Pro sports overcome by greed

January 30, 1999|By GREGORY KANE

DARN IT! THE SUPER Bowl is on me once again, before I had a chance to book my flight back to southern Sudan, where there's little chance I'd hear one word about the National Football League's annual orgy of self-indulgence.

So the weekend is here now, which leaves me with a choice of watching the premier game of NFL honchos -- the poster boys for greed -- or simply ignoring it as I've done the last three years.

There's a strong argument for ignoring this year's Stupor Bowl. There's even a name for the argument: PSINet Stadium. It has inspired hoots of derision from Baltimoreans all this week.

"Pizz-n-net?" one woman at a local Dunkin' Donuts said as she hunched over the counter Wednesday and read The Sun's headlines about the new stadium's name.

"Pizz-n-net?" she repeated, standing upright. Then she hunched over the counter again, laughing hysterically.

"I'm supposed to get excited about a stadium named pizz-n-net?" She composed herself long enough to remark that there is something indeed amiss in today's pro sports scene.

One caller suggested renaming the new stadium "The Urinal Bowl" -- for reasons obvious. An anonymous letter writer suggested a headline that will never be printed verbatim in this paper, using a well-known scatological adjective describing the Baltimore Ravens' three seasons of futility along with an appropriate play on words about the new stadium's name.

Whatever we call it, the stadium stands as a monument to the greed that has overtaken all of pro sports. It's an all-consuming greed, so brazen and flagrant that its beneficiaries have probably forgotten avarice is one of the seven deadly sins.

One caller said that if Baltimore moved the Washington Monument to another part of the city, it would still be the Washington Monument. Ditto for the Shot Tower. Why, he wondered, couldn't the new football stadium simply have been named Memorial Stadium, honoring the same World War I and II veterans the old Memorial Stadium honored?

Because we live in an age of dishonor, that's why. "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds," reads the inscription on Memorial Stadium. Time won't, but greedy sports owners will be sure to give it a try.

Baltimore's new football stadium is named PSINet instead of Memorial Stadium for one reason and one reason only: There's no money, no profit to be made, in honoring this country's war dead. The relationship between greed and pro sports is now symbiotic.

But who's to blame? The ones doing most of the complaining.

During the just-ended National Basketball Association owners' lockout (and that's what it was, an owners' lockout, not a strike or walkout by the players, as some confused folks still believe) we heard groans and mumbles from fans that both the owners and players were too greedy.

Some of those same fans will be seated in front of their television sets tomorrow, or attending one of a plethora of Super Bowl parties, watching a game that has provided little drama or excitement in the 32 years of its existence. Those fans will be contributing to the very greed they've been grousing about. If they were genuinely worried about the greed, they'd tune out Choke Bowl XXXIII.

Pro sports fans have no one to blame but themselves for the current state of pro sports. NFL owners know that -- no matter how greedy they get -- millions will watch tomorrow's Turkey Bowl.

If I do watch, it will be only because the game, though it pits Denver against Atlanta, has an intriguing local interest.

Last September, radio talk show host C. Miles was fired from Radio One's talk station WOL, which simulcasts in Baltimore on WOLB. The station serves Washington and Baltimore. Miles, "Atlanta-born, Atlanta-bred and when I die I'll be Atlanta-dead," no doubt rooted for the Atlanta Falcons the entire season. His Falcons won more regular season games than the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins combined. Come tomorrow's kickoff, Miles will probably be propped back with his feet up taking in the game, cackling uncontrollably as he ponders the fate of his Falcons vis-a-vis the pathetic Ravens and Redskins.

Think of Super Bowl XXXIII as C. Miles' ultimate revenge.

Pub Date: 1/30/99

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