That's the message CBS sportswriter Steve Elling is sending, and it's a good one. We don't write about sports much on this blog, probably because it's not a priority for us--I'm a casual fan at best, and once the teams I follow get eliminated from whatever championship is being contested, I pretty much zone out.
But Elling points out that we're all a lot more involved, and not in a way that immediately comes to mind.
A few months back, we posted a story about the tour's Wachovia Championship that didn't exactly endear us to tournament officials. The bank had quietly extended its sponsorship deal with the tour, even as it was laying off hundreds of employees and preparing to publicly disembowel its top official. Families and careers were in ruin, but the bank elected to continue spending an estimated $7 million annually to host its tour shindig. Employees were sacked, but tour players got a sack of money, by god.Think about that for a second. How many major sporting events are sponsored by major corporations that are in financial trouble right now thanks to the current meltdown? NASCAR's very existence could be threatened if GM and Chrysler go down, and pretty much every stadium and arena has sold its naming rights to a major company. Remember what Minute Maid Park in Houston used to be named?
But Elling points out the real issue here--these corporations are spending money on things like naming rights on stadiums, on sponsorships for sports cars and events and championships and the like, but their employees are worrying about where their next mortgage payment is going to come from.
But here's the part that should eat at everybody's gut. Let's assume the auto and financial sectors receive the billions in proposed bailout money from the federal government. If that's the case, there need to be some major revisions in how these companies do business, as in taking a long look at what bang for the buck they get for sponsoring sports enterprises.Indeed. No federal money should be used for things like that, and if the PGA has to cut back purses a little, or cancel an event or two, so be it. Tough times require tough decisions, and there are more important things to worry about.
The current financial insanity should trump vanity. There shouldn't just be strings attached to these public bailout dollars, but metal cables the likes of which support the Golden Gate Bridge. Millions of people enjoy watching athletic pursuits for entertainment, but consumers already subsidize pro sports by buying tickets. Those who detest sports foot the bill unknowingly, too, by paying the increasingly high price for ESPN's half-dozen outlets in their monthly cable television package. If you buy Miller Lite, a massive sponsor of major league action, you are underwriting professional sports, and so forth.
If you live in a major American city, odds are decent that your taxes over the past decade have paid for a new athletic arena, which provides a new revenue stream for billionaire owners to pay their millionaire athletes. Some cities, like San Francisco, have been smart enough to revolt. Maybe we have reached critical mass.
Since Americans everywhere are hurting financially to some degree, it's time to eyeball the fine print. If federal money is the only way to remedy the situation in the housing, financial and automaking sectors, it must be used solely to help those who need it most -- the employees and blue-collar folks in the trenches, not CEOs, athletes or celebrity endorsers. Bluntly put, not a single red cent of federal money should be used to pay off Tiger Woods' eight-figure endorsement deal with Buick, or to fund either of the automaker's golf tournaments in 2009.