Archive for Tuesday, November 25, 2008

In other’s view: Woeful economy could hurt sports

November 25, 2008

A recent Lawrence Journal-World editorial said this: For years and years, purists have moaned: “If only people devoted the time, effort and attention to politics that they apply to sports, we could change the world.” Some big changes could result after the 2008 elections.

The coming year could pose some serious new financial challenges to the field of athletics just as it will be a thorny time for people in numerous segments of our society. The people in sports at all levels may not be happy with certain aspects of expanded public involvement.

Dave Zirin is the author of “A People’s History of Sports in the United States.” In a recent article in The Washington Post, he says of the sports-politics linkage and the prospects of a new empowerment for “the people in the seats”:

“This year we may have seen an astonishing intensity and interest in the presidential race — largely because of the campaign of Barack Obama — that’s matched in the cultural sphere only by our national obsession with sports. Supporters gathered in arenas, chanted themselves hoarse, obsessed online and even caravaned around the country.”

Zirin traces the way people in politics constantly cross over to sports terminology to make their points and tend to benefit from association with athletes and teams of prominence. He notes this could boomerang in some respects, because there has been a new infusion of “power to the people.” He adds:

“In a tough economic period, sports fans are likely to be far less willing to tolerate publicly funded stadiums while schools, roads and libraries crumble. They may turn their backs on high ticket prices as disposable income dries up. Fans could demand that professional sports radically restructure economically if they want to survive. …

“Fans may have a slightly less exalted platform than the people they cheer, but don’t confuse the humble with the powerless. It’s still the people in the seats who could demand change in the world of sports. They’ve seen how it can work in politics. Passion abhors a vacuum, and right now, sports and sports alone may be awfully thin gruel for fans-turned-political-junkies now coming off an election high.”

A good many athletic entities, professional and otherwise, already are seeing evidence that the sagging economy will do them no favors. Revenue sources could continue to shrink, and some of the excesses we have seen so often among people in sports may be altered sharply when the once-reliable goose stops laying so many golden eggs.

The year ahead is going to be sobering period for just about everyone, including sports people who once spent and spent as if they were immune to the realities that their fans have to embrace

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