Slouching Away From Prosperity
(Part 1)

Dateline: 21 November 2008

The world as we have known it is changing. Or, perhaps, it could be said that we are now seeing The End Of The World As We Have Known It.

For example, a man I know recently lamented to me that, as a result of the current economic crisis, auto companies and other corporations may pull their sponsorship of events like golf tournaments and NASCAR. This lack of funding, and other economic shortfalls, would certainly result in the decline of these popular sports. He further opined that a lot of good jobs would be lost.

I must admit that, in the midst of The End Of The World As We Have Known It, with dire financial news rolling in like ever-bigger storm waves on the seashore, I have totally neglected to consider the very serious ramifications all of this may have on golf tournaments and NASCAR.

This whole financial mess is clearly getting very serious now. How can I possibly continue to pursue my Constitutional right to happiness if I can no longer watch people play golf and drive race cars around a track? And, to make matters worse, I just bought myself a deluxe, 60-inch, digital, plasma flat screen television. Have you seen a golf tournament on one of those things? Really impressive.

Yes, of course, I am being facetious. I do not own a fancy new television. I do not watch television. I loathe television. And, as far as golf tournaments and NASCAR, I am indifferent to the fate of such popular culture sporting/entertainment industries.

For that matter, I feel the same about professional football, baseball, basketball, and any other ball games. They mean nothing to me. I care not for their troubles and ultimate fate. Please, don’t make me laugh.

I could continue on down the list, but I’m sure you get the idea. It isn’t that I don’t like sports. I just don’t like watching sports. Neither do I like the hype and hooey and absurdity of professional sports. Why would I waste my time watching these “opiates of the masses.” Spectator sports and vicarious thrills don't do anything for me. And I never encouraged my sons to be involved in organized sports. There is too much else of real substance to do and learn.

Uh oh. Now I’ve probably offended a fair share of my readership. That is no way to make one’s site meter spin. I hope you don’t take my comments personally.

For me, occasionally pointing out the frivolity and excessiveness of modern culture is far more fun than getting involved in it. Which goes to prove that we industrial world contrarians, busy as we are with so much of practical value, aren’t against having fun.

We all know that the rise and popularity of mass-market sports has paralleled the rise of industrialism. Said industrialism brought unprecedented prosperity to We the Masses who were born into the industrial paradigm. Monetary prosperity has provided us with excesses of time and money with which to indulge ourselves in so many vacuous pursuits and amusements, like watching golf and NASCAR, to name but two.

Do you think these things would have risen to prominence apart from material prosperity? And do you think these things can maintain their positions of cultural prominence as America’s material prosperity wanes? Methinks not.

As America slowly, grudgingly, sullenly, slouches away from prosperity, towards what it dares not fully contemplate, it is only natural for so many inane amusements to be left in the dust. They, like consumptive industrialism itself, will simply become unsustainable. Such sporting events will suffer decline and maybe even fade into oblivion.

Hmmm, perhaps The End Of The World As We Have Known It won’t be all that bad.


P.S. Might we see a government bailout of professional sports someday in the future?


P.P.S. Will NASCAR racers have to go back to their hooch-hauling, revenuer-evading beginnings to make ends meet?


Anonymous said...

Oh Herrick, me thinks you may have stepped on some toes in this post. I love it!

Opiate is a great word for all these things that occupy so many minds so much of the time here in the USA. I am wondering how far away from prosperity and life as we have known it before the people around me wake up and see what is going on. This post is another I will add to me "must read" list to share with family and friends.


RL said...

Tell it like it is Herrick! Me thinks ye hit the proverbial nail on the head.

Anonymous said...

There is much about modern sport to despise. The show boating, the "dancers", the lack of character, the abusive commercials, the pointles/endless color commentary and so on. That said I have become somewhat fond of Rugby of late. I am able to watch on ESPN online, almost none of the stuff I mentioned, just a ball, guys hitting each other and a bit of blood! Great fun when taken in moderation.

- Ethan from TX

Anonymous said...

Hello, Herrick. I was so inspired by your post I did a spin-off. Hope this fairs well with you. I had an idea to start a 'spin-off' series for your avid readers/bloggers. Take a look and let me know if you like the idea.

If not, let me know so I can take it down. Here is the link.

Rachel said...

Mr Kimball, you have nailed it again. I agree completely (and I will admit to watching the silly men chase each other round the track--its a long-standing family thing)--I also wonder, how far down the pike will we have traveled, before the masses are groggily wakened from their drug induced stupor, and realize what is going on? And when they bad will it be for the rest of us?

Unknown said...

I find the ridiculous fanatical sports-watching akin to coliseum activities. A bunch of mindless "fighting" and a bunch of bloodthirsty spectators. I don't like it. However, a friendly game among friends in the backyard after supper, where everyone can play, and no-one cares who wins, and no-one gets hurt, but everyone gets tired is another story.


Gerry said...

I agree with Ginny that a pickup game of anything is great fun. You're spending time with friends and family, developing fond memories and supplying tales for years to come.
What we see in professional sports is the entertainment business. If no one was purchasing the merchandise the "sports" wouldn't exist.
If I sink a basket or recieve a pass or drive a golfball 200 yards it's fun, some times thrilling. Not because there are thousands watching me (because there aren't). It's because it fullfilled some inherent need to compete and to share that victory with the people you're with.

Herrick Kimball said...

Your spin off is fine by me.

To each his own. It occurred to me that I might like to go see something like a contest where men do productive athletic competitive feats like husk corn, scythe a section of field, or pluck chickens. There was a time when these kinds of events were popular and, typically, localized. The difference being that the competitors were not full-time professional "athletes." They were just working people who were particularly good at what they did.

I agree. Actually playing (or even watching) simple sports and games among friends and family is wholesome fun. Taken to it's extreme, you get the absurdity of professional spectator sports.

Thanks for the feedback.

Andy said...

There are a fair number of things in the world I don't understand (like professional sports). I think, for the most part, they are a huge waste of time and resources... for the most part.
But there are 2 things I feel compelled to point out as they relate to your essay.
1) "We the Masses" already "bail out" professional sports - how many of your property tax dollars go to stadium projects or the like in your community? How many of those school tax dollars go to unnecessarily expensive athletic programs in schools (to prep for the majors)? The sports bail out is and has been here for decades.
2) "Inane" - to borrow from you - is not always bad... it's excessive inane that tends to lead to idle hands... So while I share some of your opinions - I would suggest that farmers of yesteryear - playing horseshoes when the chores are done - was an inane past time... one that was wholly enjoyable.

The great fact of what this country was built on is - inane or not - the citizen machinery of this great country are empowered to act in a free manner.

Visit us at Bluebird Meadow farms

Anonymous said...

I read this post and laughed out loud and made the dog look at me funny. Great post and very accurate, even 4 years after it was posted. Thank you.