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Bad Sports

This article is more than 10 years old.
In the subtitle of his new book, Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love, Dave Zirin makes the assumption that we love our games and, by extension, the pro franchises that play them.

But much of the information he provides in the book may have readers walking away from those allegedly loveable games in disgust. Owners of pro franchises, known in the grand old days as “magnates,” have often been pompous, self-aggrandizing, and cheerfully crooked. But the owners Zirin harpoons carry theft, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness to previously unexplored heights. They hold cities hostage to their own greedy dreams of ever-grander, more exclusive palaces of play; they shamelessly embrace the loud and hollow brand of patriotism characterized by flag giveaways and the required singing of anthems; they attribute the success of their teams to Christ’s preferences, all the while accumulating wealth that will make their own admittance to heaven very dubious, at least if that business about the camel and the eye of the needle is to be trusted.

Zirin’s antidote to this triumph of the rich and fatuous is to remake pro sports franchises everywhere in the image of the Green Bay Packers. Owned by the community, the Packers can’t be hauled away to another city. The team’s business can’t be manipulated to enrich an owner. And because the Packers are not controlled by a single megalomaniac, the team is much less likely to be enlisted in the service of a crusade on behalf of Mammon, Jesus, or both. Undeterred by the fact that the National Football League and its sister organizations have adopted rules to prevent another team from assuming the Green Bay business model, Dave Zirin contends that “sports teams and leagues should be nonprofit entities…a public utility of sorts.” The revolution – for it would be nothing less – would “rid our nation of this most worthless and parasitic class of varmints – sports team owners.”

This program aired on July 15, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.


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