Since the book is not exclusively on economics, I need
to say a few words about the title. The title reflects the theme of
the book - which is an analysis of pathology in American culture and
My book might be called an expose, but I don't like to
think of it that way. The chapters on celebrities and CEOs don't reveal
their secret lives. They are exposes in the sense that the book reveals
the confusion of image with reality in the hero worship of actors, anchors,
athletes, and CEOs. The chapter on economics addresses the legitimizing
myths economists endorse to justify inequalities in income.
There is a concern with American education, and I touch
on that. But what I say about graduate schools would really be a revelation.
Most people know nothing about it. I think they would be fascinated
to learn. From a graduate student's point of view, graduate schools
are the most totalitarian institutions in the country and the social
consequences for everyone are considerable, but never realized, never
If Sammy Sosa hits a home run that means he hit a ball
hard with a bat. So what? It almost seems like sacrilege to say that.
The media not only indoctrinates, it intimidates. I think I never heard
anyone say that.
Don't agree with me? But could I say, "So what?"
on TV? There would be no more chance of saying that on TV than there
would be of criticizing Saddam Hussein on Iraqi TV when he was in power.
That is censorship. Millions of people are fans, but millions of people
"The Media is the Censor" is one chapter, and
there is more on censorship, lawyers, Congress, and justice as fairness.
In some countries the government exercises censorship. In this country it is the media (TV, magazines, journals, and newspapers) and the university. By censorship I do not mean blacking out some passage in a letter or book, concealing a CIA secret, or covering up a government experiment. I mean censorship of economic, political and social issues, censorship of discussion of income disparity, and censorship of the viewpoint that putting a ball in a basket is a trivial skill.
If Alex Rodriquez (AROD) hits a home run, that means he hit a ball hard with a bat. So what? But there would be no more chance of getting that view expressed in the media than there would be of criticizing Saddam Hussein on Iraqi TV when he was in power. The media slugs people senseless from childhood on by indoctrinating people to idolize teams and athletes, actors and actresses, singers and songwriters, and there is no countervailing view ever expressed.
Censorship stunts the cognitive capabilities people need for their lives in a democratic society. To evaluate public policy and candidates for office, sometimes to make personal decisions, people must have information and an ability to engage in rational, differentiated thinking. Nurturance of their thinking is needed to do that. Human cognitive capability is overestimated because humans have language. However, thinking often does not function well without nurturance and stimulation.
People may not think of censorship in the media perhaps because they don’t think of issues that can’t be expressed in the media. It does seem plausible, though, that the media is concerned with being politically correct and with not offending its sponsors, the audience, or any special interest group. The media is also concerned with not threatening the prestige or the income of its own. For example, Tom Brokaw had a segment on the “Fleecing of America,” but he would not discuss the question of whether his own $7.5 million dollar salary also fleeced America. He would not discuss the income of any news anchor, actor, or CEO, or comment of the issue of income distribution at all.
Wikipedia reports Anderson Cooper’s salary is $ 4 million. I don’t know if that is true but probably his salary is in the millions. He has a segment titled “Keeping them honest.” However, I don’t think he would report on his own salary or the incomes of CNN executives. If he did, he would probably be fired the next day so that is too much to expect. I just wish to indicate any honest open discussion of income distribution in the media is taboo. I taught and had a private practice counseling. Anderson Cooper had an audience of millions of people. I did not. Anderson Cooper brought in millions of dollars in advertising revenue. I did not. An economist would say that is relevant. I don’t think it is. His words were broadcast. Mine weren’t, but I believe my job was more difficult than his. I see no justification for the enormous difference in income, and I don’t accept the economists’ view. Incidentally AC’s income was paid by consumers. Consumers purchased products, companies made a profit, the profit paid for the advertising, and the advertising paid AC’s salary. I might add an economist would also say if I wanted AC’s salary I should have been a news anchor. I did not want to be a news anchor, nor do I want to pay news anchors a pathological salary. The issues that are censored in the media will become apparent in later chapters.
Censorship in the university may seem quite at odds with the image of an institution of higher learning. Professors, especially tenured ones, can write on almost everything and do write books and papers which might seem quite controversial or sometimes counterculture. The reason, though, people don’t think of censorship in the university is that they don’t think about students, especially graduate students. The university is like something under a rock. Graduate faculty may have paternal thoughts about students or more likely they may think of students as a necessary inconvenience, as people to dominate and impress, as a rabble, or as not yet formed and of no standing. Perhaps students are thought of as being like a manikin in a science fiction movie, a manikin that is spun around and around on a circular platform until it becomes a predetermined, programmed man, except the students may be viewed as a threat and potential competition, so the graduate faculty members may not want them to become men. The more that get through the less elite is the degree. Or perhaps it is more like pseudo-speciation in which a member of the same species is viewed as though he were a member of a different species. But I think the public does not think of graduate students at all.
I can imagine someone saying incredulously, “Do you mean all professors are like that?” He has learned intellectuals don’t generalize, and he thinks if he can catch me generalizing, he can one up me and be somebody. I would say the attitude I described is fairly typical and whether it is characteristic of all is quite irrelevant.
When in this book I cite a disagreement with the view of a professor, I will often say it would be risky for a student to question a professor’s cherished beliefs in class or in a written assignment. Well, aren’t universities ivory towers where people seek the truth? I am afraid not, at least not in the humanities and social sciences. Graduate faculty members are often petty tyrants, not necessarily very intelligent, very invested in their viewpoints, and easily threatened. They do not like to be questioned or challenged. They have absolute power that can be arbitrarily exercised. The basis of this power is the license to evaluate students subjectively through term papers, essay exams, master’s papers, and doctoral dissertations. There is an alternative, and I don’t mean lowering standards.
Even though there may be benign instructors, I have never seen a graduate faculty member I would take the chance of questioning, if the question might be interpreted as a challenge. Questioning another student with a faculty member present also just isn’t done. It might make him look inadequate and the question might antagonize the instructor. Education is severely limited by these constraints. The instructor doesn’t encounter views which conflict with his own, or of which he had not conceived, and neither do other students. That means discussion can’t take place, issues can’t be explored, and there is no forum. Millions of students are in universities, and there is no forum. Universities from the point of view of graduate students are the most totalitarian institutions in this country. For subjection to absolute authority they rank perhaps next to a maximum security prison.
Consider that the student’s chance of entering a profession and, in a sense, his whole life depends on the graduate degree. He won’t take a risk. Who would? That must be obvious but never stated, never faced. Students who have gone through graduate programs are aware to a degree of the pressure for conformity but accept it. It’s the system. Some students are really indifferent to the viewpoint of any teacher or reading. They just want a degree. Perhaps for them it is easiest. So I will write about censorship in the media and in universities. I will document the censorship in the universities by some telling examples.
By the way, I said some instructors, actually many or most, are not necessarily very intelligent. In his book, The Double Helix (1968, p. 14) Watson, who with Crick received the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of the DNA molecule, mentions the resistance of some scientists to the evidence that genes are composed of DNA. He states:
Of course there were scientists who thought the evidence favoring DNA was
inconclusive and preferred to believe that genes were protein molecules. Francis
(Crick), however, did not worry about these skeptics. Many were cantankerous
fools who unfailingly backed the wrong horses. One could not be a successful
scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by
newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not
only narrow-minded and dull but also just stupid.
But how can it be that a person with a Ph.D., and perhaps a graduate faculty member, is not very intelligent? This conflicts with what people think. But “think” is an ambiguous term. When I say it conflicts with what people think, that could mean an opinion they would have about it. But “opinion” doesn’t necessarily mean they ever encountered, had information about, reflected about, or discussed graduate faculty. It doesn’t mean they had the capability, objectivity, or motivation to think beyond the image.
In a Pink Panther movie, the bumbling Inspector Clouseau allows a robbery to take place right under his nose. The lookout poses as a blind man and Clouseau is completely taken in. Later the Chief Inspector berates him for being so naïve. Clouseau says, “How can blind man see?” The Chief Inspector says, “How can an idiot be a policeman?” Clouseau infuriates the inspector by taking the question literally. He says, “He just makes an application and ….” Then, the chief inspector cuts him off. So how can a person not so intelligent get a Ph.D. and become a professor? Well, he just takes classes and writes papers by summarizing articles and keeps the commentary and analysis to a minimum.
and in accordance with accepted views in the field. And most of all he impresses someone else who also may not be especially intelligent.
What about the famous doctoral dissertation? I give out a list of experiments to my classes to help them understand an experiment. The experiments are very simple. One on the list is an experiment in which a researcher wants to find the relationship between hunger and aggression in cats. He puts a group of cats on 80% of normal body weight and then observes their aggressiveness. All the experiments on the list have a flaw for the students to find. This one has no control group. That is, it does not have a group of cats not made hungry, so then it would not be possible to determine if the aggression could be attributed to the hunger. The cats might have been aggressive anyway. A dissertation is supposed to be an original study. If this experiment had never been done before it would be original. Original doesn’t necessarily mean brilliant and insightful. It just means never done before. This experiment is a little too simple for a doctoral dissertation. Design one a little more complicated and it will go.
Not all dissertations involve experiments. One can do a survey. Suppose the student wants to study aging. It is necessary only to develop a questionnaire and ask about health, the marital relations, the children, how the time is spent etc. Then, the data is collected and maybe some commonalities are discovered, and perhaps there is some statistical analysis. A dissertation is produced, longer and more work but not really more difficult than a term paper. In some fields the student just may write on the life and work of someone.
In the chapter on education I will present samples from a hundred years of research to prove that these methods, essay tests, term papers, any method of subjective evaluation is not reliable or valid no matter how invested faculty members are in believing in them. Denial doesn’t change reality. These methods of evaluation are just self-defeating. The student can’t live, breathe, or think. They simply focus the student on how to survive. The chapters “Education” and “The Professors” will propose an alternative without lowering standards.
I would be inclined to think subjective evaluation is more of a problem in the social sciences and humanities. However, in the “Professors” chapter there is a story about the Harvard chemistry department, “Lethal Chemistry at Harvard” by Stephen S. Hall published in The New York Times Magazine (12-29-1998). Two students in the chemistry department at Harvard committed suicide. The article is about the most recent one, Jason Altom. I want to say at the outset, I don’t blame anyone for anyone else’s suicide. However, Hall raised the question why didn’t Altom seek help. He suggested the reason was widespread fear in the department. He said, “Almost every student I interviewed for this story was concerned about being quoted by name, even for the most generic or neutral remarks, and when I asked why, the answer was always the same: they weren’t sure how their graduate advisors would take it, and it might affect their careers.” Of course, suicide is quite rare in a graduate department, but fear is always there, not constructive fear, fear of not achieving, but fear resulting from being helplessly subjected to often rather mindless and hostile authority.
In a movie about the Nazis I once saw a concentration camp scene in which the older inmates were about to be gassed because they couldn’t work well enough. Some of them found coal and blackened their hair. They stepped lively. Think a concentration camp analogy to graduate school is too dramatic and inappropriate? Perhaps it is. I just want to emphasize that education can’t flourish in an atmosphere of fear and if people are concerned with survival. It is not about survival in terms of who will excel. It is about survival, as it always is in a tyranny, about who will appease those in authority and avoid their displeasure. The graduate students will step lively. The later chapters will provide evidence of what I am saying. There is an alternative.
Perhaps I need to say a few words about the title since the book is not exclusively on economics. The title reflects the theme of the book which is a clinical analysis of pathology in American culture and education. The book discusses economic, educational, and political issues in terms of an analysis of symptoms expressed in values and attitudes. That simply means I apply clinical psychology where appropriate. When I describe the viewpoints of economists as a symptom of sadism, I mean their assertions, for example, on incentives needed by CEOs have no scientific or rational basis. Incentive is a question of motivation. The term “incentive” disguises that it is a question of motivation. Some psychologists and psychiatrists know about motivation. Economists do not. The views of economists are often expressions of aim-inhibited sadism. Sadism is not only whips and chains. It can be aim-inhibited, that is, attenuated and expressed in terms of an investment in control, dominance, power, having it or endorsing it. Economists more often endorse it.
For example, I take up the economist’s view of “no fair.” Almost any economist would say a teacher has no right to be envious of a CEO’s income even if it is a thousand times as much as hers. Thirty million is a thousand times as much as thirty thousand. Some CEOs make $30 million in salary and stock options and more. The economist would say she chose to be a teacher so she has no right to complain. She engaged in some implied contract to agree to the income differences.
The teacher chose to go into teaching and not into business. That in no way implies she agreed to the income differences between her and the CEO. It simply means she decided to go into teaching and not into business. That the teacher’s choice of a profession somehow gives tacit consent to the income difference is an economist’s fantasy. It is a hostile sadistic fantasy to keep the teacher in her place. The teacher must stay in her place. That’s economics as a symptom of sadism.
Chapter 3 - Sports and the Dumbing Down of America
This is about sports, the media, and education beginning with the Chicago Bulls and Bears. Of course, there really are no bulls or bears in Chicago any more. In the past there were some bulls in the stockyards, but those days are gone. There are a few bears in the zoo.
I hear about Bulls or Bears or both on TV every night, but when I walk out in the morning there aren’t any. It’s rather uncanny. I’m glad though. Bulls gore, and bears maul and bite. Teams often seem to like to be represented by these aggressive totem animals, supernatural animal spirits with invincible force. I remember from elementary school a song titled When Big Brown Bears Say Woof. Opal Remington sang it. One line was “For I’m inclined to hold aloof when big brown bears say woof.” So bears can be quite threatening. But, of course, if you are on the side of the totem animal, embodying the spirit of the team, you can feel quite powerful. One reason, but not the most important one, that I would prefer not to hear incessantly about bulls and bears is that I like to feel I live in a modern society. I don’t want to be constantly transported back to the time when people lived in clans and revered their guardian totem animals.
I know, some teams have more benign names, for example, based on the color of their socks. The first professional baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings organized in 1869. The name probably represents class, style, elegance, gentlemanly behavior and team spirit (all wearing the same socks). But now, whatever name, the media hype and fan response are the same.
From childhood on people are indoctrinated by their parents, by the schools, and by the media to hero worship teams. High school students are made to feel by the school, by their peers, and by group membership conventions that they should support their team. Anyone who doesn’t is certainly likely to be made to feel he is against the school and his peers. He is disloyal, a nerd, a wimp, and in some way weird, not a “red-blooded American.” At least he should not say he is not interested in the team. It is long overdue for people to be freed from this indoctrination and intimidation. High schools and colleges should play a part in freeing people since they have played such a large part in indoctrinating people.
Many schools have a sign in front that says home of such and such team. However, schools are educational institutions. They are not about teams or athletes. This is true for colleges too. A school can have a top team and be in the lowest percentile academically and, of course, the inverse may be true. Some people would say that athletics are part of being an all around person and essential to schools. I don’t think being a spectator makes for being an all around person. Perhaps an aerobics program or sports for everyone might.
I would rather see a sign in front of a school that says “Home of students more interested in education that the slam dunk.” If I were a student in a school with a team sign I would resent it because I would think the school is my home, not the home of the team. Few students are on teams, and teams don’t really have much to do with anything. If people want to play sports, that is their concern. Certainly some people find sports entertaining. I used to play tennis a lot, but usually no one watched me. I enjoyed it anyway. It is difficult to imagine a high school or college team playing without an audience, though. I guess the teams are supposed to be representing their schools and locked in heroic combat. But, as I said, what do they represent about their schools? No student needs to think the team represents the school. Congressmen are elected to represent their constituents. Teams don’t represent schools.
Then, though, there may be the concern that if students can’t be loyal to their teams perhaps they can’t be loyal to their countries, their families, to anything. However, I believe that not being loyal to a team which simply provides entertainment and otherwise has little to do with anything has little bearing on loyalty.
Has the hero worship of teams and athletes become a family value? Parents take their children to games, and sometimes the whole family is dressed in at least some item of clothing with team insignia. Many people, especially, but not only, children, adolescents, and young adults wear clothing with team insignia almost every day. Perhaps it is just a style, but maybe it is an attempt to identify with people who are rich, famous and idolized. Also, the insignia shows loyalty to the team, some kind of illusory association with the team which also confers status. This is called living vicariously. It might be constructive if parents told their children that sports can be fun and entertaining, but what athletes do otherwise has little significance.
Athletes throw, catch, and hit a ball, or put a ball in a basket. The skills are trivial, and being a professional athlete is not a way of life open to many people. I mentioned before that according to a newspaper article I read, only one in twelve thousand high school athletes becomes a professional athlete, and most high school students aren’t athletes. It is better for young people not to become preoccupied with sports and to think of careers they can pursue, usually through education.
I also remarked previously that sportscasters and even news anchors often refer to athletes as role models and the problem with that media hype. A singer, Aaliyah, was killed in a plane crash on August 26, 2001. The Chicago Sun Times reported on her for two full pages, and she was headlined on the front page. It was a tragic death, and she was only 22, but I doubt someone who made outstanding accomplishments in, for example, science would get the same coverage. One person who was interviewed said “I had a little sister who dressed like her. She was like a role model. She used to dress like her and listen to her CDs.” Is that a role model?
I think children need people to care for them and to teach them. I don’t know if they need role models. In any case, athletes aren’t very effective as role models. One reason sports are so popular is that success is quick, simple, and easy to evaluate. This is characteristic of games. There is not a lot to think about. Either the athlete puts the ball in the basket or he doesn’t. But the problem is in terms of role models that success is so simple and specialized it has little relevance to most people’s lives. Athletes have height, bulk, speed, and visual motor ability that are rare attributes. And even the repetitious practice, which is not often seen, and the quick clever moves in play don’t seem to provide a role model that generalizes well to anything else in life.
In sports, too, the fan does not see the athlete’s life, only his participation in the game. If the fan did know about the life of an athlete, it would be the life of a very wealthy person. It would probably not be like the life of a CEO, though. Athletes are generally younger and perhaps more impulsive. Sometimes it seems the life of an athlete is not so savory. Some athletes seem to be involved in drugs, violence or quite immature behavior.
In the August 10, 2001 Chicago Sun Times there is an article stating two cheerleaders filed suit claiming visiting NFL teams, including the Chicago Bears, spied on them. The cheerleaders testified team members drilled holes in the wall and scraped paint off a window to watch them in an adjoining room.
Freud proposed men are more voyeuristic than women and women are more exhibitionistic, that is, men like to look, and women like to be looked at. I think people should not be disgusted with male sexuality. However, drilling holes in the wall to spy is clearly an invasion of privacy. It’s a rather despicable thing to do. There used to be an image of the athlete as a good sport on and off the field. I think that characterization is gone or going.
For young children the problem with idolizing athletes is that, instead of sports being just fun, a preoccupation with athletes as heroes develops which continues into adolescence and later. Whether or not this happens depends on other influences in the child’s life, that is, other values and opportunities to which he is exposed. Some psychologists might think a child does need someone to admire and with whom he can identify. That might better be someone he knows personally and with whom he has a close personal relationship, whole persons, ideally the parents or others close, not just someone with whom all he has in common is wearing the same brand of expensive shoes.
Children from more affluent families probably are not so likely to get caught up in a preoccupation with athletes. They and their parents know their interests lie in education, although they certainly may enjoy sports.
What about being a team player? Is that desirable? If it is, I don’t know if actually playing a sport has some value for being a future team player, but I don’t think being a fan does.
I think this is the time to interrupt and say that some people may feel uncomfortable with criticizing athletes because it is thought they are just big, helpless lugs, not very verbal, and unable to defend themselves if someone intellectual criticizes them. I might have felt that way a little once. Now, their salaries certainly help to counteract that feeling. I think they seem to be very smug, spoiled and greedy. They really believe playing ball is worth millions, and that it is quite legitimate to drain money out of fans and consumers. I think they are not concerned about anyone else’s life in the slightest. They just want to indulge themselves. These bizarre salaries are something to thank the media for. Could I say anything I have said about sports this far on TV?
Also, some people think they are “big” enough to be both intellectual and to enjoy sports. They are sort of like what used to be called a universal man. If that really means just enjoying sports that may be true, but not if it means being a sports fan. Being a sports fan is incompatible with the kind of differentiated thinking that is required to be an intellectual. So I don’t buy it that someone who doesn’t idolize teams and athletes does not have a breath of interests.
Some sports commentators don’t like to think of sports as muscle men going out to bash each other. They like to reflect on the human significance of the game, whether the athlete had class, if the team won with style, etc. Perhaps they would say sports isn’t about what the athletes do with a ball, but sports symbolize a higher contest involving courage, skill, and determination. But I am not too sure sports are symbolic.
I once went to a discussion group, and some members of the group maintained the book had symbolic meaning. Some books do, but I thought this one did not or only in a very feeble way. It is possible to attribute symbolic meaning to almost anything. At that discussion group I happened to be wearing a green sweater that was almost olive drab. I said my sweater could represent a protest against the military-industrial complex since it was almost olive drab but not quite, a rejection then of olive drab.
Probably the sweater didn’t represent a protest very well, and that was not the intent of wearing it. I also don’t think sports represent honor and courage very well. Athletes aren’t heroes. I mention before a hero risks his life for a cause. Athletes are entertainers and celebrities, other than being athletes. Many do become injured over time, but they hardly risk their lives, and the risks they take are for themselves. Athletes often seem self-indulgent and greedy, and they have no qualms about promoting expensive clothes or shoes or unhealthful food. There is also not always fair play in games and their lives off the field, as I mentioned, are not always exemplary.
I don’t think people are inspired by sporting events. I have noted that at baseball games some fans paint their faces, wear costumes and engage in various antics. The occasion is used for acting out. Some fans get drunk and destructive, and some just get drunk. Chicago had to spend $3 million for security when the Bulls won the national championship. I don’t think most fans are destructive, but I saw a great many fans on TV during the Bulls championship games and remember the mask-like expressions of power, grandiosity, and aggression on their faces. They identified with the team and felt they could sweep all before them. No one could stand against them, the masters of the universe. But they weren’t out on the court, and it was just a basketball game. If they were out there it would just have been putting a ball in a basket.
Viewers are relentlessly indoctrinated by TV to idolize teams and athletes. If find it astonishing at times that sports results are given an equal standing with news of politics, wars, famines, and floods. Sports news is often on the front page of newspapers too. A winning score in a critical game or the salary a superstar negotiates seems to be as important or more important than any political or social event no matter how it touches people’s lives. The sportscaster, and even the news anchors, try very hard to give the viewers the impression that it is just terribly important who wins. It is as though one city marched out to war against another city. The sportscaster reports in an excited voice which implies “Wow, would you look at that. Be impressed.” Perhaps the sportscaster does believe it is terribly important who wins. It seems they do. The anchors have to show they are for the team, too. They can’t say “You know, I couldn’t care less .It has nothing to do with my life.” That would be treason, and they would be off the next day.
If the home team wins or an injured player returns to the lineup in time for an important game, the news team, and even the person who reports the weather, gives a sigh of relief. The outcome seems vital to their lives. The teams, though, represent nothing about the city, not the educational or job opportunities, not the condition of the streets or parks, and even very little about recreational facilities. If it were in their financial interest, they would move in a minute. It’s a business.
What seems to have happened on TV is that the subculture, if it may be called that, of the adoring fans has become the subculture of TV. Hero worshiping teams and athletes is represented as reasonable, normal, and natural, and, in fact, as a virtue. The sportscaster’s eyes glaze and he has a warm smile on his face whenever he mentions a sports “hero.” The anchors just melt, too. TV people have high status and are highly paid. If they idolize athletes, that is likely to be accepted as the norm. They do idolize athletes and everyday, and there is no dissenting voice. That is censorship. Millions of people don’t idolize teams or athletes.
In Chicago, when the Bears won the regional title some years ago, The Art Institute, a highly regarded cultural institution, placed football helmets on two sculptured lions at the front entrance. I think that can’t really be explained by humor. The Institute people wanted to show they were team players, loyal to the city, and correct, not freakish intellectuals with no interest in sports. If the Art Institute won an award as an outstanding cultural center, though, I don’t think the Bears would have acknowledged that by displaying any Art Institute symbol. Come on. Football is big business, and football players are real world guys. A football team ranks far above the Art Institute
The Star Spangled Banner is played before each baseball game and perhaps before other professional sports. In baseball, the President may throw out the ball on the first day. Perhaps it would be more constructive for the country if he attended the first day of class at a school selected at random. The Star Spangled Banner is supposed to show a baseball game is a sacred ritual. Baseball is called “the national pastime” but represented a much more. It is enshrined as a holy ritual that symbolizes the spirit of the nation and unifies the people.
I would like the Star Spangled Banner to be played before my psychology class. I think any one psychology class is more important than a Bulls, Bears, or Cubs game. However, my class is not viewed as a holy ritual, and it is not a spectator sport. If my class does better than it ever did before can I say it was my “personal best”? We teachers would not pat each other on the behind, though. Also, even if we teach in the summer, we are not called the “boys of summer.” That is partly because we don’t teach only in the summer and partly because some of us are no longer boys. However, many baseball players are no longer boys either, but the term implies that baseball players are perpetually young and playful, or even that, like some mythical beings they appear only at certain times and otherwise live in the clouds or some magical realm. Sort of a Brigadoon idea. Brigadoon was a musical about a misty Scottish village that appeared only every hundred years.
The Chicago Sun Times (Feb. 22, 2001) had an article by Paul Sullivan called “Craving Star Bucks.” The top ten salaries of baseball players were listed. They are no doubt higher now, but the article is good enough. They were as follows in millions: Alex Rodriguez, $25.2; Manny Ramirez, $20; Derek Jeter, $18.9; Jeff Bagwell, $17; Carlos Delgado, $17; Roger Clemens, $15.45; Mike Hampton, $15.2; Kevin Brown, $15; Chipper Jones, $15; and Mike Mussina, $14.75 That’s for throwing, hitting, and catching a ball. The salaries go even higher now. AROD’s salary was reported to be $32 million in 2011.
It might be said they play with a ball and a bat, but they are the best. I know. That’s why they are paid for playing a game at all. People aren’t usually paid for playing games. But, again, someone will remind me of the income they bring in and the law of supply and demand. They bring in ticket purchases and revenue from TV commercials that consumer pay for. My thinking is that hitting a ball with a bat is worth at most $100 thousand for a professional. The law of supply and demand just needs to be short circuited to avoid economic pathology. It is not a physical law. It just happens when people are helpless.
Some people say that the incomes of athletes are justified because they can play for a limited number of years. I don’t really think they are reflecting on what they are saying. It is just very tension producing to some people to question the status quo. However, some athletes play for ten or fifteen years. They have plenty of time in the off season to get a degree in accounting, law, or whatever. Some retired athletes become announcers, some open car dealerships, and some do commercials. I don’t see why an athlete’s income should set him up for life since he is still quite capable of working when he retires at a relatively young age.
I want to emphasize again that I am not criticizing watching sports as a form of entertainment. Also, I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with admiring skill. I don’t want to promote a stereotype of athletes as ignorant and unintelligent either. I think, though, as I have already suggested sports are not represented on TV as only entertainment and for many people sports are freighted with much more significance than entertainment.
By the way, I wonder why there is the roar of the crowd at games. People scream, shout, and hoot. Apparently spectators think a scoring play, a home run or a touchdown, for example, is worthy of tremendous acknowledgement, and they may think the play redounds to their own credit. After all, it is their team. People become proprietary about teams, just as people do about kings. The king belongs to the people, and the people belong to the king. If the home team wins people say “we” won. But there is no “we.”
There are just professional athletes who probably live on estates in the suburbs.
If the spectators did not hero worship the athletes and identify with them, perhaps they would not shout and scream. It may be people with more differentiated thinking don’t so much see a home run as that interesting and important and don’t typically scream to express emotion. Also, they may realize they are not out there on the field. Why analyze it? Just so screaming and shouting are not the norms to which people feel they must conform. No one I know is a fan. To me being a fan, no matter what the age of the person, whether he is rich or poor, and no matter his occupation or profession means his emotional and intellectual life are rather empty. Being a fan is a status and is open to everyone, but it certainly is not much of an accomplishment to get status by feeling like someone by living vicariously through a team.
When Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon, thousands of people turned out in Split, Croatia to welcome him home. The nation felt pride. I would not if I were Croatian, or being American, if an American won. Winning Wimbledon just shows one man has visual motor skills, It shows nothing about the economic, political, social, or recreational life of a nation. It is just irrelevant. People can use it as a symbol, but then I wonder if the thinking is that irrational, what other consequences such irrational thinking may have.
America seems to have an obsession with sports. The marketing of sports is overwhelming. On TV there are not only games and exhibitions but instant replays, great moments, commentary, interviews with athletes, coaches, and owners, and ads featuring athletes. Sports may dominate the newspaper headlines. Advertising with athletes is everywhere, in magazines, on billboards, and in stores. Clothing with team insignia is almost standard.
More importantly, sports seem pervasive in the consciousness of many people, and is a favorite topic of conversation. I think perhaps business people have to be prepared to talk about sports whether they are interested or not. Sports do provide a topic of conversation. Sports are neutral, not political or sexual, and talking about sports may seem to reflect well on the speaker. Whether and to what extent this infatuation with sports affects people adversely in that they live vicariously through athletes rather than living their own lives is unknown. Considering the preoccupation with sports in some people’s lives, it is quite possible that sports do have a numbing affect on some people’s thinking and limit some people’s interests. Sports fill the mind.
What I have said may appear to be very dramatic and exaggerated. In fact, perhaps it understates the effect of the pervasive preoccupation with sports. I am not referring to just enjoying sports.
The obsession with sports probably contributes to undermining cultural support for education. Other countries also may have an obsession with sports, but there seem to be also traditional alternative values. In some countries apparently there can be fanaticism about sports, but possibly values are still kept more in perspective. It is still very much assumed by children and adults that education or training is the way to prepare for the future and that few people will become professional athletes. In the U.S. this is not so easily possible because of the great emphasis on money and celebrity to the exclusion of other values. Sports fit in perfectly with this emphasis, and the dominance of sports makes it difficult for other values to grow.
If people are going to idolize teams and athletes what will be the influence on their attitudes toward education? There are nerds, eggheads, bookworms, pointy-headed intellectuals, four-eyes, absent-minded professors, and walking encyclopedias, sometimes so represented in the movies, and then there are athletes. The images suggest that an intelligent and intellectual person is obnoxious, freakishly overdeveloped in mind, weak, introverted, and lacking in common sense. Of course, these empty-headed, derisive
characterizations are defensive maneuvers to protect self-esteem. People love to believe mother nature has a law of compensation. Someone who is intelligent is weaker; someone who is retarded has great strength. Research fails to support this folklore.
TV doesn’t often explicitly devalue education, although movies and commercials sometimes do. A commercial for a Jaguar featured a sports car and said, “Your guidance counselor said you would never amount to anything. Your guidance counselor drives a minivan.” The problem is when sports have such overwhelming adoration, and there are already existing negative attitudes toward education, partly connected with contrasting education and sports, it may be, to use the cliché, like swimming upstream to convince children that education is important in their lives.
Athletes are on TV every night explaining why they won, why they didn’t win, how they plan to win, etc. It would be better to feature a doctor, teacher, artist, plumber, electrician, writer, or businessman on TV, and that is especially true for minorities. People in these occupations and professions could talk about their work. People might actually even find it interesting. Get the athletes out of our faces.
For now, I have not covered every aspect of sports, sports as big business, college athletics and recruiting, the influence of alumni, or an in-depth analysis of sports and fans. However, the views I have expressed I have never seen on TV or in a newspaper or magazine. I have the impression that members of the press pride themselves on the belief in free speech, but the sportscasters and news people uniformly indoctrinate people to hero worship teams and athletes, and there is no dissenting voice. That is censorship.
I do know other people share my views, but most never say anything. People are actually afraid to criticize sports. It seems un-American and, for a man, sexually perverse. And perhaps it is risky in terms of a job and even personal safety.
I recall some years ago seeing a commercial by a national education organization. The dedicated teacher was helping a student after school so he could be on the team. The education wasn’t important, just being on the team was. The teacher was showing she is a team player herself, she had young values, and she had her priorities right. The term politically correct wasn’t used then, but that was what it was all about. It is unfortunate or maybe pathetic that educational organizations don’t have the courage to counteract the idolization of sports figures. Perhaps some people think professional sports is invulnerable because it is big business, but people can influence how their children are reared, how their schools function, and what is presented in the media.
One more point, if we had a ceiling on income would all the top athletes head for Japan or elsewhere? I don’t know if Japan or other countries could absorb them all, but no matter. Then, we would have plenty of baseball players perhaps a shade under the top or maybe as good. A real fan should enjoy baseball anyway.