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As Sports Media Cheers On Athlete Boycotts, Fans Will Walk Away

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Sports have been a uniting factor for America, but politics is getting in the way. Ben Domenech writes:

It is sometimes underappreciated how new professional sports is as a dominant cultural phenomenon. For the vast majority of human history, sports has been overwhelmingly played by amateurs. And even in America, it is only in the past fifty years that this professionalized version of sport became a route to wealth. Baseball, which has the longest professional sports history in the United States, illustrates this: the average MLB salary is up an inflation-adjusted 3,000 percent since the late 1960s. Professional sports only became big money in the era of television, as a form of mass entertainment that did not require you to even go to the games to have a rooting interest, and for the multinational corporations to sell you beer and trucks and sugary gas-infused water.

This is not to denigrate professional sports or to suggest that the Olympics are more entertaining than the NFL. Pro athletes who play the games do incredible things. Pro sports is profoundly enjoyable as entertainment, and as human drama there are few things that can match it. But on a certain level, this Seinfeld comment may be his most true observation: you’re rooting for laundry. The same player you loved in one uniform, whose strengths you valued and whose failures you dismissed as quirks of the trade, becomes nothing but a hated rival, a traitor, who took the money instead of playing for less while garbed in the proper colors.

But one thing we need to acknowledge is this: professional sports is not an essential good. It is a luxury good. Americans were satisfied for most of our history by sports that have little to no cultural impact now. And what this pandemic has taught us is that in a world of vast amounts of entertainment, if the entertainment isn’t there, humanity will go elsewhere.

[Ben Domenech, "As Sports Media Cheers On Athlete Boycotts, Fans Will Walk Away” The Federalist, August 27]

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