Sports aren’t apolitical because sports are an industry.

ESPN is about sports. ESPN is not a political organization.” — ESPN president John Skipper

This has led to me seeing variations of the phrase “politics has no place in sports” plastered all over social media.

If only this were true.

In 2005, the United States Congress held hearings about doping in baseball. Top players testified. Jose Canseco famously admitted to using steroids in the past. Mark McGwire, feeling as though he’d be vilified either way, famously said “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were killed by a secular Palestinian terrorist group. They were aided by German neo-Nazis.

In 2015, a movie titled Concussion was made based on a 2009 GQ exposeabout the NFL trying to suppress a forensic pathologist’s research on brain degeneration due to chronic trauma that football players sustain.

In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted Pete Rose to be permanently ineligible for induction, after he agreed in 1989 to a permanent ineligibility from baseball due to betting on games while he was a player and manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose is the all-time MLB leader in hits, games played, at-bats, and singles.

In 2017, TV deals kick in for the Big Ten conference from which athletic departments will reportedly get payouts of $43 million in 2017–2018. Most schools the U.S. don’t profit from athletics and siphon off money from academic budgets to keep pace. College athletes, even at schools that doprofit, are not paid for their work.

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The Fetishization of the American Businessman

2017/8/17: An updated version of this piece appears on medium.com.

Donald Trump clearly doesn’t care about governing or know anything about governing. He has never given any indication that he did. Vague statements in his campaign didn’t magically turn into knowledge after the election.

Donald Trump wanted to be president in order to protect and promote his business and the Trump brand. He probably also wanted the power, but we have no way of confirming the latter other than his insistence that he won the election in a landslide [read: he didn’t] and his language befitting of a demagogue. We do have evidence, however, of his financial stakes.

Trump has refused to separate his business interests from his presidency, refusing to put his assets in a blind trust, instead handing over management to his two oldest sons. After the election, the Trump Organization doubled the initiation fee for its Mar-a-Lago resort — which Trump has since called “the Winter White House” — to $200,000. Trump Hotels’ CEO also said, after the election, that they planned to triple the number of Trump Hotels in the country. And that’s just in the U.S. According to the Washington Post, “at least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia, and the Middle East.”

This is dangerous to the American people. The President of the United States is supposed to represent national interests and not, say, what he stands to profit from a casino or a luxury condo in Turkey. It’s not a coincidence that the Muslim-majority countries on Trump’s first attempt at an anti-immigration executive order were countries in which he has no business investments. The stated purpose of the order was to prevent terrorists from entering the country, even though no terrorist attacks have been committed on U.S. soil by people from any of the banned countries. It’s not hard to connect the dots.

You can find a laundry list of Trump’s business conflicts of interest here. It’s long. And it’s not subtle. My personal favorite is the Chinese trademark dispute that had been going on more than a decade and was magically settled in the Trump Organization’s favor after he became president.

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Redemption Year

Sons of Anarchy finished its seven-year run this December. I used to love the show, though the last couple seasons seemed needlessly violent and mostly served to make me hate all the characters (except Chuckie and Venus–may Tig and Venus ride off into the sunset together).

At some point last season, I realized that Jax wasn’t going to get a redemption arc. What happened at the end of season 6 was the nail in the coffin. And that’s the thing about human beings that is hard for me to reconcile sometimes. Not everyone gets redemption.

We live, we work, we do shitty things to each other, we might make a few people happy, and then we die. And when I look back on this year, I see a lot of these shitty things, and I can’t help but think.

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Just Don’t Look

[1] I understand the fear about invasion of privacy.

Privacy just one more of those case where we think it means one thing and the government thinks it means another. I do think there are a lot of sinister things the government could do with certain information they collect from us. I also think that we hypocritically support some of these measures when they are done to other people, like airport security measures, GPS to track criminals, etc.

On the surface, it’s creepy to think about ads being tailored to you based on your internet activity, and it doesn’t seem right that your personal information can be shared to third parties via a social networking site or your internet search history.

But people are making Google and Facebook seem like purveyors of identity theft.

Yes, advertisers are trying to target ads to you based on your personal interests. They aren’t collecting your social security number, and they aren’t going to tell your employer that you are a closet Buffy fan. Frankly, if this means I never have to see commercials for Luvs diapers or ambulance-chasing lawyers or Kay Jewelers again, then I would be all too happy.

Advertising is a form of mind control and manipulation, but it’s not so pervasive that it takes away your ability to resist.

You still have a choice NOT to buy the products being advertised.

You don’t HAVE to spend money on things you don’t really need.[2]

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Toward Perpetual Progress

According to the Forbes 400, the net worth of the richest Americans has decreased $300 billion over the past year. The ten richest Americans lost $39.2 billion. Bill Gates alone lost $7 billion and is now only worth a paltry $50 billion.

On the one hand, this is an obvious indication of the economic slump that has occurred over the past year.

On the other hand, I cut my own hair because I can’t afford to shell out $12 (+ tip) at Mastercuts.[1]

I could lament about the obscene gap between rich and poor in this world.[2] One needn’t leave this country to find people living in abject poverty and working people at that.

But what interests me more is the following question: What would human beings do if our notion of “progress” didn’t include “profit” as in its current conception?

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

I am not an environmentalist.  Though I probably appear to fit the profile of a typical environmentalist… or I did until the giant gaggle of yuppies and mass media acquired the rights to the word “green” only to start selling it off piece by piece.

I like polar bears.  And I kind of like penguins.  (I mostly just like watching polar bears and penguins swim. It’s therapeutic.)  And so I am very sorry that their habitats are melting away, but let’s face it, no one is recycling for the polar bears.

Once upon a time in a previous rant, I explained that I find environmentalism to be a misnomer, because no one really cares about the natural environment.  People aren’t “saving the planet” for the sake of the planet, they are “saving the planet” for the sake of the livelihood of human beings.  We need the environment to stay similar enough to how it is now so the lifestyles we have come to love can be maintained.  We don’t want California to fall into the f***ing ocean.[1] We don’t want all of our coastlines to be washed away.

And while these may be catastrophic events that would alter the course of human events, frankly, I don’t care all that much.

But more importantly, if I did care, it’s too late.  Oh, I believe Al Gore when he says that the effects of global warming (ManBearPig) can be reversed to some extent if we do something about it now.  That’s not what I mean by too late.  What I mean is that we’re far to set in our post-industrial revolution ways to have enough people make enough lifestyle changes to make a damn bit of difference.

(Incidentally, the other reason why I don’t care is because I want the color green back.  I’ve never really been a green person (I prefer blue), but I miss being able to say the word green without people thinking you’re talking about a bamboo floormat for your Toyota Prius.)

Green doesn’t even mean anything anymore, it’s a marketing tool.  It’s a fad.

Environmentalism has become a fad.

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