Thursday, April 12, 2012

Everything Is Political, and That Includes Sports

In his column in today's Chicago Red Eye, sportswiter Matt Lind offers that sports don't matter. "They're a welcome diversion," and if the Cubs won the World Series, life wouldn't change. Cubs fans, suckers that they are, would be happy for a few days, but they'd still be as ugly and broke or rich as ever.

He's got some points there. Sports are a diversion, but that doesn't mean they don't matter. They are a grand metaphor and they symbolize much to our psyche. Jackie Robinson (who, incidentally, was attacked in Sanford, FL during spring training before he got called up to the ML majors), Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Muhammed Ali, Roberto Clemente, Michael Jordan.. these figures, larger than life, are the mythos of our poplar psyche, the heroes who "overcame the struggles of their backgrounds, of their race, class, poverty, blackness, Muslim-ness. Not that being black or being Muslim or being Puerto Rican is something to overcome - it isn't. That's how we tend to observe and report the phenomenon, so deeply ingrained into White American consciousness, that we fail to acknowledge others on their own terms so these heroes make us acknowledge them on their own terms. They become larger than life because our nationalism, our classism, our racism, our xenophobia, our tokenism are all larger than life and large than god itself - making and forming a new god, a different god than the gods of the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim traditions.


So these new heroes are erected to tear down the old ones, but they become gilded gladiators on their own, through sheer force of the weight of the god we serve - the god of privilege, of order, of social constructs to measure, protect, feed, and serve the Lords of the Earth, of mammon. The new heroes become servants of exceptionalism and mammon themselves and we value our heroes not by injustices displaced or gods overthrown, but by dollars and endorsement deals. Not the sacred solidarity of harmonious teamwork, but the glorified fire spits of individualized highlight reels.

Sports is political because everything is political.

Sports is also pacifying. It calms us from the Col reality that sometimes we just can't do anything about out place in life. It gives some, especially those at the bottom rungs, a hope that with determination, practice, skill, and luck, they can rise above their status. But it also calcifies them so that they cannot see or think about the actions necessary in order to claim the kind of life they need and, dare I say deserve.

"Deserve" is a funny word, that. Multimillionaires "deserve" their wealth and all that that buys them. Their toys, the false affections, their winter homes and the ability to winter and summer. They deserve those things for doing... whatever it is they do that is so important. But if we dare not speak the fact that the underclasses may deserve such amenities as health care or housing.

Our new heroes deserve to winter. The people deserve to dream about wintering courtesy of their medians.

Sports is political because everything is political.

Ali is famous for his lines and his moves, for his out sized ego during a time when people who looked like him were to be silent and submissive and deflect to their white "superiors" and be called by their first names when not called boy or worse. He, like Jack Johnson before him, asserted himself with poise, confidence and strength because sports, like everything else, is political.

Ali and Robinson and Clemente didn't have the luxury to pretend to live or operate in an apolitical world, Matt Lind. But you do. And you expect us to applaud you for your ability to make a clear distinction between sports and politics.

Except you don't, do you?

In his column, Lind argues that former Chicago White Sox player and manager Ozzie Guillen, who plays in the world of sports, should not comment on the world of politics. It is, after all, serious business. It's the adults table, and Ozzie should know where to keep his place.

Not only did Ozzie speak up when he isn't asked about such unbecoming topics as politics, but he did so to praise Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Who is, to quote Matt, "one of the most awful people alive."

Funny, I don't remember Castro -Fidel, I mean, pre-emptively attacking the US. I don't remember him making embargoes so tight against his own people that he was starving them. Or blaming their fate on this economic system - implicitly blaming the laziness of the lazy brown people who did not leave on boats.

Sports is political because everything is political.

Was it Fidel that sent hundreds of thousands of his young and poor to kill and destroy hundreds of thousands in South-East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East and displace millions more over false pretenses?

Not being a fan of Fidel myself, I'm not quite sure. But I remember several prominent baseball players praising, in no uncertain terms, George W Bush during the last ten years. Yes, the man responsible for starting and escalating a war we were not prepared for, directly killing 250,000 Iraqis in the process and indirectly killing several more through destroying their infrastructure and key pieces of their very ancient culture.

Matt ends his column by hoping that Ozzie's learned his lesson and that his mistake will seven as a lesson to other sports figures who would dare to take a political position.

Yes. I've an idea.

Next time a sports figure praises the gods of economic inequality, of racial division, of White Supremacy, of War by way of their human priests, suspend them from sports for their imaginary infraction.

Yeah, imaginary. Because sports is politics.

1 comment:

Be kind. Rewind.