Ever since Congress held their first hearing about steroids and baseball denizens of the blogosphere, the mainstream media and the world of fandom have been critical of the government’s involvement in the world of sport (Check here, here, here, here and here for examples!). With the release of the Mitchell Report and the investigations into performance enhancing drugs in sports, and the continuing saga of the National Football League’s “SpyGate” scandal, the feds have increased their level of involvement.
With this increased level of involvement in the business of sports the criticism of the government has continued and grown. However, the people complaining about what the government is doing in regard to sports have not been paying attention to the encroachment of the government into all aspects of American life, particularly over the past 25+ years. Furthermore, these critics have not been following the news accounts that detail the feds’ involvement in all of the problems typically recited as being more important than what’s happening in sports.
The first problem with this criticism is that for too long, too many Americans have sat idly by while the government has inserted itself into so many aspects of every day life. This is not a political argument, but an observation. One person’s smoking or fast-food eating habit is another person’s love for sports.
Americans have let – and in some cases have invited – government to tell them what to eat or what they should feed their kids, where and when they can smoke or drink. People allow censorship of media and entertainment, accept edicts spelling out hiring practices of business, have permitted legislation allowing and disallowing certain kinds of religious expressions and have supported myriad legislation that affects our daily life. Many of the same people who cheered no-smoking legislation, or who want to regulate fast-food restaurants, are now decrying the government’s interest in what’s going on in the world of sport. The current state of governmental involvement in matters of sport is just a natural extension/progression of how Americans have allowed their elected officials to act, and reveals in large part what they expect from government.
The sub-prime lending crisis, the war on terror, the war in Iraq, gas prices and the possibility of an economic recession and the devaluation of the dollar are all major concerns of the day. To read or listen to those who are critical of governments’ involvement and oversight in matters of sports, you would think that the elected officials of the United States are doing nothing in the face of these real-world situations, when in fact there are thousands of news accounts that detail the steps that the US government has taken in response to these “crises.”
On this count, that the government has more important things to do than worry about sports, these people are way off base. The feds are involved in all of our problems and to state otherwise is to be ignorant of the world around you. Government involvement does not mean that problems will be solved, nor does it mean that the government will do things in a way everybody will agree with. That’s the problem with government involvement, and once they get started everything is fair game.
The argument can be made that the government should not be involved so intimately in the world of sport, but the underpinnings of this argument are not that the government has more important things to work on. Those folks critical of governments’ involvement in the world of sports need to look at the big picture and realize that just like every other aspect of American life, the government can meddle with whatever it sees fit because we've allowed them to do so. Sports are no different.
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