Democratic Underground

Of Baseball, Penn State, and Coup D'Etats
July 20, 2001
by tom_paine

Oh, the halcyon days of 1994, before the "Contract on America" and the "election" (just how long has this ballot-stuffing/ballot-blocking been going on?) of a Grand Hypocrisy Party majority in Congress. Even then, the signs were there of things to come... right out there in the open. Many of us might have stared into right into the face of these omens, these portents, and didn't realize what they meant. I know I didn't. All I remember is a queasy Orwellian feeling in my gut, a feeling which I am supremely accustomed to now as a permanent state of affairs.

In summer of 1994, major-league baseball went on strike. For the first time in a century, no World Series was played. Fans, justifiably angry at a self-serving sport that had worn it's lack of concern for the people who paid the salaries, turned off to baseball in droves, many never to return. In that first year, I recall, fan attendance was down by 15-20%. Part of me was happy. Attendance was down, so salaries would follow. Baseball players, who lately had been known for pissing off the fans and dissing kids looking for autographs, would be taken down a peg. Less money would mean that baseball players would get a needed dose of humility.

I continued to follow baseball from afar, on the news and in the sports pages, waiting for the ienvitable. But a funny thing happened - salaries just kept going up. It was like it didn't matter that people were going to baseball games less frequently. The people that ran the institution just kept making do with their 15-20% reduced gate and made up the money from TV or advertising.

I was shocked at the revelation that the primary consumers of this commodity really weren't necessary. Taken ad absurdiam, this meant that, theoretically, attendance could fall 100%, and the empty stadiums would still hum on with blaring advertisements, empty vending areas, and deserted souvenir stands. Now, of course, in reality something would give long before this happened, but what struck me was that the wealthy ballplayers and owners were immune from criticism on all but the largest scale.

They could do damn near anything they want, as long as they didn't piss off so many people that it fell below the critical mass which advertisers would get antsy; a critical mass that was certainly greater than a whopping 20% decrease in fan interest. I got that queasy Orwellian feeling. Something had changed, that's all I knew, and it would take a sociologist to put it in appropriate words.

Jan 1995: Penn State and Nebraska are both undefeated. By the structure of the pre-Bowl Alliance NCAA, they would not meet in a championship game. Who would be crowned national champions? The powers that be had already decided that it would be Nebraska.

Before the Orange Bowl, #1 Nebraska vs. #3 Miami (FL), Bob Costas led the broadcast with a syrupy tribute to Tom Osborne, so chock full of patriotism and apple pie guaranteed to choke up the most stoic superpatriot. In it, a teary Osborne was said to be pursuing this lofty goal for his deceased father (cue American flag rippling in the background - I'm not making this up). No mention of Penn State, no mention of Jo Pa's vicious defense and stellar bombs-away offense. Nebraska wins, and the championship is theirs, end of story.

Now mind you, Penn State was not even to play until the next day. They might have beaten #5 Oregon by 75 points, Costas and his NBC corporate masters didn't know, but the annointment continued. All through the game, I sat at the bar with my friends listening to his patronizing, dare I say propagandizing, tone. With every phrase he hammered home that all Tom Osborne had to do was win, and the national championship would be his, for his Dad (cue manly tears, choked back). And when the game was over, little letters flashed below the cheering Cornhuskers, "National Champions". I could only think of the sheep in Orwell's Animal Farm, screaming, "Nebraska good! Penn State bad!"

Now you might say to me, "Dude, it was just a dumb football game. What does this have to do with Selection 2000?"

I'll tell you what I see now, that I could not put together back then, having not witnessed multiple open criminal acts, performed proudly in broad daylight, and daring anybody to say it's wrong. As the coup d'etat of 2000 was. That is that we have, as everyone can now see, undergone a massive sea change in our nation. People are jaded, tired, apathetic. We get so much information, indeed we are choked with it, that it's easy to get everybody to tune out or throw their hands up in confusion by generating a lot of noise/propaganda.

The wealthy are more insulated from the rest of us than at any time since the 1890s and perhaps the 1590s. That they need us less now than they ever have. They can run their empty stadiums with virtual crowds, and in fact, damned if the trend of packing stadiums with luxury boxes isn't picking up. The NBA finals showcased a stadium in LA that was 50% skyboxes. It looked strange, but not as strange as the ones to be built 20 years from now, when the gap between rich and poor will be ten times greater than it is now, and will have 80% luxury boxes with a sliver of seats above and below, none of which can be afforded by anyone making less than $200,000 a year.

And as this sea change has made fans less relevant to the smooth operation of sport, casting them as mindless consumers to be prodded and propagandized into a profitable position, so has it gone with our once-proud nation, now tasting the first tiny sting of what could well be a totalitarian future. There is a certain grim symmetry in these three events: baseball strike, NCAA Football Championship and coup d'etat. It is important for those of us fighting to free America to take note of these things, because Selection 2000 was not something that happened out of the blue. The social forces and sweeping changes in national character didn't rise overnight. They won't change course overnight either.

The sad truth is these trends might not change at all. In that event, the old USA will finally be ripe for conquest the only way it's ever been during most of our our own unscrupulous countrymen (and women).

Printer-friendly version
Tell a friend about this article Tell a friend about this article
Discuss this article
Want to write for Democratic Underground? Click here.

View All Articles