Friday, April 09, 2010

The Oligarchy of Sports

As I listened to Artie Lange guesting on Bubba the Love Sponge, he was of course entertaining and, as usual, poignant. Toward the end Bubba, a big sports fan, asked fellow sports nut Artie if he'd gone for the Yankees' scheme; pay $20,000 to hold your season seats for the new Yankee stadium. My transcription of that dialog - with edits - is as usual at the end of my rant.

Here's the scenario when I was a kid: I went to at least a half dozen to a dozen Laker games a season. There were so many future Hall of Fame-rs then, and I saw them all; Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Wilt, Rick Barry, and my fave, Elgin Baylor... I am this old; I saw the Lakers play first at the Sports Arena. I did that up until about the age of 12. Then they moved to a bigger arena.

Sports then weren't dominated by athletes looking to get paid for endorsing some jerkoff sugar water. I suppose with what little most of them made then I wouldn't begrudge them if they had. But the air was unassuming then, so much so that a kid could hang around after the game and get all of their autographs - save for Russell and Chamberlain who never signed - which I still have on programs socked away somewhere. With the move to the Forum in '67, things changed. Much nicer venue, higher prices - but still in the ghetto. Jack Kent Cook - who'd go on to own the Redskins (a horrible name) - was the money and the man behind the move.

My last great memory associated with the Lakers is '88, when they were going for the first back-to-back championship in 20 years since the Celts. We didn't think we had a chance at tickets, and I didn't want to hassle going to the box office with all of the yahoos and scalpers. But my friend Linda went and got two tickets - one for game 6, one for game 7. That's all they had, singles. She asked me which one I wanted, and I said she should pick since she was the one who went through the trouble; she took game 7.

Game six is my favorite sports experience. The Forum was packed, the game was a classic, and produced one of the most jaw-dropping performances I've ever witnessed by a human being:

One of Piston guard Isiah Thomas' career-defining performances came in Game 6. Despite badly twisting his ankle midway through the period, Thomas scored a still-NBA Finals record 25 third quarter points, as Detroit fell valiantly, 103-102, to the Lakers at the Forum.

-from the Wiki on the '88 Finals

At one point, when the Lakes - both teams really - were whipping the crowd into a frenzy, it got so loud that the young couple beside me who I'd befriended and I tried shouting to each other to no avail.

I think we got those seats for under 30 bucks each. They weren't great seats, but this was the Finals. It was history in the making. And it was a classic matchup.

Sports have provided so many moments seared into my being that to me, life is kind of colorless without them. I mean, I love art in all of its forms, but for my money, nothing matches the intensity and elation of sports at its best. Let alone really good books or docs on sports - HBO's Real Sports being some of the best filmmaking around. Then there's playing sports, because if you play consistently and long enough the odds are that you'll experience "the zone" at least a few times. That's a remarkable thing.

Just last year, Fish got tickets for the playoffs. It was the first round, Denver, and they were good seats through one of her company's clients. I hadn't been to the Staples Center in a few years for a Laker game, although I'd seen the Clippers a few times, but any team that has had Benoit Benjamin start for them, well, that doesn't count.

Sports today, the business of sports, like everything else, is about spamming you relentlessly to cram consumerism down your throat and up your ass. The sheer amount of wattage running all of the spam signs in Staples could power Kobe's ego for a week. And for me, a lifelong Laker fan who's been priced out but who helped build their fucking business, it's bittersweet at best.

I don't like Kobe, I think many have problems with him but are cowed because he's a superstar. But what else explains why Shaq - arguably the most dominant player in the league then - would leave when by my estimation they could have won 2 possibly even 3 more after already three-peating?

The Lakers of today are a name only, or a commodity, a thing that's used - for status, not for enjoying. There's a thrill when you hear a band that you like; but it's so much more when you see them play live. TV and sports are cool, but watching a live game, being in that atmosphere, particularly as a kid, it's indescribable. And I would have loved to share that with Renee, but the Lakers fucked the very fans who made them what they are.

And still, the Lakers of today are nothing like the great 80's or even the struggling 70's teams (with the exception of the '71 championship team which is really an extension of the 60's team), let alone the classic 60's. Today it's all very in your face crass, impersonal, all about money and that just kills what sports used to be about - the real fans enjoying their team. It's Lamar - pay me 14 mil and watch as I fuckin' disappear - Odom. It's Kobe jackin up 20 footers with the team standing around just watching, about as interesting to watch as the jerkoff business people in the corporate boxes sipping fuckin' chardonnay or whatever their lame-o candy asses like. It's depressing.

No, the Lakers, they've broken cardinal rule number one of the streets; don't forget where you came from.

Just like our government and these jerkoff corporations are giving a big "fuck you" to all those from the working class who had grandparents and older generations claw their way over and literally build this fucking country. My grandparents' generation for one are stomping and yelling from their graves, but it's one quality of being a complete fucknut that you can't have a conscience.

No, the Lakers, much like Artie Lange's Yankees, have given a great big resounding finger to us from the working class, the real fans, and opted for the Hollywood jerkoffs who take their blonde bimbo with the fake everything because the Laker game is where you go to be seen. It's sad; the Laker game has become a circle jerk beauty pageant. God forbid you should get distracted by a basketball game.

Oh, as Fish and I drove up to Staples for that playoff game, I saw what for me was the most astounding representation of just how lame sports are today. As we passed a parking lot right off of Fig, I believe, there was a small parking lot almost directly across from the arena. In the lot were nothing but Lexuses, Audis, Benzes, Beemers, Bentleys, limos... a sign read: $40.

Sports are supposed to be fun, not getting you to whip out your wallet to corporations. For god's sakes, it's supposed to be something working class kids can have in their otherwise deprived lives of not being able to shop on Montana Avenue, but these shitheads don't care. It's like the kid who comes to a marble game and wants all the marbles so that no one else can play except whom he deems. The league, owners and corporations have all conspired and now only the kids in Beverly Hills and Brentwood can go, or those with parents who have connections. It's just mean and sad.

What's become of the world?

From Bubba the Love Sponge, 3/20/09 – guest, Artie, at about 1:07:45; transcribed & edited by jp
Note: Artie's a multi-millionaire, and Bubba's not poor by any means. Still, their working class roots keep them grounded. Spice is Bubba's sidekick.

Bubba: Did you cough up the extra money, just the fuckin’ outlandish amount of money they’re making people lay down for a seat deposit for the new Yankee Stadium?

Artie: Unfortunately man, I did.

Bubba: My god. Can I ask at all what that seat deposit was?

A: Well I’m splittin’ it with uh…

B: (Astounded) Man…

A: …with two other guys who I’ve always split it with. My cut now… in the old stadium, I had amazing seats; I had five rows behind third base, and I had ‘em for ten years. And, uh, you know, throughout the World Series and everything, they cost me, I had ta lay out about twenty g’s. But, when the Yankees are good, you know, back then they cracked down on this now you can’t do it anymore because, you know, huh, the Yankess don’t want you scalping tickets, not because of any ethical reasons because they fuckin’

B: Resell ‘em!

A: Exactly. So they wrote me a letter threatening to take my fuckin’ tickets away because… to a legal scalper, no bullshit…

B: A ticket broker.

A: Yeah, a ticket broker. So, uhm, I was laying out twenty grand but back when they didn’t give a shit about that you could make money on the fuckin’ deal because it was like a part-time job, the Yankees were that good. So you’re not allowed to do that anymore, so obviously, I’m not gonna sell tickets to anybody, cuz fuck it.

B: You have the same seats or no?

A: Okay, twenty g’s for five rows behind third. In the new stadium, okay? I’m now ten rows behind third because five rows back are all corporations. You can’t even get near it.

B: Not even close, huh?

A: And, it would have been two hundred grand.


B: AIG needs that bailout money to get those.

A: Yeah. That includes the vig they charged everybody…

B: Jesus…

A: So now, going back another five to seven rows, I’m like around the tenth or twelfth row, I gotta see, behind third, still downstairs, not bad, uh, I laid out… sixty five thousand.


B: That was only one third.

A: Yeah.

B: That would make me no longer a Yankee fan.

A: And I did it reluctantly. I actually told my friend who I do it with all the time, I said you know what?, cuz I hate A Rod, I just don’t like the guy, uh you know, he’s got no rings with the Yanks yet…

B: Missing in October.

A: Right exactly. I said this on Letterman, I said I got no problem with A Rod doing steroids, but clearly he stops doing ‘em October first.

B: It’s the truth.


A: If you’re gonna do ‘em do ‘em all fuckin’ year brother. I mean, Jesus. So uh, I’m an underdog kinda guy too like you guys, the Yanks were the one frontrunner I always liked. But it’s even getting nauseating for me with the A Rod. You know Jeter doesn’t like him, uh, he’s out for a couple of months. I don’t care if Scott Brosius is drunk with a big huge gut somewhere, and I don’t know if he drinks at all, I’m just saying if he is somewhere, just bring him back. I like Brosius better. Bring back Graig Nettles who I know drinks, I love Nettles, he’s the best! Dig up Clete Boyer’s bones, 1960’s guy who fuckin’ died.

B: Just prop him up there.

A: So … I almost said, “You know what? Fuck these motherfuckers”…

Spice: Cuz they’re fuckin’ the fans is what they’re doin’.

A: And I have a venue to say it. I almost wanted to say “Fuck the tickets” and then get on the air …

B: And say it.

A: …and say “Look, this is why I’m not doin’ it.”

B: Yeah. It’s highway fuckin’ robbery.

S: If you’re an average fan no way can you go to the game.

A: My old man climbed roofs for a livin’ man, I don’t think he ever made sixty five thousand dollars in a year, and he’s the one who got me into the Yankees, that’s what the Yankees were born on.

B: But you know, your dad, back in the day, he could still take his boy to the ball game.

A: That’s what I’m saying.

S: None of these corporate assholes are true Yankees fans from back in the day.

A: The story I tell in the book about when [my dad] threw me on the field, the Reggie Jackson game…

B: I remember that!

S: That’s great…

A: Now we sent away for tickets, World Series game, game six, he sent away in the middle of the season, cuz the Yanks had played the Reds in the series, got killed the year before, but, he took a chance, he said, “You know what? I’m gonna send away through the mail for tickets.” We got nosebleed seats cuz they came through the mail, last row of the upper deck behind third base. I remember Graig Nettles looked like a speck – not a spic, a speck – it was the South Bronx. So I can remember, that’s where a guy, right in front of my father, you talk about a different time, the ‘70’s, a guy asked me to hold his beer while he rolled a joint.


A: Ten years old I had a contact high cost my old man $80 in hot dogs. I still have those ticket stubs, it’s a shit seat, last row the upper deck, but this is a World Series game. TEN BUCKS A PIECE.

B: Yep!

S: God that’s cool…

B: And a guy could afford to take your boy to the ball game.

A: Oh! You know who you see at the Yankees games now? Guys in suits who get there in the third inning and leave in the seventh…

B: With their fuckin’ Blackberrys...

A: Or some rich kid in a polo shirt with khaki fuckin’ shorts whatever the fuck…

B: Penny loafers…

A: Right. In the ‘70’s and even into the mid 80’s you saw guys who just worked for the city somewhere, you saw a fireman, a cop, a plumber. Or guys like my father, I remember my father taking me to a Yankee game right from work. He had sheet rock on his arm and insulation, and he’d wash up in the fuckin’ sink at Yankee Stadium, and hold me up to take a piss in the sink.

A: But yeah, that’s it man. Can you believe that? Sixty five g’s I’m payin’. And I’m not allowed to sell ‘em anymore. I mean they’re just rape… They’re telling the blue collar fan to fuck off, and the Jets and the Giants both did it too. It’s a fuckin’ shame.