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.