Monthly Archives: August 2010

the business of baseball, the illusion of sport stewardship

“Players play. Fans watch. Owners are uniquely charged with being stewards of the game. It’s a task that they have failed to perform in spectacular fashion.” – Dave Zirin

This week, has been publishing leaked financial documents from several Major League Baseball teams, including the Florida Marlins, Tampa Bay (Don’t Call Them Devil) Rays, Seattle Mariners, (Los Angeles) Angels of Anaheim, Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers. The documents confirm sports fans’ worst suspicions: that owners are in it for the money, first, the prestige, second, and care about winning third, or maybe even not at all.

The documents paint “a picture that shows clubs at the low and middle level of player payroll spending are, for the most part, pulling a profit,” notes Business of Sports columnist Maury Brown. Despite the fact that many of these so-called “small market” teams are chronically uncompetitive, and complain compulsively about their inability to match the team salaries of the “big-market” clubs.

Seems the owners of the “small-market” teams are doing just fine, thank you. And it appears that losing pays far better than one may have thought it did. Who knew that owning an absolutely awful team like the Pittsburgh Pirates or Kansas City Royals could be so profitable?  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Consumerism

anarchy in the soccer stadium: fc st. pauli is back in germany’s bundesliga

Here’s my piece on the anti-capitalist, anarchy-embracing soccer club FC St. Pauli, which was featured in Counterpunch this past Friday.



Professional sports are big business. Top-flight players receive more money in one season than most dream of seeing in their lifetime. Billionaire owners seem more intent on the bottom line than on their team’s place in the league standings. Ticket prices continue to rise, squeezing the wallets of more and more fans. In this era of free agency and million-dollar transfer-fees, it is easy to be cynical, to think that the soul of sport, the integrity of competition, has been lost to the values of big business forever. Just don’t tell that to the rabid soccer fans of the German Bundesliga’s FC St. Pauli.

Simply put, FC St. Pauli is a little different than your average sports team.

A perennial second division (aka minor leagues) club, FC St. Pauli nevertheless regularly sells out their 20,000-seat Millerntor stadium. The team enters onto the field while the speakers blare AC/DC’s “Hells Bells,” and players are greeted by fans waving pirate flags and other signs of anarchic rebellion. A scent of marijuana hanging over the crowd, and their fans pulsate in unison, as if attending an all-night rave. All of which makes perfect sense for a team who plays its home games in the red-light district of Hamburg.

But what may at first appear to be a sociological study in the art of controlled chaos is really nothing of the kind. The St. Pauli experience is heavily influenced by their artist, punk and left-wing intellectual followers, which makes the Millerntor stadium one of the most tolerant sporting venues in all of Europe, if not the world.

Read more …

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Filed under Consumerism, Lifestyle Economics

delusions of grandiosity: only the ultra-rich need apply

The rap sheet of wealthy wannabe politicians self-financing their own career ambitions reads like a bad stand-up routine for some struggling late night comic.

Heard about the California senatorial candidate who will “fight for every job”? As head of Hewlett-Packard, she laid-off 18,000 workers in 2003 alone. (Snare drum, cymbal hit.)

What about the senatorial candidate in Connecticut whose economic recovery plan “is backed by experience”? She made her money in professional wrestling. (Another drum, cymbal combo.)

And how about the candidate for governor of California who spent close to $25 million of his own money, but is still is losing in the polls? His opponent has spent close to $100 million of the cash she made as chief executive of eBay. (Drum. Cymbal. On and on and on.)

It would all be so ironically humorous if the circumstances weren’t so maddeningly dire. Can’t the wealthy just go off on their yachts, drinking martinis and making up words like “derivative” and leave everyone else in economically recessive peace? Are they collectively allergic to boredom? “Doing stuff is overrated,” noted slacker philosopher Dex in The Tao of Steve. “Like Hitler. He did a lot. But don’t we all wish he woulda just stayed home and gotten stoned?”  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountable Wealth, Lifestyle Economics

toward a new economic reality

Last month, Detroit hosted 15,000 activists at the 2010 U.S. Social Forum. I had hoped to make it but couldn’t, and have been eagerly reading reports from various attendees over the last couple weeks. Two accounts of the forum that have caught my attention deal with the most essential questions of change: How do we achieve societal transformation, and what does this look like from an economic standpoint?

In the recent Resource Generation Blog post, “Learning From History: Freedom Summer, Current Summer,” Jessie Spector reflects on the successes and struggles of the Freedom Summer of 1964, and wonders what successes await today’s progressive movement, and what struggles continue to stand in our way.

The summer of 1964 saw thousands of (mostly White, northeastern) college kids volunteer with the (mostly Black, southern) SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. While the SNCC had been on the “frontlines” of the Civil Rights Movement for some time, the volunteers were (as volunteers often are) removed from the immediacy of the work, both geographically and psychologically.  Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Economic Justice, Social Change