Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The Cost of Football

Pro football came from virtually nowhere fifty years ago to dominate the culture-- because of its aggressive marketing posture and because it knows how to engage and entertain people.

One sees the effects of the Philadelphia Eagles football success, as library branch locations across town cut back their hours. As was well-documented by the "PAW" Philadelphia Arts Writers publication a while back, the city pumped a billion dollars or so into new stadiums. SPORTS is a greater priority in this country than reading!

Events like the Superbowl have become playthings for monster corporations, whose executives jam skyboxes for tax write-off "business meetings" while watching the game. When it comes to scamming taxpayers, unlike arts scammers, these players are truly Big League.

Next year the Superbowl will be held in Detroit, at a glistening new stadium standing amid a sea of poverty in that most devastated of American cities, while the city shuts down schools and bus service because it has no money. Cameras at the event should be pointed not at the game on the field, but at the corporate bigwigs stuffing their faces-- then cut to shots of the reality of the wasteland of a city outside.

When I lived in Detroit in '98 I co-edited a lit-zeen called Pop Literary Gazette. We promoted it with rah-rah in-your-face pro sports-style noise and attitude. The journal got a sneering review from the then-arts editor at the city's weekly "alternative" paper. (He also worked as an English prof at the local university, as did his equally snobby elitist "language poet" wife.) This character mocked our zeen for its noise (a forerunner of the ULA, obviously), and put us down for behaving like sports fans! When fans and noise is exactly what literature needs. We had dared move words out of their quiet safe and stuffy mothballed closet and this bothered the museum caretakers.

Literature's imperative is to energize the populace, to get people other than the homeless and impoverished mothers looking for cheap daycare to care about libraries. Yes, reading is a personal experience (though public reading events sure aren't)-- but that doesn't mean words can't still connect with the heart and soul of individuals; that books and zeens can't move people!

(There will be a protest in Philly about the branch library closings at the Main Library, 20th and Vine or whatever are the cross streets, 10 a.m. this Saturday.)

1 comment:

Tony Christini said...

Dave Zirin does excellent reporting and writings on sports and social issues. Great site, great newsletter: