Over at ESPN, columnist LZ Granderson — a Tigers fan — wonders what Prince Fielder signing for $214 million means for a cash-strapped burg like Detroit:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Fielder’s contract. And again I am excited he is on the team and feel fortunate we have an owner who doesn’t just say he’s dedicated to winning but actually opens his wallet for the Tigers and his other franchise, the Detroit Red Wings, to prove it. The problem is the environment in which a $214 million contract in today’s wider economic landscape is even possible. Why are we so crazy about our favorite teams that the demand for better schools or roads takes a backseat by fiscal comparison?
I know how many of the responses are going to go: many of you will defend the Tigers’ right as a private business to spend whatever they spend, note that supply and demand is what it is and conclude by noting that this state of affairs mandates that entertainers and athletes get big dollars while school teachers do not and thus people like Granderson should STFU and deal.
Guess what? I agree! At least when we’re limiting the conversation to the ethics of sports salaries and the acts of sports franchises. Fielder should get whatever he can get. He’s the value there. He’s the labor and he should be compensated for it fairly, especially given the kind of revenue the bosses make off of him. And the bosses don’t just have the right to pay him that much. Given how things are set up, they almost have the responsibility to do so to reward the fans, support the other players and carry out the mission of the franchise.
But I’m not reading Granderson’s column as some simple “jocks make too much when teachers make so little” rant. He clearly understands the economic dynamics that lead to that. Says so right in the column. He understands why they’re valued the way they are, but he’s asking why we value them like that in the first place. Granderson is thinking bigger here than just sports.
I think that way fairly often myself. About 97% of the time I accept the world in which sports operates and relates to society for what it is because, hell, it’s not like we can change anything about it. But that 3% can gnaw at a person. Granderson asks “what’s wrong with us?” I think that a lot too.
One other thing Granderson and I have in common here: he recognizes his own disconnect. He makes a living writing about sports and thus it’s great for him that people value it or else ESPN wouldn’t find it worth its while to give him a paycheck. Same goes for me. If baseball players made what teachers make — and vice-versa — and media corporations made no money on it at all, I’d be slinging legal briefs (and if society valued good things more than it does, I probably would be doing way less of that).
It’s not that way. Never will be. I’m happy Prince Fielder got paid. I don’t think we should storm buildings or occupy anything in protest of this.
But sometimes it is useful and even necessary to remember the value system that has led to the current state of humankind and ask if we’re doing the best we can do as a species. I’m Not sure we’d like the answer to that most of the time, but if we stop asking it, what’s the friggin’ point?