It's a rare sportswriter, in my experience, who can successfully move away from his or her specialty and write intelligently on social issues--King Kaufman does it, Jason Whitlock does it, Michael Wilbon does it, and there are others as well.
And then there are some who maybe ought to stick to sports. Take, for instance, the latest from Buzz Bissinger, who craps all over baseball players on the NY Times Op-Ed page. His complaint? Baseball players make too much money, especially All-Stars, and that's obscene in a world where GM is going under. And he takes it all the way to eleven in places.
But the tick of obscene salaries just keeps on ticking in professional sports, the one sector of the economy I know of, except for maybe Internet pornography, that still dances merrily along in the bubble of its isolation from the real world. As we try to figure out not just what is fundamentally wrong with the American economy but with America itself, look no further than what is being shelled out to the men who play with bats and balls roughly eight months out of the year (after all, they need their rest after such taxing work).Set aside for a moment that internet porn hasn't been a moneymaker for over a year now (except that Bissinger has this habit of trashing the internet regardless of facts), Bissinger's point seems to be that inflated baseball player salaries (and later, football and basketball player salaries) are indicative of a sickness in the American economy.
Buzz, the problem isn't the players--it's the owners. Professional sports seems to be the one case I can think of where in a dispute between labor and management, the public comes down almost every time on the side of management, and I just don't get it. Actually, I do get it--look at the skin color of lots of those athletes who are pulling down major bucks. Toss in that they're in the spotlight while the owners look like pretty much any other old crusty white guy in a limo and that player salaries are the subject of headlines while the owners' net worth almost never gets mentioned, and it's easy to see why players get vilified.
But the owners are the best example of what's wrong in the US economy. They're a perfect example of the motto "Privatize the profits, socialize the costs." We see it right now in south Florida, where Jeffrey Loria is the latest owner to try to squeeze a stadium out of state and local government. He's gotten farther than anyone else has so far--right now only a lawsuit is impeding his progress--but how many locals do you think could even name Loria, much less pick him out of a crowd? He's about to get a $350 million dollar gift from the state, a gift that will put money in his pocket for years to come, and lots of people locally are happy to do it. Tax money--money that could be spent on education, on public transportation, on aid to the homeless or orphans or even on tax relief if you want to get Republican about it--is instead going to Jeffrey Loria. Hanley Ramirez, who (as Bissinger tells us) just signed a 6-year, $70 million contract, isn't the problem. Jeffrey Loria is the problem, because he's sucking from the public teat and giving next to nothing back, and best of all for him, he doesn't even take the heat for it because people like Bissinger have his back.
So when Bissinger closes his Op-Ed with this piece of wisdom:
So ask Alex [Rodriguez] for help, Mr. Parker. Ask him to pay for the cost of your cancer drug so you can live. Ask Manny [Ramirez] or any of the players at All-Star Game last week.I can only respond with--no, Buzz. They ought to ask Jeffrey Loria, or the Steinbrenners, or any of the other owners, because they're the ones making the real money, and they're the ones sucking away tax dollars that could be used to pay for Mr. Parker's cancer drugs. Go after the real bastards in this story, and not the easy targets.
And then hear the laughter.