For reasons I won’t go into great detail at the moment, I’m quite dispassionate about professional sports. As valid as athletics are at building character, and even with the charitable good wrought by professional sports, I cannot wrap my head around the obsession in both time and money given to professional athletics. Though my childhood was dominated by carpools from one sporting event or practice to the next, I’m someone who fell out of love with professional sports. This is not a moral judgment; it is simply preferential. You’re free to disagree.
I’m also about as conservative as conservative gets by most of today’s standards. That includes economics. I believe in limited government intervention in the economy. I understand and support market demands. I love the free market, believing it the most dignifying economic system that a flawed humanity has ever devised. I abhor restricting economic choice. I believe artificial pricing harms. As a matter of prudence, I’m not persuaded the minimum does the good we’re told it does.
But when an athlete can amass the obscene sum of over one hundred million dollars for a single fight, my unblinking love for the free market—blinks. It concerns me.
Conceptually, the sum makes sense. A constituency arose that deemed the price for viewing such an event as contractually agreeable. A man’s unmatched caliber (supply) intersected with this constituency’s desire (demand) to pay for the pleasure of viewing his athletic prowess.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It means that capitalism doesn’t always esteem the values I view necessary for civic health (a reminder: Capitalism wrought a book featuring Kim Kardashian’s selfies). To me, to reward an athlete like this, even an athlete of unparalleled talent signifies that market demands are driven by disordered priorities. This isn’t to condemn any one athlete, or any one spectator in particular. It is, though, to question whether a nation’s “loves,” to channel Augustine, are properly ordered. A nation where candidates campaign off the backs of “everyday Americans” while said nation salivates at the ring of a bell (literally) that grossly awards hundreds of millions of dollars to one man seems skewed. Events like what occurred this weekend make cries about inequality ring hollow, because at the end of the day, the inequality that besets us most is often an inequality that we help perpetuate. It seems to me that events like this give evidence that our priorities as a nation are off; that our character seems validated more by celebrity and decadence than commonality and communal attentiveness. War veterans in our nation can go homeless due to mental health issues, but we’ll ensure that an athlete who beats a woman is given an aura and bank account of invincibility.
I know someone could reply and argue back, “Well, Andrew, that’s what exactly gave rise to the 99%’s protest over economic inequality. Your complaints echo our complaints about the obscenity of executive compensation.”
But I think there are some important differences.
The nature of this event, at least it seems to me, is entertainment-driven. It’s spectator-driven, where the primary actor in question (the athlete) is the only basis upon which there’s any interest at all. This is one man. He’s not overseeing a multi-national corporation where, literally, hundreds of thousands of jobs are wagered on one man’s ability to steer a mammoth organization shrewdly.
Moreover, the sum for this event staggeringly outpaces the salaries of existing professional athletics. Tell me where another athlete can amass that sum from participating in one event (rather than multiple seasons). I could be wrong, but the payout for this event seems incomparable.
I’m not saying that viewing or participating in events like these is sinful. Please hear that.
So, what of this? This is just a rant at what I don’t like and view as an imbalance. It’s just an opinion. At the end of the day, I don’t think such events with such payouts should be eliminated by any reason other than low demand. And that is why America is so great: I can sit here and tell you why exorbitant events like this weekend are silly. I can use the art of persuasion to lower demand. I can attempt to draw your affection away from what I consider egregious. At the end of the day, citizens should be free to partake in over-hyped events that have no effect on geo-political affairs. I guess that’s the beauty of the free-market: I have the choice not to subsidize such decadence—and you have the choice to ignore me.