Thursday, January 12, 2017

Congratulations, San Diego

I mean that sincerely.  No city should stand for being abused by billionaire sports magnates in this way. It takes courage to stand up to them, even when you know they can gut you emotionally like this. But they don't deserve to wield that kind of power.
At the very least this allows us to finally dispense with the fiction that the NFL and its owners care about their fans, or about anything but profit. Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey nails it: These are land barons, and the only true currency in the NFL is property. The real money is not in attendance, or merchandise, or even in TV contracts—though there is plenty there. The real money is in obtaining a shiny new stadium, because of what that stadium does for the sale price of the team. The relocation may double the value of the Rams; Dean Spanos looked at that and said “me too.” From the second they buy an NFL franchise, owners are focused on one thing: selling it.
The difficulty with standing up to the bully is that the bully can and will hurt you. As fans and as citizens we imbue our cultural assets with a value incompatible with the cold logic of capitalism. Sports fandom is an act of participatory community. As a civic ritual it evokes a spirit of shared purpose and identity in a (mostly) constructive vein. It creates a platform for creative expression and elaborate riffing. It brings strangers together and makes them neighbors.

It is also a stupid diversion. But stupid diversions are among the richest of life's luxuries.  Our cultural assets need not be monetized in order for their true value be realized. In fact it is this very commodification of the civic spirit that drains it of its worth to the advantage of undeserving oligarchs.  We were just talking about this with regard to Carnival season, in fact.   We deserve better than such a fate.

We also deserve better than to have our pride and joy held hostage by real estate speculators. Good on the people of San Diego for not giving into Spanos's threats. Shame on him for hurting them in response.

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