In America, Action Leads to Overcompensating Reaction
By Phil Perkins
January 4, 2021
I used to be a big sports fan. Baseball, football, basketball, even hockey, and of course, golf and tennis. Professional sports in particular were a huge deal with family and friends. The bloom started coming off years ago, and what’s transpired in 2020 has sealed the deal. I’m no longer anything but the most casual sports fan.
When I was growing up, only the greatest baseball players – Hall of Famers like Mantle, Koufax, Mays, and my boyhood hero Al Kaline – made six-figure salaries. A pro golfer had a tremendous year if he pulled in over $100,000 in winnings. With the advent of free agency in baseball as a corrective for great players being woefully underpaid and having no options to leave their current team, the pendulum started swinging in the other direction. By the turn of this century, multi-year, multimillion-dollar deals were becoming the norm and not just for a few great players, but for many others as well. And every time we think they cannot go any higher, another superstar comes along and nets an even greater amount.
The latest example: Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes inking a $503 million, 10-year deal. That someone can command $50 million annually for playing a kid’s game (granted at an extraordinary level) is mind-blowing. No offense to Mahomes, who has certainly shown a lot of greatness already in leading his team to a Super Bowl win. But is even his greatness on the field worth $50 million a year? Those who are okay with the current setup will recite the mantra, “whatever the market will bear,” meaning that if Kansas City hadn’t stepped up to offer Mahomes the big bucks, some other team surely would have. Well, maybe. My point is, the exorbitant salary structure in pro sports has had an undeniably negative impact on the fan base.
BC (Before COVID), it was increasingly difficult for the “typical family of four” to afford to attend a ball game at a stadium. Tickets, parking, food and drinks could easily cost well over $100.00 and, if in premium seating, probably north of $500.00 for a typical baseball game. For an NFL game, you’d probably need to multiply those figures by a factor of at least four. But have any of those involved in pro sports – players, owners, etc. – taken this into consideration when negotiating higher and higher contracts? That of course is a rhetorical question. Owners will rake in sufficient television revenues to cover much of the generous salaries to players even without significant attendance at games. But in 2020, two significant changes occurred – one hopefully temporary but the other that may have a lasting impact.
First, COVID has prevented most in-person attendance, taking away a major source of revenue for team owners. As COVID-related controls drag on, one wonders when (if ever) a capacity crowd will be allowed back into sporting events. Second, the politicization of the National Football League, in particular its ubiquitous displays of support for Black Lives Matter, has turned off fans who know what the BLM organization really stands for. If the NFL’s virtue-signaling behavior continues, the league risks losing increasing numbers of fans, not just temporarily but for good. In short, the sports world has shown us a prime example of course corrections gone too far.
Unfortunately, such over-the-top course corrections are not limited to the world of professional sports. The political Left has been overreaching for years in its quest to reshape America in its progressive, utopian vision. The Republican Party, supposedly the home of conservative values, has been largely ineffectual in stopping the Left. In fact, the only two effective entities in recent times were not traditional Republicans. They were: (1) The Tea Party, who stood up to the Obama administration’s power grabs including Obamacare, and (2) Donald Trump. Arguably, Trump was elected as a drastic countermeasure to the continued overreach of leftist Democrats in general and President Obama in particular.
Now, those who have had no use for Trump from the get-go will say that we’ve gone too far the other way in trying to eradicate the Left’s horrific agenda for the country. The question before us in 2021 and future years is, where is America going to land? And I would predict that we will only succeed and survive to the degree we are willing – individually and as a nation – to face and deal with the pure, unvarnished truth about where we are.