Your Leaders Want Sports Back, But Not Because They Like Sports

Nothing says ‘See? Normal!’ like ‘Football Night in America’. It’s no secret that I am horny for sports right now. Live sports. Not sports documentaries. Not off-season sports transactions. Not sports reruns. Not WWE matches staged in Vince McMahon’s steroid locker.

I want the primo, uncut shit, and I have been willing to stay up well past the onset of clinical depression to get what I need. Thankfully, the brave and noble leaders of North American sports have seen my horniness — and definitely only mine — and feverishly labored to bring back Major League Baseball, the NFL, and even the NBA before the end of the year. Shit, even COLLEGE sports might come back if WVU president Gordon Gee gets his way…

Are you surprised a man with the last name of Gee wears a bowtie? Reader, you are not. Are you surprised that Gee, who once earned more than $6 million in a single year presiding over that bastion of morals that is Ohio State, would have questionable judgment? Again, you are not. Regardless — and you will find fewer regards in this tale than anywhere else — the American sports culture is starting to register spikes on its EKG, which could soon grow into a steady pulse. NFL team facilities are opening back up this week on a limited basis. Tom Brady is working out with teammates and presumably feeding them distilled lingonberry juice to make them immune to the virus. Baseball is proposing a plan for returning to play so detailed that it could have been devised by Angela Merkel. And a shitload of governors — including face-turn governors like Andrew Cuomo — have encouraged sports to come back out of the ground and announce that they have cast no shadow.

Now, I wanna believe that all of these leaders have our best interests at heart, but our best interests were left in the fucking gutter sometime around 2011. Governors want sports back. Leagues want sports back. Colleges want sports back. Trump wants sports back. I want sports back. This is good, right? FINALLY SOME BIPARTISANSHIP IN THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES. Well, there’s a catch to all this that even a White Sox outfielder could track down. It will shock you to learn that ulterior motives are at work here. For the leagues and the TV networks that pay handsomely for the privilege of serving them, there’s money.

My former Deadspin colleague Dan McQuade accurately interpreted that tweet as, “Not only this real reason, this fake reason.” It’s no surprise that Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wants to recoup his TV money, nor that baseball owners are using this occasion to institute a spiritual salary cap in a sport that has never had one, nor that cheap assholes like Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta are celebrating the premature reopening of other retail ventures that they also happen to have a considerable stake in. Behind every good intention is some dickhead trying to pad his wallet.

For Trump and for those governors, it’s beyond money, although money remains a definite factor in every decision they make, as it always has. This especially goes for Trump, with gold being the only thing that conducts electricity within his desiccated cortex. The majority of our leaders, including everyone’s new favorite potential emergency Biden replacement, Cuomo, have failed us. More than 90,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, with tens of thousands more to come. Why? Because those leaders fucked up. Trump deliberately ignored warnings and obliterated all of our pandemic response resources because he doesn’t give a shit. Congress threw some money at corporations and then went on fucking vacation. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp reopened everything so that in his state’s immediate future, everyone will get to be a martyr for 15 minutes.

The political-industrial complex is not all that interested in whether or not the Chiefs can repeat as Super Bowl champs, but it knows you and I will be.

That’s where sports come in. The political-industrial complex is not all THAT interested in whether or not the Chiefs can repeat as Super Bowl champs, but it knows you and I will be. In a cascade of ironic developments, sports are potentially the most effective form of PR any politician can wield right now. Imagine if the NFL season is canceled. Imagine Joe Biden pointing at Trump and going, “This guy here took your football season away.” There wouldn’t be an easier way to bury that man. Americans don’t care about all the dead bodies, because Americans don’t care about anyone anymore. But they would very much care if they turned on the TV on Sunday and found nothing but syndicated reruns of Star Trek: Voyager. They would be fucking PISSED. I know I would be. I love football, and I hate the president. Both of my main policy platforms would be in perfect synchronicity.

Now imagine if sports DO come back, even in bastardized form. I have watched German soccer and Korean baseball played in empty stadiums and have still been overjoyed by their presence on my screen. You would feel this same joy if the NFL started back up, especially if it does so on time. That would be a Pavlovian signal to people that things are getting back to “normal” again, or at least the veneer of normalcy that would greatly benefit an incumbent. It’s an easy way for them to convince America they’ve solved a crisis that they themselves exacerbated. This is the basket they’re ready to put all their eggs in. It’s morbidly amusing that, after Trump spent years bitching about the NFL and about Colin Kaepernick, NFL commish Roger Goodell now potentially holds Trump’s November prospects in his big ginger mitts. But that amusement will quickly fade when Goodell’s allegiance to his bosses’ profit margins overrides whatever shreds of genuine compassion and patriotism he has stashed away in his Bronxville attic. Roger Goodell sucks for a reason, you know.

In a past life, I was a sportswriter. In that blissful span of my career, I had to hear endless paeans to sports as a universal distraction from the ills of the world, and how those ills should never dare distract from that distraction. But of course, sports and general life are hopelessly intertwined and always have been. There’s no sense in ignoring that fact unless you’re a prick. Right now, our leaders are as gung ho for everyone to adopt that prickish brand of compartmentalization as I am for the Vikings to kick off week one. They know that sports are the skeleton key to the public reopening of an America that, on a clinical level, is hilariously unprepared for it. They want you watching football, because then you won’t be watching them fuck up day after day. You need sports as a distraction? Brother, all these guys are right there with you.

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