Ever since I first saw Might Ducks I have become a fan of a good sports movie... wait a second, I'm not saying Might Ducks is a good sports movie, but it got me interested in the blend of sports and cinema. The other night I watched The Rocket: The Story of Maurice Richard - I really enjoyed it. It might have moved too slowly for some people and it may have more hockey history in it than the average movie going person would really care about it, BUT it left a dent in my thoughts on pro sports.
It was interesting watching the movie of Maurice Richard and seeing the challenges he faced as a young French Canadian playing in the NHL. The number of times he was in the middle of racial tension and prejudice was quite something.
It got me thinking about today's professional sports. Do sports have the same impact on social change today? What will people remember of pro sports today, 20, 30, 40 years from now?
With pro sports really only having a place in peoples lives in the last hundred years or so, there have been some incredible social change because of pro sports. Social barriers between the rich and poor have been broken; racial prejudice and discrimination in sports has been removed; opportunities for higher education have been provided through sports; governments have changed rulings and laws because of sporting events; professional sports has been able to be used as a platform for change and the world around it.
After watching The Rocket, I was left wondering where professional sports is today. We don't have the same issues that they faced 50 years ago. You don't see or hear of issues of racial discrimination in sports. You don't hear of social classes being treated very poorly. Pro sports today, I think, has lost the impact it once had in culture and society.
Today pro sports are driven by the fans. Fans are the reason for billion dollar stadiums, 20,000 foot JUMBO screens, piles and piles of merchandise and the list goes on. If it wasn't for the mass following of fans, pro sports would cease to exist. The fans are what gets team owners excited for record ticket sales. They are what pays the crazy million dollars, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollar salaries of players. Today's pro sports shows the incredible excess of resources going to waste in Western Society and our cultures continued approach in self destructing itself.
I know this is something I don't typically write on my blog, but it's something that I feel needs to be said. Don't get me wrong, I love sports. I love playing and watching sports. I love the community sports can build leading up to playoff games. I love the camaraderie of playing on a team and the hard work and sweat that goes into working towards a common goal. I love the direct analogies of sports to business and even personal life; using sports to help you become a better person, community and so on. So you see, I love sports, I love the game, but I don't like where things have gone.
I brought this all up with a friend the other day. We had a good discussion and he left me thinking about a few things. One of his replies to me was that just because we don't see the same social change that people saw with the first African American playing Major League Baseball or that we don't see social class not being an issue in stadiums is a good thing. Those things are gone and we can be happy with it. I agree, those things are gone, but there are other issues, there are other battles for humanity to fight and win. Imagine if we actually saw a social campaign from the NHL to wipe Canada of inner city poverty. Imagine if the NBA decided it no longer wanted another child to miss a meal a day again in the USA. Imagine if the NFL wanted to get behind the movement of providing clean drinking water for everyone in the world. What would happen?
Now I'm not saying that pro sports isn't involved in any of these types of initiatives, but I do believe there needs to be a real, strengthened approach of the entire leagues to make change. I am sure there are pockets of stories of players making great change in their area of influence, but they are far too often over shadowed with the demise and downfall of another baseball using steroids or another NFL player committing murder. What would happen if the leagues stood up to make a real difference? What if they decided to skip the press conference to get the front page picture and paid more attention to the people in need? Could pro sports really change the world we live in?
Pro sports has the financial backing today to make social change. It has the celebrity of its players to encourage its fans. Pro sports could show people in the next 50 years how it has changed the world for the better. I hope it does.
What are your thoughts on pro sports and social change?