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By Robert A. Vella

We hear it all the time.  Public distrust of our social institutions (i.e. business, government, religion, etc.) is at an historic peak and getting worse every day.  People are not only distrustful of large organizations, they are skeptical of any social organization whatsoever.  We have devolved into a culture of narcissistic individualists scrambling over each other for whatever tidbits we can find and wholly dismissive of the means we use to get them.  Laws no longer matter to us, ethics are purely academic, and morality exists exclusively in the eye of the beholder.  Winning is everything.

Do you notice that sickening smell?  It is the putrefaction of civilization.

Some, perhaps many, consider that foul aroma as the sweet smell of victory – the triumph over a corrupt, dying, liberal establishment and the long-anticipated return to a natural existence for humankind.  Such dreams are coveted by the ideologically motivated who have no regard for the tremendous misery which must follow.

They say that art imitates life, and vice versa.  Sports is no exception.  It is both a cultural expression of our competitive nature and a manifestation of our biomechanical artistry.  As the ancient Romans were defined by their gladiator games, so too does today’s sporting activities define us.

Professional sports has always been a breeding ground for corruption.  Whenever large sums of money are at stake, or whenever political entities have a vested interest in the outcome, competitive games are vulnerable to manipulation and coercion .  The 1919 Black Sox Scandal is a perfect example.  This kind of corruption can destroy a sport because supporting fans would lose trust in its competitive fairness.  That’s why professional sports have gone to great lengths in weeding out corruptive practices.

That is, up until now.  The current culture is not nearly as intolerant of corruption as it has been in the past, and a convincing case could be made that corruption has been normalized to some extent.  Otherwise, the National Football League (NFL) wouldn’t have recently approved the move of one of its storied franchises (the Oakland Raiders) to the gambling capital of the world (Las Vegas) – something it wouldn’t have even considered just a few years ago.

Professional boxing self-destructed in the late 20th century through rampant corruption;  however, it’s hard to see such a demise happening now.  The National Basketball Association (NBA) has survived a potentially ruinous scandal with its referees a decade ago and continued accusations that its games are rigged.  Now, with the highly anticipated NBA Finals beginning tonight, a nationally known sports talk show host has taken the acceptance of corruption one step further – suggesting that it is good for the game.

This morning on Fox Sports 1’s program The Herd, Colin Cowherd said that if the NBA referees allow for more physical play in the championship series between the Cleveland Cavaliers (the defending champion) and Golden State Warriors than they have allowed all season long, then it would make the finals more “fair.”  Such an abrupt shift in rules officiating would obviously benefit the more physically imposing Cavaliers team than the more agile and skillful Warriors.  How anyone, let alone a supposedly knowledgeable sports personality, could present such opportunistic bias as something good and fair defies explanation.  The rules are the rules, and they should be applied consistently and comprehensively… or, so I was taught.

But, I was taught in another era.  Today, things are quite different.  Corruption is no longer something to weed-out of society, it is something to grow and nurture.

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8 thoughts on “This sports metaphor reveals why our social institutions are so corrupt

  1. Excellent esay, Robert. I agree with you.

    I grew up as a huge sports fan, but my interest dwindled throughout the years. First it was the MLB strike in 1981, then a gradual, but obvious change in priorities in professional sports. Winning was always preached as the only thing that mattered, but it only went so far. I read Leo Durocher’s famous book “Nice Guys Finish Last” as a kid and enjoyed it at a certain level, but considered Durocher a dinosaur. I assumed we were evolving as a society and that the “winning is all that matters” attitude was becoming a thing of the past. Though I believe that competition as a way of life is unacceptable, competing in athletics can be viewed as relatively innocent. I played hard, used every ounce of strength and all of my athletic ability in doing my best. This, naturally, works hand in hand with trying to win. However, I never crossed the line into cheating. Even as a child I understood that this would negate the triumph. I enjoyed winning, but enjoyed the game itself much more so. Maybe that is what has changed over the years. Everyone wants to win instead of enjoying the game. Apparently to play poorly and win is now more highly regarded than playing well and losing an exciting, well-played game. This is sad.

    And, this mentality has spilled into other, more important aspects of life. Elections are a great example. Look at how many people are defending cheating by the trump campaign in winning the 2016 election. The details aren’t important to this particular discussion. Whether it was Russians, Chinese or republicans that tampered with the elections doesn’t matter. People are defending the “team” they “root for” and morality doesn’t seem to be part of the equation. This flaw in our collective moral character is a definite sign of degradation. It’s plain to see that winning at all costs is an inherent aspect of our economic system. And our economic sysytem has actually become our entire social sysytem instead of just a small part of it like it would be in a civilized society.

    Capitalism is bringing humanity back to a dark place of ignorance, hatred and injustice. We might as well begin computing the price of human lives on the stock market – or maybe in the sports section.

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