For those who don’t like when I write about sports, consider this more of a movie review that I’ve wanted to do for a while.
But first, after two years of wrangling and a 149-day lockout, the NBA owners (billionaires) and players (millionaires) finally reached a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA.
I suppose it’s a sign of the times when the sports page includes terms like CBA, and even more so when it includes “child molestation.” Every day lately there are more allegations. What does the sports world think it is, the Catholic Church?
I was actually hoping there wasn’t going to be an NBA season. Now I feel like it’s “Godfather III” and I’m the over-acting Al Pacino: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
The 66-game NBA season will begin on Christmas Day. Neither here nor there, when Commissioner David Stern announced the agreement, had he been wearing a yarmulke and tallit (prayer shawl), he’d have been a dead ringer for the president of my temple.
The players agreed to give back approximately $300 million a year in salary, whereas the owners’ concession was no more long-winded press conferences from Stern (sports equivalent of water boarding).
The owners basically said to the players, you must protect us against our own greed. The fact is no player ever put a gun to an owner’s head for a $100 million contract. (The closest being when Latrell Sprewell choked his coach, which gave new meaning to the term “choke artist.”)
While it’s difficult for most fans to have sympathy for millionaire players, I do lament the decline of the labor movement in America. In the 1950s “golden age,” 35 percent of our workforce was unionized. These jobs paid well enough that only one parent needed to work and the children went to state colleges, which were essentially free.
Today, union membership is 12 percent and dropping like Herman Cain’s poll numbers. Now both parents have to work (if lucky enough to have jobs). And college is so expensive that it’s for the elite, those on scholarship or those willing to graduate with $50,000 in student loans. (What a lovely graduation present!)
When I went to UCLA, tuition was $150 a year. (And no, I didn’t commute in a horse and buggy.) Today, it’s $15,000 a year, a mere 10,000 percent hike. So, when people at patriotic rallies proudly shout out “USA is No. 1” I’m not sure what they are referring to, unless it’s which country is simultaneously involved in the most wars.
Labor’s decline may have begun in 1980 with the election to the White House of Ronald Reagan, who had once been head of a union — the Screen Actors Guild. Even more ironic, among the legions of “Reagan Democrats” were a high percentage of union workers. And yet, one of the first orders of business for Reagan (after removing solar panels from the White House roof) was to break the Air Traffic Controllers’ union.
But Reagan was so congenial that he was the “Teflon” president as nothing stuck, not even his tragic inaction over the AIDS crisis. Nor did he get flak for huge deficits, or the 283 marines who died in Lebanon, or his 11 tax hikes. (The latter would have given Grover Norquist a stroke.)
If Reagan were running today, the Tea Party would be staging nationwide protests, hopefully not in costume. Meanwhile, it’s perhaps a morbid coincidence that there’s now evidence that Teflon causes cancer.
But enough reminiscing about Teflon, or even the 1950s, which weren’t so golden for minorities or women. But at least back then sports were an escape from society’s ills. Now they’re front and center. Why? Sports are big business. As Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein, “Follow the money.”
The child molestation cover up at Penn State protected the highly successful football program, which brought the university a staggering $1.5 billion endowment. Meanwhile, nobody cares about the victims who coincidentally brought in bupkis.
Then there’s the Syracuse basketball sex scandal. Because of the statute of limitations, there will be no legal consequences for former associate head coach Bernie Fine, the alleged molester. That’s infuriating.
But now for the mini-movie review of “Godfather III,” released in 1990. I realize I’m 21 years late so let’s just say I’m a procrastinator. Anyway, the movie was so horrific that the audience in the theater I saw it in cheered when the heroine (played by Coppola’s daughter) was shot. She died such an overly dramatic, ludicrously slow death that one person in the crowd shouted, “Die already, bitch!” Never a good sign.
Back to reality. With Social Security, Medicare and education cutbacks skyrocketing, and wars, costly in treasure and lives, still raging, apparently there will be an NBA season. And, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ll probably be watching.
If he’s not too busy following NBA training camps, Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.