Stuck in the trivia quagmire
From obsession with media personalities and star stories to world events that have no impact on their everyday lives, people – it seems to me – are walking around the streets of America full of notions and passions that have no consequence whatsoever.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m gleaning too much from what I read in the news and glimpse on TV. But the national conversation is consistently stuck on trivia.
It would be easy for me to spend this column citing the picayune pronouncements of pundits on trivial celebrity culture – from Bill O’Reilly’s outrage about Jennifer Aniston’s movie role as a single mother to continued media coverage of Jesse James, a man famous only for cheating on his famous wife, Sandra Bullock. But that’s easy. I’m more interested in the stuff that passes for serious news and discourse, when it is really nothing of the sort.
This country is facing any number of serious catastrophes and calamites – our economy is struggling mightily as many are without work and our middle class disappears. We are fighting a deadly war in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, a region of the utmost import to our national security, whole states are being swallowed by floodwaters.
Are we paying attention? I’m not sure. Instead, this summer, we spent our time arguing first about immigration and then about how far from “Ground Zero” Muslims should be allowed to build a center.
Immigration. This is not a debate we should be having. Oh, we should be talking about the Arizona law and its constitutional validity, but the fact that there are people in this country consumed with the issue of illegal immigration is silly. Our economy didn’t collapse because Mexicans are crossing the border to work (in fact nearly every economist I’ve read on the matter says immigrants are good for the economy).
Now the country is consumed with the fate of a proposed Islamic center in the vicinity of Ground Zero. This hysteria, largely drummed up, I’m sorry to say, by media reports on the matter, has sown seeds of serious animosity in this country in a way that’s really pretty embarrassing and sad, too.
The freedom to practice religion was so important to the founding principles of this country it was codified in the first amendment. That amendment doesn’t say you’re only free to practice a religion or assemble a certain distance from so-called “hallowed ground.” There are no conditions in the First Amendment.
Yet, even outside of Manhattan, in political races as far away as Florida, Americans are arguing about where a the Islamic center should be placed, about what it means to the memory of Sept. 11. The resulting frenzy has caused a string of anti-Muslim incidents around the country. Why, suddenly did this become an issue? Why, nine years after the attacks of September 11, do we find an uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment?
I can’t figure it out. I’m sure there are people who have pretty good ideas of how these things happen, of how we, as a people get our heads stuck in these sorts of dramas. And why we let ourselves get manipulated so easily.
And in the meantime our attentions is diverted from the larger problems, which continue to go unsolved. It’s tough to beat the feeling that we’re just stuck.
Commentary: High salaries are going to pro athletes’ heads
Without even bringing up LeBron James, as the power in professional sports shifts from the owner to the player, the players are out of control. The ticket prices to see these players play are even worse. And the fact that we still go to the games is the worst.
I wouldn’t be the first one to say these professional athletes are overpaid. Nor would I be the first to say ticket prices to see these athletes play are too high. But in a recession, when the average annual income of an American is about $50,000, and Phillies’ Ryan Howard is making that same amount every three innings, where is the outrage? As an average-Joe American making the said median income, you would need to work 500 years to make Howard’s annual salary. Still, no outrage?
Have you heard about the New York Jets’ cornerback Darrelle Revis? (Note to my mom and other non-football watchers: cornerback is not the same as quarterback). Right now he is holding out from training camp after making $15 million since 2007. Now, he will not report to training camp until he renegotiates a bigger contract, which most likely won’t come soon considering it has been reported that Revis and the Jets are $40 million away from each other.
Revis is asking for a contract that is almost 50 percet higher than the next cornerback in the NFL (except the Raiders’ Nnamdi Asomugha — I’m not making that name up).
Back to Major League Baseball. While I should be excited about New York Mets’ closer, Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod), being done for the rest of the season with an injury, I am not. K-Rod suffered this injured thumb not by pitching in the game, not even by hitting a door out of anger after pitching. No, his thumb was injured when K-Rod slugged his girlfriend’s father after a Mets’ game.
K-Rod was arrested and put in jail for a day, but he will be back next season to squander more games for the Mets. What is amazing is that the next day, August 12, 32,272 people attended the Mets game. Maybe with the exception of a Wall Street executive, every person there would have been fired from hs job after a fight with a father-in-law (in the workplace nonetheless). But no, K-Rod gets off the hook for something the rest of us would not.
Before I go on, I will say, I go to a lot of professional sports games, I watch nearly every Phillies and Eagles game, and keep ESPN on my TV for hours.
Yet, as these athletes are punching fathers, forcing bigger contracts, and searching for the easy way out, people like me still continue to pay high prices to watch these overpaid athletes.
To bring a family of four to a regular season Philadelphia Phillies game in 2010, it would cost, at the lowest price, $120 ($30 per ticket). Tack on $10 for parking, $50 for the grossly overpriced food ($4 for a water bottle), and then $40 for the little kids’ souvenirs. At that rate, staying at home would beat the $200 pricetag and the stress of going to watch Ryan Howard make $50,000 every three innings.
For all those people thinking: to get great players like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the Phillies have to pay big money. In turn, the ticket prices will have to be higher. Yes, I took that into account when I saw an old 1980 Phillies’ World Series ticket for $20. World Series. A 2009 World Series tickets was about $200.
I’m no economic expert, but I don’t think that’s just inflation. That’s a combination of higher salaries, greedier owners, and Americans being okay with blindly giving out their paychecks to these professional sports teams.
If you need a better example, however, luckily I save all my tickets. In 2008 a Diamond Club ticket was $75. In 2009 it was $80. In 2010 it’s $90. In two years the same ticket increased in price by $15. In 82 home games in 2008, the Phillies made $6,150 off that ticket. This year they are making $7,580 for the entire year. That’s a $1,430 increase over two years off one ticket. Multiply that by an entire, sold-out Citizens Bank Park, I won’t even do the math for how much more the Phillies are making this year compared to the last two years.
Not every American could and should be able to afford to go to a professional sporting event. That’s how it goes. But should entertainment be that expensive? Whatever happened to taking a family to a nice professional baseball game in the summer?
Players salaries are skyrocketing, and we’re paying the price. The athletes are gaining power over their owners and demanding bigger contracts. The owners are becoming greedier, and we’re fine with that. We pay whatever price the owner sets his tickets to, even if a ticket did increase $15 over two years. And when we pay these owners all this money, we’re paying for K-Rod’s surgery on his thumb after hitting his girlfriend’s father. We’re paying for Brett Favre’s jet as he goes back and forth between retirement and playing in the NFL (surprise! He’s playing). We’re paying for Ryan Howard to make more money in three innings than a school teacher does in an entire year.
What would stop this? A boycott, perhaps. I’m not sure, but before a boycott there needs to be outrage (don’t worry, I’m not proposing any worldwide workers revolution like Marx did). Judging by all the fans blindly throwing money at these professional sports organizations, it doesn’t appear as if there is any outrage. I thought I’d just help out and break down the numbers and situations. If anyone actually wants to start a boycott, let me know. I’ll be sitting in section 222, row 2, seat 15.
Adam Garnick was an Anna Fisher Clark Memorial intern at the Local this summer. This and other pieces y Garnick can be found at nwstudentpress.com, a blog by local high school students hosted by the Local.