The Grating of the Awokening

Much has been made in the past few days of the “Great Awokening” (h/t The Federalist). The almost lemming like urgency with which the professional sports associations are hurling themselves over the cliff in their pursuit of appearing to care.

The problem they keep running into is that the NFL, NBA, MLB and perhaps even the lesser lights of NASCAR and MLS actually do not care about their fans and certainly do not understand them. At all.

Let me bring forth an example – I picked two of the NFL “Good guys” for this example. Two men, great players in the league, very successful, beloved by fans and men who have given tremendous support to the community while having great careers. I picked Warrick Dunn and JJ Watt. Well JJ Watt kind of picked himself as my example because it is his statement at the Chiefs – Texans game that prompted me to write this little blog post.

Both Mr Dunn and Mr Watt are successful professional athletes, Both of them are know for their supportive work for the community. Warrick Dunn for his initiative to get single parent families into their own houses and JJ for his work rising funds to help the City of Houston after the devastating hurricane Harvey and floods.

Last Thursday the Texans and the Chiefs organizations decided that they were going to have various demonstrations of “support” for better Racial conditions in the USA, more awareness of others, all in support of quieting the current situation where there are riots in Democrat run cities where activists threaten ever increasing mayhem.

Into this tempest in a teacup the NFL (and NBA and MLB) decided that they should be telling their fans how they, the organizations, felt about it all. So they decided that they would have demonstrations of their support for such divergent activities a Black Lives Matter, Police Funding, Defunding and other such stuff. They decided that these demonstrations, the names on helmets words in the end zone would be added to let the fans know, what they should think as well.

So when the two teams of players at the game in KC went through their show unity, when they had stood or knelt at various parts of the intros, there was some surprise that the fans at the game were booing. It didn’t appear to the Management that they understood that their fans had come to see professional Football. They had not paid for tickets for some sort of revival tent meeting.

JJ Watt made the following observation to the Press:

“The moment of unity I personally thought was good,” the star defensive end told reporters after the game. “I mean the booing during that moment was unfortunate. I don’t fully understand that. There was no flag involved. There was nothing involved other than two teams coming together to show unity.”

Now I think JJ was being mild here. Don’t get me wrong. But what this shows is that he – hero though he is – does not understand the roles of performer and fan. If he and his fellows had wanted to have a moment of unity and shout out – they certainly have enough money to have paid for a minute of commercial time to film them doing it which they could have paid to run, as a commercial during the game. Why not? Or, better yet they could have had their private moment – private.

Not because what they were doing was wrong. It is neither right nor wrong it just is.  It is the expressed attitude that the time attention and money of the audience, the fan is something that the players and the owners are free to exploit to make themselves feel better, even at the expense of the actual reason everyone is there.

People support sports teams for a variety of reasons. Most of us support the teams we grew up with, the ones our family supported back in the fun days of our youth. WE find reasons to like our team and the players that play for them – the players make us believe that they care about this team, this location these fans and we like to think that this could be possible. So, for a few hours every week we can all have our own little fairy tale that we are part of and we can enjoy it. We can enjoy it even when our team fights hard and loses, or plays badly and wins.

I admire people who can perform athletic tasks at levels I would not even dare dream of. I love watching good rugby, football, cricket, American Football, Baseball. I have absolutely no desire, at all, to be lectured by those players about real life. I do not care about their opinions or their woes – in much the same way as I do not expect them to care about my opinions or woes.  Play the game you contracted to play.

Yes, I agree it seems a small, annoying point that I am making. But I ask you to consider this simple scenario

The world itself is not made a better place by professional sports. There are no great civilizational advances to lay at the feet of the businessmen the coaches or the players. It is a mighty big footprint in a bowl of water. Lift it out and it disappears.

The whole of this edifice is created and balanced on a fantasy – as I described above – the  professional players get paid to play and act like they care about the team, the city the fans, and we pay our money to be entertained and to hope that, just maybe, they might actually care.

And that runs just fine.

Until the mask slips and they show, surprisingly, that they really do not care. They do not understand that they are being paid by the attention money and presence of the fan. Without it – they are just people in a sandbox playing a weird game.

And when the fantasy gets punctured – as JJ Watt just did – suddenly what has been raw passion becomes something less, something uncomfortable. Maybe it will continue but decline, but it will change because Cognitive Dissonance demands an accommodation.

Should American Football disappear – and it looks like they are managing themselves into a decline – fans will just find something else to watch.  The more reasons and discomfort you put their way – the more they will look for something else. Here’s a thought for every posturing athlete – from a fan.

I cannot, truly, pass on my disgust and irritation at being lectured by people who have been blessed with physical gifts that have enabled them to indulge a privileged lifestyle and to be handsomely recompensed for doing so – because of people like me paying for it. If you wish to be paid to lecture me you are going to have be a damned sight more intelligent than the crap you are doing in public makes you appear to be and much more eloquent and reasoned in your presentations.