If you know me, then you know that I spend a majority of my time reading, writing, and generally thinking a lot. I always try to use any and all of the channels of communication at my disposal to get people to think. If people think, read, and educate themselves, then they are in prime position to make meaningful and positive change.
When I read a book, I read to find out if it is a book that does just that. Does it make you think? Does it challenge the current way of doing things? I recently finished Bad Sports by Dave Zirin, and it is a book that surely makes you think. It is certainly a must read for anybody in or looking to break into the sportsbiz.
Bad Sports takes you through various examples of destructive and incompetent ownership, sports welfare through stadium/arena building, and offers one underlying solution to these two huge issues. Zirin, currently writing for The Nation, does a fantastic job taking some of the most gruesome examples of ownership debauchery and brings them to light. The way he outlines the rich-get-richer scheme that sports is currently modeled as is truly maddening.
Before you read this, especially if you are simply a sports “fan,” you probably do not see many issues. You may see some things here and there that bother you, but nothing that requires a complete changing of the current system. This book shows that there is not only a problem with ownership but perhaps an epidemic of bad ownership.
The thing that really caught my attention was the fact that in American sports, the players are always blamed. I never really thought about it before, but it is true. Sure we blame owners a little bit, but the players are always the ones that carry a bulk of the burden. It was interesting to see this in contrast to the ownership-fan relationship that the Tom Hicks and Liverpool had with their fans. The fans hated him virtually from the beginning and even tried to band together and buy the team from Hicks.
It all brings you to Zirin’s solution to the problem which is public ownership of sports franchises. This would give the people a say in the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on lavish renovations and brand new facilities. Does it really make sense for a multi-billionaire to rely on tax-payer dollars to fund a stadium project especially when it comes at the expense of infrastructure, schools, and anything else requiring immediate public funds? Though it seems like a logical and feasible solution, both the National Football League and Major League Baseball have all but outlawed this as an allowable ownership structure. The Green Bay Packers, the only publicly owned team, were essentially grandfathered in and until there is a change, will never be allowed again.
I highly suggest Bad Sports by Dave Zirin to anybody looking to get into the sports industry. The book may make you think twice about the industry you think you know and love.
Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter @kevin_rossi.