I get paid to think everyday. Which isn't to say that my thoughts are generally profound, or that this is necessarily different than peers in other professions, but only to say that my job generally keeps the wheels turning quickly in my grey matter throughout the day, and it's often pretty difficult to switch it off. More recently, as I've settled down into my career and have managed to avoid too many anxiety-ridden nights fretting over deadlines that are coming or have passed, I've found myself with the opportunity to reflect back on books and movies that I was forced to watch as a kid or student, but which I either (a) did not actually read because I was the least-motivated ball of potential my teachers had ever seen (seriously, a teacher called me that once), or (b) did read, but didn't understand. Sometimes I'm giving it a second read or viewing - like I did with Crime and Punishment last year. (Sidebar: How anyone expects high school kids to truly understand that fucking book is beyond me, but my adult self thought it was boss. I know City Honors thinks its the shit or something, but they might have been reaching with that particular curriculum choice.) Or when I watched Fraggle Rock just the other day. (Second Sidebar: seriously, that show is a scathing critique of American society as it harkens back to Platonic ideas regarding social homogeneity and the benefit of stepping out of the cave - literally. That was definitely lost on me when I watched as a kid, as my only thought would have been - "Oooh, COLORS.") However, sometimes, like the last couple days, my reflection is prompted not by the decision to re-immerse myself in a book or movie, but by real-world events that somehow spark a memory of some lesson urged on me by a teacher; a lesson I guarantee I didn't fully appreciate - and may still not yet. I revisit the themes of long-since-read tomes in the hopes that they might provide some guidance in framing the issues of my day - whether frivolous or profound - so that I might find a more thorough understanding of my world.
I'll be the first to admit that I may be getting all of this wrong. I haven't read this book in 8 years. But, in my perhaps nonsensical deconstruction of this book, it becomes abundantly clear to me that one of the central points is that we are often at our best when motivated to live up to the better version of our self hoped for by those around us, but that the extent of that motivation may realistically need to be tied directly to the promise of rewards or the threat of penalties.
I share the Yacther's beef with Ralph, though he is not even be the most apt example of ownership fuckeduptitude in my sports universe these days. That title, dear readers, is of course held by Fred "I don't ask questions about ridiculously good returns on my investments with my pal, Bernie, and will casually act in a way that will endanger the future of the Mets franchise for years to come" Wilpon.
Simply put, by way of comparison, if Ralph is an "odious taint," Fred is somewhere between a despicable pile of douche and Sarah Palin. Assuming there's even a difference between the two.
What was vaguely apparent to me as I recovered from the Adelphia/Rigas clusterfuck back in '02, and what is all-too-apparent now, is that sports franchises - even moderately successful ones - have a fickle existence, and that even a team thoroughly adored by its fans could vanish in an instant. So, perhaps it was my own willful ignorance to that reality that encouraged me to be generally accepting of Wilpon since, at least so far as I knew, he wasn't doing anything to endanger the Mets' future as a New York baseball franchise. My standards having been lowered by on- and off-field (or ice) failures of Buffalo sports franchises, I was frankly too willing to give Wilpon - who had a World Series ring, after all (Ooooh, Shiny!) - a pretty long fucking leash with which to, bit by bit, destroy the franchise. Not that I was personally in a position to put a stop to it, but - then again - the collective leash given by Mets fans as a whole may have allowed good old Fred a little bit too much leeway to treat this franchise like, as the Yachtsman might say, a country club project with no real-world consequences with which he chooses to be bothered.
What's ultimately made me so troubled by Wilpon's recent troubles is that we Met fans enabled this guy with our consistent attendance at games (even when the team has been decidedly garbage), our jersey and clothing purchases, and - most importantly - our willingness to casually ignore what's really going on with Wilpon's financial dealings. This lack of accountability is especially absurd when you consider that the athletes on the field are under an incredible microscope and are held to incredibly high standards by media, fans, corporate sponsors and owners alike. The sports world has become obsessed with ensuring that procedures are now in place to catch those who violate rules against performance-enhancing drugs (which, by their nature are designed to help a team), but we have thus far failed to create any real mechanism for ferreting out misconduct amongst the highest levels of sports franchise's hierarchy. And, for those of us who cherish these teams and want them to thrive within the communities we love, that's really where the most damage can be done.
I guess what I'm trying to say, and without very much brevity or eloquence - so who knows if anyone is even reading at this point - is that we, as consumers of the sports industry, have a unique responsibility to require a higher level of conduct from those people who directly benefit from the dollars that we so freely deposit into the world of sports commodity. Not just the players. The players are being watched with an eagle-eye by the league and ownerships that run shit, but it is incumbent on the rest of us to make sure that someone is watching the owners. The media picks this stuff up from time to time, but even so, there have clearly been times where an owner's misconduct went under the radar. Who knows if Wilpon's shady deals would have been apparent had a light been shone on Wilpon's financial records? But, as a basic starting point, given the public trust given to owners - through tax breaks, cheap lease deals, zoning exemptions and the use of public funds for renovated or new stadia - the least we can do is ensure that the public trust is not squandered.
Through years of support and utter devotion, WE are the benefactors of the Freds and Ralphs of the sports world. For years, we have required very little of them, and we can't now be surprised that they treat us with such disrespect. Owners have received our patronage, often without any conditions whatsoever, while frequently conditioning their part of the relationship on our conduct - whether by demanding that a stadium sell out before allowing it to be broadcast locally, or by requiring that a city or county pony up public funds before investing anything more into a franchise. This status quo is backwards, or at the very least unreasonably one-sided.
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