Not to be a conformist, but the topic on everyone's lips these days seems to revolve around the unstable economy, so I may as well go ahead and acknowledge it here. It's such a popular topic in fact, it seems to have taken the number one slot for "safe topic" at cocktail parties, family gatherings and awkward first dates; generally, everyone seems to agree that we're all in a bit of a pickle. There's something almost tranquil about that - the sweet, kumbaya-like joining of hands between staunch libertarians, lefty peaceniks and your friendly neighbourhood neo-cons as they together blast the government for offering now trillions of dollars in corporate bail-outs.
Still, I think this unity and togetherness will likely be pretty short-lived. Soon, we will look differently at our (former) friends who got to keep their jobs while we got the lay-off axe; we will decide that the poor little children with nothing at Christmastime don't really need our charity (at least not as much as we need to keep our money safe in our bank accounts); we will go out less, spending more time hunkering down at home. If the recession looms long enough, we're all at risk of turning our focuses inward; of becoming hermits; of shouting "Bah Humbug!" the next time someone comes tapping on our door looking to sustain the surface population. So much for Kumbaya.
I was thinking about this the other day when I heard some CBC sports pundit make a reference to the future of Detroit should the 3 major automakers go bust. "It will be a ghost town," he said. "And the Red Wings could be history."
Suddenly, even with all the apocalyptic rhetoric floating around these days and the comparisons to Depression-era times, the possibility that Detroit could go under and with it, a historic team like the Detroit Red Wings, I at last came to and said "gosh, goodness, this whole mess is actually quite serious" (or something like that) - and this, from someone who doesn't much care for hockey.
The potential loss of a pro sports team - a winning sports team - due to outside economic factors somehow struck me as tragic in an entirely irrational sense. People really are losing their jobs, and homes, and I am not for a moment going to argue that losing a sports team is at all comparable - it just seems tragic on a different kind of level.
In mentioning this to my brother, he was good enough to provide me with a link to Dave Zirin (sports-writer-phenomenon)'s blog and an interview he gave on MSNBC's Morning Joe to plug his new book, A People's History of Sports in the US. And once I'm techy enough to figure out how to post links or videos, I'll share these with you.
Anyway, Zirin was discussing just this topic of interest - that even during the Depression, sports was one place where people could go to escape their dire realities. They could scrape together some change and go catch an afternoon ball game. Now, pro sports depend on the corporate elite to survive: the entire lower bowl of the new Yankee Stadium is dedicated to corporate season-ticket holders; and how many of them will keep tickets as expenses in the face of today's economy?
Pro sports, the way it is designed today, can and will crumble under a destitute economy. For some reason that tugs at my heart strings (and not only as a sports fan - yes, I'm a non-hockey-loving sports fan); I think because sports have and do hold a special place in our history. I suppose I would feel the same way if the big studios stopped producing movies. We don't need these things - but having them there reinforces the notion that we're okay. If we make time for play - to leave the daily grind, to imagine a world outside of our own, to follow games and storylines that don't really matter - then maybe we can feel like we're all still kids playing baseball on the street. Eventually our moms will call us in to dinner; but for now, there's 2 outs, there are runners on the corners, and Casey's at the bat.
Don't we need moments like that?