By Dave Zirin

I once had a coach who could spit tobacco hard enough to break a window. He smelled like an old hamper, and only wore pants that came with an elastic waist. Still, every last one of us loved the guy. He always said, “Sports is like a hammer, gents. And you can use a hammer for all kinds of things. You can use it to build a house, or you can use it to bash somebody’s head. Choose wisely.”

In the twenty-first century, the heads of far too many sports fans have been bashed by far too many hammers. Our collective migraine comes from the idea that we are loving something that just doesn’t love us back. If sports was once like a playful puppy you would wrestle on the floor, it’s now like a housecat demanding to be stroked and giving nothing in return.

Sports fans are fed up.

It’s the extra commercials tacked onto a broadcast, as companies attempt to use the games to brand our subconscious. It’s when you decide to finally take the trip to the park, look up the ticket prices, and decide immediately to do something—anything—else with your time.

And so you go a year without making it to the ballpark and fail to even notice. Or you don’t feel the same urgency to watch every minute of every game for fear you might miss something magical.

If a car’s brakes failed, you wouldn’t blame the driver. You’d blame the manufacturer. And when we feel bludgeoned by the state of professional sports, it’s the owners who need to answer for this sorry state of affairs.

Players play.

Fans watch.

Owners are uniquely charged with being the stewards of the game. It’s a task that they have failed to perform in spectacular fashion.

In fact, with barely a sliver of scrutiny, they are wrecking the world of sports. The old model of the paternalistic owner caring for a community has become as outdated as the typewriter. Because of publicly funded stadium construction, luxury box licenses, sweetheart cable deals, globalized merchandising plans, and other “revenue streams,” the need for owners to cater to a local working and middle class fan base has shrunk dramatically.

Fans have become scenery for television broadcasts.

Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News once wrote, “You are owed nothing in sports, no matter how much you care. You are owed nothing, no matter how long you’ve rooted or how much you’ve paid to do it.”

I couldn’t disagree more. We are owed plenty by the world of sports.

We are owed loyalty.

We are owed accessibility.

We are owed a return on our massive civic investment.

And more than anything, we are owed respect.

We aren’t owed this respect because it’s the kind or human thing to do.

We aren’t owed any love because we cheered ourselves hoarse and passed the precious rooting tradition down to our children.

We are owed it because the teams are ours as much as they are theirs. Literally.

By calling for and receiv ing public funds, owners have sacrificed their moral, if not financial, claim of ownership. Cities and city councils that allow their funds to be used by private franchises should, in turn, have some say in the relationship between team and fan.

That means lower ticket prices.

That means an end to the $8 beer.

As sports fans, we have to accept that we do in fact deserve better, but as the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

If we aren’t making demands, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Dave Zirin, a monthly columnist for The Progressive, is the author of several books on sports, including "A People's History of Sports" and most recently, "Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love." To read his column every month in The Progressive, subscribe here for only $14.97. That's 68% off the newsstand price.



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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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