Professional sports has had a rough go of things in the last few years. An old truism dictates that too much money and power tend to ruin just about anything, and professional sports could qualify as Exhibit A. In a direct reflection of the state of our society as a whole, professional sports are in decline. After the postponement of their season, the NBA is back for an abbreviated season and playoffs. I, and apparently many others according to the ratings, will not be tuning in. There are several reasons why.
To set the record straight, I held Utah Jazz season tickets for fifteen years, right behind the home bench. I could buy a comfortable retirement home with the funds I spent on the franchise over the years. I was there the evening Deron Williams ignored Coach Sloan’s play-calling against the Bulls incenting his sudden retirement. I was first introduced to the Jazz by one of Larry Miller’s sons. I know the franchise as well as anyone on the outside. There are many precious memories. But I will not be back any time soon due to the politicization of sports.
It was one thing in days past to listen to spoiled athletes like Latrell Sprewell lament how he could ever feed his family on “only fourteen million” a year. Such departures from everyman’s realities just leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. But it goes to another level when athletes begin to protest their country, the system that rewards them and their flag with a diatribe of inequality and injustice. Perhaps the majority of paying customers will fail to resonate with messages accusing them of being over-privileged from athletes making more in one season chasing a ball than they will see in a lifetime.
And this is what we are now asked to endure. As athletes who have reached the pinnacle of earning privilege in this country embrace social messages decrying that somehow the system is biased against them, the message seems lost in the medium. When the entire Jazz team opened their renewed season by kneeling with the Grizzlies during the national anthem, they lost me.
It is confusing to corroborate a system that is supposedly so systemically racist and biased with tremendous success so many minorities have had in America, including athletes. The leftist social justice messaging mandates that if you disagree with the premise you are somehow racist, ignorant, insensitive, or otherwise negatively biased. The recent walk-off merely shows we must agree to the premise for play to continue. Yet the historical facts often disagree.
Howard Cosell, a friend, and confidant of Muhammed Ali, once said that if Ali had been born in Africa no one would have ever heard of him. And Cosell makes a fine point. America, for better or worse, is still a land of opportunity for everyone. If it were not so we would never have had Booker T. Washington, Cab Calloway, George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, Michael Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, LeBron James, Will Smith, Ben Carson, Tiger Woods, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Barack Obama or any of a myriad of other successful individuals of color.
America is not perfect and there are always unfortunate incidences of racism and tribalism where one person or group discriminates against another. Sure we can improve, but do we need to hear about this when all we want is an evening of escapism with our favorite team? It is simply inappropriate and exhausting to have such a dissonant message continually shoved in our face.
I wish the Jazz well and hold out hope for that elusive championship that has somehow missed Salt Lake since the old Stockton and Malone era provided a fertile opportunity. In the meantime, I will be occupied elsewhere, as apparently will many other fans. Once we can get back to the camaraderie and brotherhood of pure competition and ditch the one-sided social messaging, we can take another look. Until then, I am done.