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Duane Rollins

The culture of selfishness and MLS

We are living in the time of selfishness. It’s been moving that way since about 1980, so this isn’t a new thing, but in 2017 the I-don’t-give-a-****-about-what-you-think/want/feel attitude has gained widespread acceptance and power. Selfishness is so prevalent that simply labeling it as such is going to get you accused of being political and shouted down by those who view empathy as a weakness.

This could easily be the opening paragraph about any number of politically charged debates that are currently raging the world over, but instead we’re going to take the advice of the sports-loving snowflakes of the world and actually Stick To Sports here. Specifically, the story of the Columbus Crew potentially moving to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season.

There are many ways to take this story – we could talk about the business struggles in Columbus, or the history of the club, the potential of Austin as a market, or, even, about the ramifications of this potential move on the current MLS expansion process.

All would be potentially interesting conversations, and conversations that will probably happen if this move does go ahead. But, they would miss the core factor that underlines everything here.

Selfishness.

This is about a selfish owner in a selfish league trying to move a team to a selfish city with selfish fans only too happy to hurt others (in this case Crew fans) so long as it fulfils their needs.  

It’s telling that so many people just blindly accept this as being OK. Even if an individual has rejected the culture of selfishness on an individual level, most still accept that that’s just how the world works. No sense fighting it, right?

In the past, I have talked about the idea of a Social Contract and how it relates to professional sports. Very simply put, fans enter into a Social Contract with the teams they support to place value on something (the results of said team) that logically has no intrinsic value.

I’ll never forget the feeling of confusion and understanding that came over me as a young person back in 1992 when my beloved Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. As I was putting my jacket on to go join the celebration outside it occurred to me that I shouldn’t stay out too late as I had an exam the next day that I had yet to study for. “Damn,” I thought, “the Jays won and it really didn’t change my life. I still have to get up in the morning and slug my way through it.”

Despite that realization, I still hit the streets (and my ceiling, literally) the next season when Joltin’ Joe touched ‘em all.  I was right back there caring because I chose to care – I chose to make myself part of a larger community of like-minded people united behind a case that had no real impact on their lives beyond the emotional release they chose to give it.

This is where sports differs from other businesses and what those who subscribe to the culture of selfishness fail to understand about sports. When they strip a sports team down to its most basic business element they expose it to public for what it is – a frivolous, meaningless exercise that no logical person should care about.

Eventually everyone – even sports fans – has a limit on how far they suspend reality.  Eventually, we’ll stop caring as it becomes clearer that the teams/owners/players don’t.

Eventually, we’ll get selfish too and pull our support.


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