The Crisis Of Capitalism and Sports

Bradley KayeContributor IMay 12, 2009

MIAMI - MAY 29:  A Miami Heat fan holds up a sign heckling Rasheed Wallace #36 of the Detroit Pistons in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2006 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 2006 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

While I type this article on my Mac, the news is playing in the background.

Last month, 500,000 jobs were lost in America.

An economist just explained that he considered this an improvement. The hemorrhaging is slowing.  The economic downward spiral has gone from a total free-fall to a kind of bungee jump.  Optimists are predicting a bounce-back by next year. 

Average middle-class Americans are struggling to get through the month's bills. With the government bailout increasing spending, this means more money will be printed to pay down debt, and inflation will surely sky rocket over the next few years.

Some economists, like Nobel Prize Winner Paul Krugman, have predicted that the foundations of capitalism are crumbling.

There is a difference between a partial crisis that can be corrected by the state, and crisis that leads to the total transformation of the entire society. We are experiencing the latter.

What does the collapse of capitalism mean for sports? A lot actually.

A few WNBA teams have already filed for bankruptcy.  This year attendance at major league baseball games has gone down one percent, the biggest drop in four years.  A recent NASCAR race at Talladega drew 50,000 fewer fans than the same event last year.

Yet, for the most part, athletes, owners, and sports journalists seem to live in a bubble. Blissfully unaware that much more than their pocketbooks will be affected if a total collapse of global capitalism occurs.

Take the phrase, Rome is Burning. It is not just a television show starring delightful Jim Rome. The phrase was coined to describe the decadent Roman emperor Nero who continued to play his fiddle, choosing to do nothing, while Rome burned to the ground outside his palace.

Decadence and denial killed Ancient Rome. It is killing America.

Greed is the defining characteristic of capitalism. We are all trained from birth, by those in charge of the culture industry, in which sports play a key role, to think "more is better". Athletes epitomize this "me first" greedy mentality.

Think about it.

Greed is the reason for the steroid problem in baseball. Inflate your biceps, inflate your HR output, inflate your free agent market value. The A-Rod formula for success!

However, for every A-Rod produced by greed, there are thousands of Barry Zito's. Living off the fat of the land. Contributing nothing to society. Content to live in the lap of luxury. Given a handsome salary for services rendered years ago.

Capitalists seem to think that there are moral solutions to these problems. If we slap people on the wrist, things will improve. Right?

In reality, the greediness exhibited in sports is symptomatic of deeper social ills.

American society as a whole is on steroids. This is why most fans see nothing wrong with the so-called "Steroid Problem". Some of you on this website have declared, "Let 'em all go on roids to even the playing field!"  In reality, the lunacy of this statement reveals how even the fans are implicated in the death of American society.

By amplifying the symptoms of a disease you will never cure anyone. It will only make the underlying problems visible.

Sports are a symbol of the times. Players salaries are grotesque. And owners are even worse!

In fact, in a consumer society, the desire for more is ultimately unsustainable. The fragile deck of cards holding capitalism together will eventually tumble to the ground. Our lifestyle will drastically change in the next few years. Even sports.

The worst is yet to come. A time of crisis can also signify a time of great renewal.

The question becomes, as the philosopher Jean Baudrillard once asked, "What will happen after the orgy?"