Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sometimes, Sports Can Work As A Metaphor

Caption: A night game at Ebbets Field, home of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team, in 1950. They didn't know it yet, but the Sun was already setting on one of baseball's most famous teams.

Image credit: Prelinger Archives/Wikimedia

From the utter morons who offer us tales of resurgent failed empires, we turn to a columnist who might actually be worth reading, Dave Zirin:
From their days in Brooklyn, the Dodgers were the franchise of the immigrants, the strivers, the ones who thought the American Dream was there for those willing to scratch and bleed for it. They were able to maintain this persona even when they broke Brooklyn's heart and absconded for the Left Coast.
Precisely because this team has always lived at the heart of the national Zeitgest, their bankruptcy should be seen as a brutal microcosm of the leveraged capital and dashed dreams that define the new century. As Harold Meyerson wrote in the Washington Post newspaper, the Dodgers now represent: "a particularly vicious form of capitalism that America has come to know too well the past few decades: a new owner takes over a venerable firm and extracts what he can for himself, decimating the company and damaging the community in the process."

Dodger's Bankruptcy Reveals Much About The US
It is, in many ways. It's almost inconceivable to me that the Dodgers could be bankrupt. They live in one of the biggest baseball markets in the country, which includes the second largest city in America. Since moving to the West Coast, they've been generally successful, being a dominant team in both the 1960s and 1980s, and generally being a contender until a few years ago.

That baseball's owners, not exactly the most philanthropic or competent group of billionaires on the planet, see the need to take over the team should tell you just how badly the Dodgers have been run lately. If that's not enough, how about this little snippet today from the Wall Street Journal blog:
The Los Angeles Dodgers received court approval Tuesday to tap part of a $150 million bankruptcy loan from a J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.-owned hedge-fund manager that will fund the team’s operations while owner Frank McCourt scrambles to keep control of the team.

The Daily Docket: Dodgers Win OK To Tap Bankruptcy Loan
Or the Los Angeles Times from a couple of days ago:
The Dodgers have filed for bankruptcy protection, a bid by Frank McCourt to preserve his ownership of the team by prodding a judge to override the rules of Major League Baseball.

McCourt will ask a Delaware bankruptcy judge Tuesday to approve interim financing to meet this week's payroll. McCourt would then retain immediate control of the Dodgers, with the intention of negotiating a television rights deal that would satisfy the court by paying off all creditors in full.

In filing for bankruptcy, Dodgers will ask judge to override MLB rules
Doesn't it just inspire confidence, not to mention more thoughts about symbolic relationships to American decline, that McCourt has filed this petition in a state whose legal system and tax structure are designed to appeal to rich financial vampires like McCourt?

I've never been that sentimental about the Dodgers, primarily because since I've been a young pup they've always been that team who are out on the West Coast now, after having abandoned their loyal, if not exactly prosperous, fan base for more lucrative environs. But they were the team of working class New York, and they were the team of Jackie Robinson. They were the team their fans affectionately referred to as "Dem Bums", because for a long time they were the low team on the New York City sports totem pole. They mean something to even those of us who have a hard time getting past our cynical view of sports and the people who run it, because they were, at one time, very special. That is, they were special until they were taken over by self-centered egomaniacs who took everything from them they could steal.

Just like America.

And isn't it just symbolic of the decline of the American press that you can read the paranoid rantings of a clown like Niall Ferguson at one of the premier publications in American news, but you only seem to be able to read a thoughtful, but sad story like Zirin's on Al Jazeera?

UPDATE: If you're looking for a little more background information on Frank McCourt, I recommend Dan Shaughnessy's column in Sports Illustrated:
Selig needs to untangle himself from the McCourts as fast as possible, but he's dealing with folks who love litigation as much as Charles Barkley loves cookies. Bet Frank sues MLB any day now.

McCourt's ownership of Dodgers was a disaster from the start
McCourt probably could have sold the Dodgers if he'd wanted. That he didn't, and instead filed for bankruptcy, should be an indication of how screwed up things are in Chavez Ravine.

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