think people get that they’re being screwed, but there’s very little engagement by the left towards the people who have the capacity and the experience to organize people against such a thing. With the world of sports, because you have a lot of people who see themselves as ‘on the left’ or ‘fighters for social justice:’ because they see sports as something alien to them, they have no capacity to figure out how to organize sports fans,” Zirin said.
I agree- too many leaders on the American left have overlooked sports, downplayed their importance or just conceited that arena to the right. That’s the wrong route to take and it’s a good example of why we’re in this mess.
Sportswriter Dave Zirin is the author of four books and his column, Edge of Sports, appears on Sports Illustrated’s website. He is the host of XM satellite’s weekly show, Edge of Sports Radio. I asked him what his next project is all about.
“I just submitted the draft in for a book that’s going to come out on Simon and Schuster’s Scribners brand, the working title is “Bad Sports: How owners are ruining the games we love.” And it’s looking at the way pro sports owners are creating an environment for the fans that’s inhospitable and I compare them to the AIG bankers and insurance giants who have gone repeatedly for short term gain, and with few exceptions have just completely trashed the concept of stability for their sports, alienating fan bases, kids, municipalities, and doing all of this just because there are some very short term benefits for them to do so. And it’s hallowing out their sports…it’s a light read,” Zirin responded.
I have a feeling the names George Steinbrenner, Peter Angelos and Bill Wirtz might end up in this next tome.