6/13/2012

How Did We Get So Dumb?

The recent spate of gladiator arena construction in Minnesota (Gopher's Football stadiumTwin's stadium, Viking's stadium, and, now, a stadium for the minor league Saints and another UofM stadium for the godawful Gopher's baseball team) has made me begin to question the sanity of the traditionally staid, conservative (not neo-pseudo-conservative, but real conservative), rational Minnesotan. Our politicians are claiming these projects are "job creators," but at best those are short term jobs that will cost jobs in the long run as they will run up local taxes and distract our already-unfocused media from important issues.

That last item is a big deal, too. Sports are welfare for the media. Any idiot can babble about football, baseball, or any of the rest of boys-running-around-in-underwear activities. It takes talent, perseverance, insight, and more than a little courage to report on business and government. None of those qualities are required to jabber mindlessly about sports. (My wife's take on sports shows is, "Two drunks at a bar.") If you get everything wrong about the Vikings, it will have no effect whatsoever on anything that matters.

Even worse, we all know this and ignore it. Sports are a useful distraction, as long as we're not dedicating serious money to it. When a state or city's budget has a noticeable portion dedicated to useless distractions, that is a sign of decadence. When a substantial portion of the budget is donated to the 1% who own sports businesses, that is evidence of cultural decay. At the Minnesota level, it looks suspiciously like a complete cultural breakdown of values and we're beyond decay and into stinking sewage. As Lincoln suspected, you can fool some of the people all of the time and, today, some equals most.

In Minnesota, we're banging from one sports arena "investment" to the next while real jobs and investment are filtering out of the state and out of the country. The debt we're piling on to our children and the state's future is enormous and the value is minuscule. The non-sports economic "opportunities" presented by these stadiums are claimed to be concerts, corporate events, and a few local events. How a city the size of St. Paul/Minneapolis can support this many huge concert venues at a time when the music business is shriveling to non-existence is baffling. Obviously, this is bullshit marketing with no more basis in reality than the bond or derivative markets.

If an educated state like Minnesota is sinking itself in the mire of sports distraction, the Walmart states must be wallowing in this stupidity. As the Greek democracy was inbreeding itself into obscurity, the nation's rulers distracted the marching morons with the Olympics and various sports bullshit. When the Romans decided they had been successful for long enough, they gave their idle masses the gladiators entertainment. The Brits created "bowls" for  for bull baiting, cock fighting, amateur athletics, soccer, cricket, hockey, and polo. We are, obviously, the next empire to decay and fall and our sports distractions are every bit as idiotic as were those of our predecessors. In retrospect, professional football, baseball, basketball, golf, and the rest are going to look pretty hilarious to whoever takes our place on the international stage.

The only upside to the United States' decline will be that what's left of us will get to watch the next international superstar fail even quicker than we did. One of the key characteristics of evolution is that as resources become scarce the evolutionary process becomes more efficient. The Greek empire flourished and lasted for 400 to 600 years, depending on how you define those terms. The Roman empire had a 500 year run before being drained by human entropy. The Spanish, Portuguese, Brit, and Dutch empires were all good for about 250-300 years before they sucked the life out of themselves. We're about done at a little more than 200 years and all that's left is how we're going to draw the curtain on ourselves. Pro sports are the fungus all empires need to kick the rot into overdrive.

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