SPORTS OP-ED: The Sameness of Sports and Politics (And That’s Too Bad)

By Arthur Solomon

Sports and politics have a lot in common:  Segments of our society are both sports and political fanatics.  And now that both Major League Baseball’s ego-centric inaccurately named World Series, which is nothing more than a best of seven games competition between U.S. teams, and the election seasons are upon us, the similarities between sports and politics are clearly evident.

General Managers of sports teams always promise a winning season next year.  So do those who manage the Democratic and GOP efforts in the next election.

Each year, the sports media anoints rookies as future super stars.  The political media does the same with politicians.

People in the political arena answer media questions with talking point’s boiler-plate answers.  So to those whose business is sports.

Athletes complain about the media misquoting them.  The same is true with politicians.

Loyal over-the-hill athletes are given jobs in the minor leagues.  Over-the-hill loyal politicians are appointed ambassadors. 

Athletes endorse products that they are not experts in.  Politicians endorse other politicians that they hardly know.

Sports fans welcome back athletes despite their misconduct off the field as long as the individual is wearing the right uniform.  Political fanatics continue to support candidates despite their misconduct as long as they are on the right ballot line.

Athletes continually thank God for their success, as if God doesn’t have more important things to do than caring about about athletes.  Politicians also think that God is on their side.

Because of their misconduct, both athletes and politicians  often end up in crime stories.

Why is the above a problem?  Because being a fanatic and blindly following athletes, sports teams and politicians are a sure way of having an uninformed society.  

It’s easy to be disillusioned about the doings in the sports and political fields.  But at least people can change a portion of their government every two years and they occasionally do so when voting.  (Not often enough.)

But when it comes to sports, it’s anything goes for fanatics and many of our sports moguls.  Owners of ball clubs show their lack of loyalty to the fans that supported them for many years and move their franchises to cities that offer them sweeter deals. They often, thug-like, threaten to re-locate their franchises unless local governments cave in to their financial demands. And the sponsors of Olympic Games seem to not care that they too often are backing a propaganda tool for authoritarian governments.

At least moving teams from city A to city B doesn’t impact anything but those two cities and disappointed fans.  The same cannot be said about the cabals that run the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee’s history of having its games played in Nazi Germany, China and twice in Russia provides these despotic countries with a world-wide propaganda tool.  The recent Sochi Olympics is the perfect example of why both sports and politics can be dangerous instead of fun.

Fanaticism is undeniably dangerous.  At stadiums, it has resulted in tragic beatings of fans for rooting for an opposing team.

On the political scene, wars have been fought because of fanaticism.

But the most dangerous aspect of fanaticism is that it precludes a person from having an open mind and often supporting myths instead of proven facts,  both on the ball field and political arena. 

Soon the best of seven games baseball competition will be over and there’ll be a lull in baseball coverage until the winter meetings take place in December.  The pundit-led cable news coverage of the 2014 elations will be with us for several more weeks, with parrot-like analysis from the talking heads.  And even before the tallying of vote is concluded on November 4 the often-wrong pundits will be handicapping the 2016 Presidential election.  (I’ve often said being a TV or radio pundit is the perfect job for people seeking job security.  It doesn’t matter how often your predictions are wrong.)

One thing that’s great about America is that we all have the privilege of being wrong and even when we’re wrong we can rationalize that we’re right.  Unfortunately, that’s also the reason we have fanatics.  And fanatics, despite their cause, are dangerous.

As Napoleon said, “There is no place in a fanatic's head where reason can enter.”

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Arthur Solomon
Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles on national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations and sports business publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at  HYPERLINK "mailto:arthursolomon4pr@juno.com" arthursolomon4pr@juno.com

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