Black Lives Matter, “My Fair Lady” and Sports: Meh (EP. 261)
People watch movies and watch or attend professional sports events for much the same reasons. They want to be entertained by the best in the business, and to live in a world for 3 hours or so where they are lifted out of the mundane, and can be immersed in a world where COVID, politics and finances are forgotten. Refreshed after the exciting event, they are better prepared to face the issues in front of them.
As sports continue to insert politics more broadly and deeply into their events, they are depriving their fans of a big part of what they came for: temporary refuge and peace.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
I am not boycotting any sports, nor am I encouraging anyone else to boycott. Boycott “Transitive verb: to engage in a concerted refusal to have dealings with a person, a store, an organization, etc., usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions…”. I am not boycotting, and I am also not watching much anymore. This is not a comment about Colin Kaepernick or the BLM movement; I have shared those thoughts in other episodes, and may very well do that again–but not here. I don’t want to watch movies or sports that push any agendas, whether I strongly support, strongly disagree with, or simply don’t care one way or the other about the agendas. I would not watch the Super Bowl, or game seven of the World Series or the NBA Championships, if that game was set on pushing BLM, Rush Limbaugh or Mother Theresa.
A boycott implies that the potential customer is refusing to buy something that he would normally purchase, but certain principles bar him from buying what he would like to have. And boycotters love to evangelize, encouraging others to join the boycott. Professional sports are changing in a way that they are no longer delivering a product that meets my overall entertainment needs. That’s not a boycott; that’s disinterest. And I am not trying to encourage others to be disinterested with me. But if you are experiencing the same decline in interest as am I, yet feeling odd about what feels like a boycott, this episode might give you clarity and calm about your feelings. Here’s an example from my own history. I used to shop regularly at Sears. Over the years I bought many tools and appliances from them. I even bought the original Nintendo Gameboy from Sears, using it to play Tetris. Long before Sears started to fade, I stopped buying from them. I was not boycotting; they stopped offering what I wanted, so I just stopped buying there from lack of interest. Like my current lack of interest in professional sports.
My wife, Marcia, and I enjoy watching movies together at home a few times a week, alternating who gets to choose the film. Her recent choice was the masterful musical, “My Fair Lady,” winner of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor and Actress. Before the movie started, both of us verbalized our eager anticipation, emphasizing that for the next 3 hours, well 2 hours and 50 minutes, we were not going to think about COVID, political arm wrestling, riots, the economy or anything at all unpleasant. If we were informed that since our last viewing of “Lady”, that political agendas had been added, we would not have selected that movie. We would not have wanted to see costumes and sets altered to reflect the chosen agenda. We would not have wanted to see the actors being interviewed, supporting the added agenda. We wanted to, and did, thoroughly enjoy the unaltered masterpiece. And, as with many sports, if most musicals were altered to feature an agenda, we would likely lose our taste for musicals in general. Remember: this is not about a particular agenda; we would not respond well no matter what the added agenda might be. Here is another related story from my personal experience. Some years ago we were attending a movie in a theater, and before anything came up on the screen, an employee stood at the front of the audience, enthusiastically encouraging a donation to a specific charity, indicating that he was going to take up a collection. It was a good cause, but the audience did not react well; people were glancing in surprise and frustration at each other, and fidgeting in their seats. I do not believe that anyone contributed. Many of the people in the theater, including the two of us, were likely generous contributors to various charities, but this was neither the time nor the place.
Some people will react differently and be quite happy with sports pushing political agendas. But the degree of delight or displeasure will depend upon the specific agenda; BLM would appeal to a very different audience than would a Pro Life pitch.
The people who benefit economically from professional sports, owners, players, sponsors, etc., know that adding political agendas to their sports is having a significant negative impact on in person and TV revenue. The owners of billion dollar sports franchises have the most at stake; they have the most money on the table, for the longest period of time. Are they taking this hit to revenue because they believe in the cause, or, in the case of BLM, are they standing behind the agenda to appease their players? This is anecdotal, but for the decades that I have been attending NFL games in several different cities, the players on the field were 70% black, and the folks in the stands overwhelmingly white. Interesting question; treat it as rhetorical if you’d like, or answer in the comments section of the blog
For those of you who know me, the question will be, “Well, Will, as a lifelong and completely irrational Broncos fan, are you going to watch this season?” I have attended many games in person, going back to the 60s. COVID is temporarily blocking that option. Their first game this season is on ESPN; I do not pay for ESPN, so I will listen to “The Boys” on KOA, headed up by a longtime favorite, Dave Logan. I will at least start watching the game on CBS September 20th, when they play Pittsburgh. I will see what the experience, agenda and all, feels like then. The NFL already has way too many commercials, but I have reluctantly gotten used to that. If the agenda-added experience is not what I am looking for, I won’t watch again. If that happens, perhaps Marcia and I will watch even more great movies during football season.
Remember, this is not me boycotting or encouraging others to boycott. If a product or service changes, no longer offering what I want, I stop participating purely out of lack of interest. Sears had every right to do what it did, or did not do, and I had every right to quietly go elsewhere. The NFL, owners and players, have every right to do what they wish. And I have every right to quietly go elsewhere. But I would prefer the NFL would return to being agenda free, as well as being COVID free. Allowing me to go berserk in support of my Broncos at Mile High and at home in front of the TV.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.