I’m going to be real honest with you, this
may will turn into a rant…
I sat down this morning for my routine of sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee and to read the news. The first article I came across dealt with the stripping of seven consecutive Tour de France titles from American Lance Armstrong, for his role in using performance enhancing drugs. As I prefer to start each day with a quote that is both positive and motivational, this article was a bad way to start my week.
For me, the anger runs deep. Doping is not just an international cycling issue. My beloved baseball has been dealing with “The Steroid Era” for some time now (over two decades at least). The Armstrong debacle has added more fire to an already contentious debate, and the boiling point has finally been exceeded.
At least, that is my hope.
But again, if I’m being honest, I have little faith that is the case. I have no confidence this latest charade of “hero gone bad” will wrench the demons from their shadows and bring them to the light for all to see. I feel that way because in part, I blame the fans for all of this…
That’s right. I said it. I blame you. And me. The fans.
We have more control over this situation than the players, the cyclists, the owners or the “governing bodies” of any sport. We have so much power, and yet we sit in our homes and push responsibility onto others.
Sure, I didn’t make Armstrong take drugs. Or McGwire or Pettite or A-Rod or Manny or Bonds or…
But these men are millionaires. Multi-millionaires. Mega-stars. That only happens because we allow it. They only get paid because we pay them. We reach deep into our pockets and we willingly hand over our hard earned cash for what amounts to little more than watching a Capuchin monkey with an organ grinder. It’s a street performance on a grand scale.
Don’t get me started on approving higher taxes to build a sports stadium.
The point is the desire to perform and excel is in large part driven by the dollar. The problem is two-fold. One, higher performance means higher dollars. Two, higher dollars affords the opportunity to cheat. Armstrong was able to pay millions of dollars to keep his cheating from being discovered. How is it a man who rides a bike for a living gets paid more money than the idealistic college graduate who has a passion for teaching kids?
This isn’t a political debate, this is simple economics. Better yet, this is simple priorities. We can argue all we want about the importance of sport in our lives but taking that argument to the extreme is detrimental, not beneficial. We can’t say we need sports as an outlet for our busy lives, and pay these athletes tens of millions of dollars each year, only to be upset when they don’t provide a healthy, positive role model for our children. We encouraged them to be prima-donnas when we throw money at them to play a sport. And…we encourage them to cheat.
Right. Uh, huh. I hear you. You don’t want to take any responsibility, right? How dare I say this is your fault (when really I’m saying it’s our fault)? Well, I’ll tell you HOW I can say it’s your responsibility. Because you have the power to change it. You are holding all of the cards. Or better yet, you are holding all of the money. You. Me. Us.
The players and owners and administrators don’t have any power over that. All it takes is a movement. An uprising. A fan revolt. A non-violent civil war, to take back control over an institution that has us upside down in our priorities.
You know, it was only a few decades ago that many athletes took off-season jobs. They actually worked when they weren’t playing their game. They owned businesses, worked for others. They toiled. Does anyone really disagree with athletes having skills other than chasing a ball around or riding a bike through the countryside? Isn’t that a wonderful example for our kids, that there is more to life than sport?
How does that happen? Money. We take it back. We refuse to pay $45.00 each for a ticket that used to cost us $8.00. We refuse to buy a soda that costs $12.00. We refuse to buy the jersey, and the hat, and the towel, and the license plate frame, and the flag and the…
We tell the administrators and the owners that we aren’t going to be paying them Billions each year to attend their games or buy their products. We aren’t going to allow men to make more in one year than many Americans make in a lifetime. We aren’t going to allow men to act like spoiled children on the field, the court or the road.
They must hold themselves to a higher standard, because we are going to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We deserve to do that for ourselves. We must treat ourselves better than we treat our “heroes”.
It won’t be easy. I love the games. Baseball, basketball, football, cycling. But the games today aren’t the same as the games of my youth. Heck, most the games aren’t even on free, network television anymore. I have to have cable or satellite to watch. Forget about boxing. Remember when THAT was free to watch? Remember when the boxers where actually skilled and the matches lasted longer than the press conferences?
The greed has gotten so bad that the players and owners fight over it, cancelling games. Does that prevent us from rushing to the turnstiles once they finally agree on how to divide the bounty? Nope. Like lambs to the slaughter, we stampede to the gates. There is little, if any, repercussion from the fans. The television money pours in because many of us decide we can’t afford to go to the games anymore, but still we pay for our cable because we watch other programming. Of course, we are bombarded with ridiculous advertising the entire game. Advertising on the outfield wall, advertising in the corner of my screen, advertising between innings, advertising during the game like “Replay of the game presented by Coors Light”. Really?
How about I stop watching all together and I go outside and play catch with my kids? Or organize a neighborhood pick-up game on the local courts? How about I still have sport in my life and not pay millionaires more money to watch their lackluster performances?
Yankees got swept in this year’s American League Championship Series with an overall 2012 payroll of $209.5 MILLION dollars. The team who swept them? The Detroit Tigers, with a 2012 payroll of $132.9 MILLION dollars.
Are you telling me we aren’t overpaying these players, owners and administrators? What do YOU get paid? Is your job less important than Alex Rodriguez’s, who made $30 million this year alone and rode the bench for three games?
Hey, remember when A-Rod was taking steroids and hitting home runs and we paid him $250 million dollars? And then we paid him $250 million dollars again? And then he got caught, and now he doesn’t take steroids, and now he sits on the bench while making $185,000 per game? Remember that?
That is our money he is sitting on.
Lance Armstrong made millions of dollars, and became the face of cancer awareness for a generation. Now, he has to look to the kids for whom he was a role model and explain that all those years he told them he didn’t cheat, he did. He must tell them he lied to them. To us.
Wouldn’t we feel better about just giving all of those millions he earned and simply just donating it to cancer research? Wouldn’t we feel better about cheering on an athlete who had persevered and overcome without having to lie to the people who supported him along the way?
Seven consecutive Tour titles was a huge accomplishment, and though there is a large part of me that still firmly believes Armstrong is still one of the greatest riders ever, the loss of those titles is our loss. We built this house of cards, one dollar at a time.
It’s time for us to rebuild a foundation with something considerably more durable.
How about we start making reasons for why we can do this and stop coming up with excuses why we can’t?