Speaking sports to power

socceranimeIt’s kind of weird.  At a time when you are looking for something, anything, to be optimistic about, and you’re one of the few people who aren’t bigoted or severely lacking in education that still doesn’t automagically believe that Barack Obama is it, end of story, you end up finding political redemption in a sports story.

Keep in mind that this isn’t the usual sort of sports story.  Sports have always been an escape from the here-and-now drudgery of the world; a place where a goal line stand, or two outs and the bases loaded, or the nebulous stoppage time of a drawn match is an episode of high drama in a world that is filled with the real thing, minus the idea that there must be a winner.  It’s why we get so upset about whether Roger Clemens did actually take the steroids, or some other “real” event snuck its way into our fantasy world.

Nor have sports been any kind of escape.  The New York Yankees, as an example, have recently signed C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and now Mark Teixeira to their squad, giving them the highest-paid players in baseball at a majority of the positions on the field.  Sportswriters and other enthusiasts have been tripping over themselves to laud the Yankees and pompously brush aside the idea that the game is “broken” or that rules to level the field, such as a salary cap or meaningful revenue sharing, are needed.  Where these opposing ideas come from, I haven’t a single clue…every story I have seen, from ESPN down to the blogs and boards, is universally approving of the Yankees, in a sort of Gordon Gekko, law-of-the-jungle fashion that reminds us of the conservative and rather thick-headed nature of so many sports buffs – a subject for another sermon, to be sure.

This story is about the business and, in this particular case, politics of sport, and therefore it speaks more directly to the subject at hand.  Dave Zirin covers sports for, of all publications, The Nation, and in a recent article, he spoke to the idea of star athletes speaking out on political matters, and how this is not only an improvement over the more self-absorbed athletes who demonstrate to their fans that consumption and material goods are the pinnacle of all, but is an improvement in society to the general good – and implying, by saying so, that there’s room for improvement in which we can all participate.  Zirin closes the article:

It’s an old expression: It doesn’t matter who’s sitting in the White House, it’s who’s sitting in. When athletes break down the wall and speak, it becomes a living expression that we have entered an age where we will be reclaiming power from those who have abused the collective trust.

Certainly that speaks to what we have endured as a people under George W. Bush, but it doesn’t stop there.  It speaks to failures on both sides of the artificial dichotomy into which our nominal leaders have divided themselves – and what needs to be done in order to reclaim sovereignty, both personally and collectively.  It will not be delivered by Barack Obama and it would not have been by John McCain.  It will be delivered when people are energized to speak out, and proceed to claim the power commensurate with their voice.

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