Are There Problems in American Sport?
As a student of sport management, one may have spent countless hours to learn, discuss, and even argue about the social, financial, and ethical problems surrounding sport. While examining how sport media portrayed the issues of Terrell Owens, Barry Bond, and the Duke Lacrosse team, it seemed that there are only two topics to address pertaining to sports, “who won?” and “who messed up?” Isn’t it ironic to see those athletes who dedicate their lives to the business of sports accused as those who destroy the American sports? The authors are not naïve enough to think that everything is perfect in the sports world. However, we certainly did not feel that sports are on the brink of self-destruction, either. In this brief essay, the authors will address four popular sports issues and provide our radical comments to alleviate the fear and concerns suggested by sports sociologists and experts.
Escalating Salaries of Professional Athletes
The rising salary of professional athletes has been viewed as a serious crisis of the major spectator sports in America. Although players’ salaries are on the rise, so are the revenues generated through greater sponsorship deals and sales of television rights. Who are we to say that the Yankees have overpaid their players? The team is running a billion dollar business. It strives hard to win the title and entertain the fans by retaining the best ball players in the world. Aren’t maximizing the wins and profits legitimate operational principles of the professional franchises? If a baseball fan has an extra $25 to spend on a baseball ticket, wouldn’t he/she rather go to a Yankee game seeing super stars such as Jeter, Rodriguez, and Damon instead of the Brewers or Royals game? According to Beckett (2004) and Taylor (2003), the Yankees had replaced the Braves as baseball fans’ most favorite team with a vote of 17%. The Braves were ranked second with 7% of votes. Based on the results of Harris Poll (Taylor, 2003), at least 38% of the adults would be considered as the follower of baseball. Simply applying these percentages to the U.S. population (nearly 292 million people), if each of those baseball followers would spend $20 a year to attend a ball game or purchase team-licensed products, the MLB will gain 2.2 billion extra in revenue each year. The Yankees could possibly generate 377 million extra dollars per year. Based on the above analysis, do you still think that players are asking too much? Fans and scholars may complain about how much athletes make; however, do they complain about those owners’ who pay these exorbitant salaries at the same degree? (Oh! Please forgive our mistake. Those poor guys are losing money despite depriving the citizens’ tax dollars to build ballparks for them.) A comedian once made a joke. His kid said that he want to be a pro basketball player for the LA Lakers so he can be rich.” Without hesitation, he replied to his son that the players are not rich. They are merely slaves in comparison to the owners who pay the salaries.
Violence in Sport
Violence in sport is really an over-exaggerated issue. Over the past couple of years, numerous discussions on athletes’ assault cases (e.g., Kobe Bryant and Duke Lacrosse rape charges, and Ray Lewis murder charges) have flooded the scene. In reality, three categories of National Crime Rates indicated that during the year of 2004 there were 5.5 murders, thirty-two rapes and 291 aggravated assaults per 100,000 people, respectively (The Disaster Center, 2004). Shouldn’t the average crime rates of all U.S. professional athletes be way higher since they were considered to be more violent than the ordinary people? The sad thing is that students have to discuss this specific topic over and over, and probably develop a stereotype assuming athletes are actually violent. Haven’t we seen how sports keep kids off the street and out of troubles? Why do we have to dwell on a few bad cases? You are probably safer to hang around with Kobe, Lewis, and the entire Duke Lacrosse team than strangers who sit next to you in the bars.
Early Entry of Draft in Professional Sports
Personally, the authors think that players skipping or leaving college early for the pros should be commended, not belittled. Why do we ridicule or question the decision of every single player who decides to make an early entry? It is no different than a child skipping a grade in the school. If the child is not being challenged in classes, he/she should be advanced to the next level so he/she can flourish. Why shouldn’t we do this for a talented athlete? Every year, tons of students leave college early to pursue dreams and goals that are considered to be important to them. Regardless bright or dull, this can be viewed as a natural selection. We may agree those who do not look like a college material probably should work in a factory or join the military. Yet, if a talented young man quits school early to enter the draft, we question his motive. If the authors had the talent and chance to make the jump, we would leave college to take the chance. Isn’t making the pro team a life-long dream of many student-athletes? Isn’t “be all you can be” an inspirational slogan believed by many Americans? Then, why do we even take away the chance for coming back to school (the eligibility) from those who fail to make the professional team? How constitutional is the new NBA age policy toward the high school graduates?
Sexual Exploitation in Sports
Other than issue of gender equity, the exploitation of women in sport is also a topic that generates a lot of attention. Critics often attack how media focuses on the sexual representation and body image of the female athletes instead of their skills or athletic accomplishments (King et al., 2002). Men often exploit women in sports through the use of media (Lawrence, 2003). In this case, the authors really felt women are as guilty as men for portraying the inappropriate body image of female athletes (e.g., ladies are men’s sex dolls). Perhaps we should wonder why the female athletes, who are exposing their bodies in the magazines, don’t claim that they are exploited (e.g., Brandi Chastain and Anna Kournikova). Is Brandi Chastain’s celebratory act in the Championship game of 1996 Olympics different from the World Cup soccer players taking off their shirts at the end of the game? If a survey is given to the sport fans to find out who is the “hottest” athlete, isn’t it logical to expect a participant’s gender certainly would dictate one’s answer? As for female athletes, those who posed their beautiful bodies in the sport-product advertisements were also to be blamed for this “sexual” exploitation. To achieve actual gender equity, ladies should not just cry out about the unfair treatment of the media. They should physically come out to support the Women’s National Basketball Association and other female sports.
Although the readers may disagree with our radical thoughts, we merely try to convince others that the America sport is no more problematic than it has been in any other era. No matter what we try to do in our society, there will be times that sport looks good or bad like any other thing in the world. Its market can crash. Salaries may go up and down like a roll coaster. Violence in sports will never completely decease. Like any other consumer-driven business, the society will dictate the way sport is operated. Sport will give it back to the consumers not the other way around. Are there any problems in sport? We just have to figure out how they started and how they can be ended.
Beckett, J. (2004) Most popular teams in sport. Beckett baseball card, 4(6), 14-17.
King, K., Alper, L., Nachem, J. Kane, M. J., Griffin, P., & Messner, M. A. (2002). Playing unfair: the media image of the female athlete [DVD]. Northampton, MA: Media Education Foundation.
Lawrence, T.. (2003). Women athletes posing nude: Good or bad? Retrieved May 10, 2006 from http://www.caaws.ca/e/leadership/article.cfm?id=226.
The Disaster Center. (2006) United States crime rates 1960 to 2004. Retrieved May 10, 2006 from http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm.
Taylor, H. (2003). Yankees top Braves as nation’s most popular Major League Baseball team. Retrieved May 10, 2006 from http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=369.