Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The New Normal Is Riot

Spoil Sports
This started being about sports, and then Events Blind Sided me. So let's start with the sports.

In the news this month, much sturm und drang in Brazil over public uprisings for government support of the World Cup and Olympics... and it leaves me with these questions.

Why did this take so long, and when can we do it here?

There is no good reason -- none -- why stadiums should enjoy a single dollar of government spending. There is no public good to be gained from the existence of professional athletics; they are neutral at best to the community as a whole, and we'd be far better served, on a macro level, to work on our infrastructure and social welfare issues. That's on the metro level.

On the local one, there is no benefit -- none -- to the long-term health of a neighborhood from the importation of a stadium. For every Inner Harbor success story in Baltimore, there many more Comiskey Parks in South Chicago, where the new yard does nothing other than get a major construction company fat and happy. All for a yard to replace something that didn't need to be replaced, so that the teams could sucker the swells into paying more money for less ball.

Next, let's get into the staggering waste involved here. MLB franchises at least have the piddling excuse of getting used on over 22% of the days of the year. NBA and NHL arenas usually double up to get to that level or better, and also are far more likely to be used as entertainment venues. And then we come to the big daddy sport, the NFL.

NFL stadiums set the fraud bar to astounding levels, given that they get used less than 4% -- 4%! -- of the year, assuming they aren't hosting college or high school games. There's also this: no one in the history of the nation have ever decided to go see every NFL stadium because of the poetry involved with the exercise, the way people do with MLB yards. With the possible exception of Lambeau Field -- a yard with modern retro fittings, but whose charms come from the fact that it is, well, freaking old -- it does not matter what the yard looks like. Even the Jerruhsoleum in Dallas isn't attracting dramatically different crowds than any other stadium. It's a football game; you are there for about 3 hours, 8 times a year at most. It just doesn't matter that much if it's all that nicer than anywhere else. If the team is winning, it's a great place to be; if they aren't, it's shared misery.

And then we get to World Cup and the Olympics. Here, assuming you don't have existing faculties -- and, well most places don't -- you get to make stadia (plural) for the incoming swells... and after they leave, once again assuming that you don't have another traveling roadshow coming to town any time soon, you get to stare at them. But hey, I guess velodromes (that's bicycles) and luge runs make for totally awesome unused facilities? Especially with the World Cup, where you get the exact same thing in series. (I'm assuming, for sake of argument, that Brazil does not have a half dozen soccer palaces up for hosting six figure crowds. Seems safe.)

Now, no one ever ran on a platform of promising big stadia and/or making sure that the local team oligarch got all that he possibly could. Am I'm also reasonably sure that no one ever kept or lost their job over it; it's a short crisis. Which is why, if you really want to stop the public getting fleeced to fund this stuff, you need two things.

1) A public referendum, which rarely works in the favor of the new pleasure palace, and is why California hasn't had a new stadium paid for with public dollars in decades, or

2) Relegation, so that owners don't have the hammer of upping and leaving to another town that wants to be Major, since all towns have the ability to just, well, get their on their own

Anyway, back to the blindside.

I pulled up Twitter tonight -- note, not cable news, because, well, covering news is difficult or something -- and caught the end of the Texas filibuster brouhaha. For those who weren't aware, Texas' Republican governor, noted presidential flameout Rick Perry, called a special session so that his party could ram through the nation's most over the top anti-choice legislation. Rather than, well, run on it, or do it as part of normal operations. The rules were that the vote had to happen by midnight tonight, and thanks to the filibuster efforts of pro-choicers, it didn't... so the R's just ignored their rules and ran it through anyway. On the same day that the Supreme Court also decided, on a straight party-line vote, that we no longer needed to protect the voting rights of minorities in areas of the country that persistently deny voting rights to minorities, because, well, things are different now. According to the people who, um, aren't minorities, aren't poor, and don't live there.

The point, in that it's closing in on 2am EST and I've got work in the morning?

I, personally, would not riot. I've got kids, I believe in voting and paying my taxes and being patient and that in the marketplace of ideas, good beats bad if you have faith and respect and so on. I'm that kind of sap; the one that does the job until it's done., and thinks everything yields to effort.

But the people that do riot, when faced with the denial of their rights just because they happen to live in a place where entrenched interests work to deny theirs?

They aren't wrong.

And with the media more corrupt and irrelevant than ever (seriously, while hundreds of thousands of people were watching a live feed and hitting Twitter with a vengeance in the middle of the night. CNN was covering the breaking news that muffins make you fat, while MSNBC and Fox were knee-deep in the George Zimmerman train wreck that will run for weeks, if not months)...

They are going to do it. More and more and more...

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