Saturday, January 03, 2009

A New Year Nugget

Well hello hello. Been a while, I know. Should be back to speed shortly. I'll note, however, that November 2008 was the first month I ever went without posting. You even got a tiny post in December, you lucky half a person that wandered over because you were looking for Fresh slash fiction involving Gumby.

I visited Sarasota for Christmas. Surreal would be much too strong a word, although the lack of coldness and dampness made it hard for me to think festively. I liked the 80-degree weather, as well as the local rock station, which is known, charmingly, as The Bone. I liked the reassuring presence of AC~DC's Brian Johnson, who lives a mere mile from the rental where we were staying.

But what I found particularly entertaining was this nugget I picked up while watching a couple of Tampa sportscasters discuss the acquisition of baseball player Mark Teixeira by the New York Yankees. It went like this:

Sportsdude 1: "Can you believe that the Yankees paid that much [$180 million over eight years] for him]?"
Sportsdude 2: "Well you can afford it if the taxpayers pay for your new stadium."

Now let's leave aside for a moment the fact that the taxpayers subsidised the new Yankee stadium lavishly rather than actually paid for it, and the same rich fans that allow the Yankees to wallow in high merchandise and TV revenues will pay off the stadium debt. Let's also note that New York is not alone in subsidising its sports facilities, that at some point in the last 15 years government internalised the idea that new sports facilities was its problem, and its to take credit for.

Most New Yorkers assume deep down that the rest of the country hates them for their wealth, and maybe their lax social mores. None of this is sufficient to prevent us from indulging in Big Sports Market Smugness. What we don't always get is how there's also a suspicion that New Yorkers get ahead, and sometimes come a cropper, through old-style socialism. Now most of the time this can be safely ignored, and this doesn't get in the way of occasional sympathy, as 9-11 evidenced.

But in sports, the level playing field is very important to fans. The NFL reigns supreme because it spends a lot of time and energy trying to keep Buffalo and Green Bay and so on competitive. To mixed results. In the long run, the ability of the city's local government to fling money at its clubs on a scale that others cannot match will come back to bite local franchises in the arse. Hard.


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