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We Love Our Politics and Our Sports … for the Slugfests

GELFAND’S WORLD--When the history of 2015 is finally on the shelf, politics will be among its central stories. In the long run, controlling global warming is more important because survival depends on it, but politics is of immediate interest because it has become a battle over freedom, health, and economic growth. The Republicans concentrate on freedom from taxation, while they demand the power to limit the religious freedom of others. Democrats are less concerned about lowering taxes, and more concerned about holding onto reproductive choice. There's definitely a clash of civilizations, and it's right here at home. 

This year has been fairly predictable on the Democratic side. There is the possible exception of the Bernie Sanders story, but I predict that Sanders will finish pretty much where he is right now, with an honorable second place finish. I could be wrong on that. Bernie's public apology to Hillary and to his own supporters over the Democratic National Committee files is indicative of somebody who feels more comfortable telling the truth than relying on comfortable white lies. There is a certain resemblance to the Obama candidacy in this. It's the sort of virtue that appeals to a lot of voters. But Sanders is carrying three decades more of life than Obama was at the same point, and I think this will be the issue that Sanders can't defeat. 

The story of 2015 will be recorded on the Republican side for how bizarre it has become. I offer my own humble interpretation of what has been going on. It's a spin on my interpretation of the 2004 election, a view that went entirely contrary to Republican crowing, and also to the Democratic crying and sobbing. But this interpretation fits the puzzle pieces together better than other interpretations I find. 

The 2004 election involved a legitimate war hero in the form of John Kerry, running against the fairly inadequate George W Bush. When the dust cleared, and Bush was the victor, Democrats figuratively wandered the desert in confusion. They bought into the explanation that Bush had won on family values and all that stuff. God, Guns, and Gays is how the left wing described the Republican approach. Democrats talked in whispers about trying to slice off a larger percent of the evangelical voters. It wasn't obvious how Democratic Party values and policies were supposed to accomplish that, but people like Marc Cooper saw through the futility of that approach. 

My view was that the American people were more than willing to engage in bloody vengeance against the entire ethnic group they saw as guilty of the September 11 attack. They just didn't want to have to look into the mirror and admit to themselves that they were willing to countenance mass killing. But deep down, they knew they could trust George W Bush to be the bad guy they needed, and they could rationalize it all by telling themselves that they were really supporting Christian values. 

No wonder the Democrats were confused. 

Now we have a situation that is not all that different. There is actually an eerie similarity to 2004. When it comes to the Republican primary battle, those Iowa saints sure do love their sinners. At least that's the interpretation you have to adopt if you want to explain the Trump story. Here's a guy who is profane and doesn't believe in that love thy neighbor stuff, particularly when the neighbors are standing alongside him on the debate stage, or are the inhabitants of an adjacent country. I don't think we've heard this level of spiteful contempt since the days of George Wallace. 

Of course there is also Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas who has taken the role of the religious obsessive. The Republican voters are split between a New York bad boy acting out the juvenile delinquent role, and the senator who plays at being the holiest of all. Holiness is running second in most of the country. 

What's running first is fear and anger. When Tea Party voters, now Trump supporters, explain that they want to take their country back, you have to ask, "From whom?" The answer, I think, has become pretty clear. They mean that they want to take it back from the people who aren't exactly like them. 

A change of subject: LA is still an NFL-free zone 

The year 2015 has been notable for the discussions about bringing either one or two professional football teams to the area. Luckily, the possibility of a stadium at the intersection of the 10 and the 110 freeways died a quiet death. This was not for lack of bowing and scraping by the city's elected officials. They were willing to turn downtown into an even worse traffic nightmare than it is now. This was in spite of the weight of evidence that shows that professional sports teams don't bring in net revenue or jobs to the areas they move into. 

As of now, NFL owners in Oakland, St Louis, and San Diego are talking about moving to Los Angeles. Predictably, the elected officials in these towns are bending over backwards to try to keep their teams. 

St Louis just voted to spend $150 million of its taxpayers' money to build a new football stadium for the once-Cleveland Rams, who then became the Los Angeles Rams, and more recently became the St Louis Rams. The real dollar total would be a lot more, since the proposal would involve state money and forgiveness of local taxes. The whole ugly story is summarized neatly by USA Today

As the story explains, "In addition to the city's $150 million and $300 million from the league, the St. Louis stadium proposal calls for $250 million from the team owner, $160 million in fan seat licenses, and the rest of the money from the state, either through tax credits or bonds." Notice that curious item about fan seat licenses. A seat license is the fee you have to pay to be allowed to pay for tickets. 

For many years, NFL owners have been using the existence of Los Angeles to extract money from cities and states in order to build stadiums. It still seems to be working, as recent events in Minnesota and now Missouri demonstrate. The question is whether the NFL has more to gain by putting a team in Los Angeles than it has to gain by retaining the status quo. 

Keeping L.A. free of professional football provides economic benefits to the majority of NFL owners. As new stadiums grow older, the local NFL owners will want to extract money from their cities to build even grander structures. The owner of a team playing in a stadium that 15 years old will be thinking about getting a new one in another 10 or 15 years. 

Don't believe it? Check out the age of the stadium that the Rams say isn't good enough, or read this paragraph from that USA Today article: "But there was plenty of opposition. Alderwoman Sharon Tyus recalled it was just 24 years ago when the same governmental body approved financing to build the now-outdated Edward Jones Dome, the Rams' current home." 

On the other hand, there could be economic incentives to moving a team or two into the basin. There are television revenues to be multiplied, or so it is said. This is a curious claim because Angelenos watch plenty of pro football on television already. It's not obvious that having a local team would bring in that many more viewers. This would be especially true if the team isn't winning. There would, however, be a whole new round of football jersey sales. 

Will the possibility of spectacular new traffic jams in the L.A. area on game days depend on the possibility of shirt sales? We'll get a better idea after the NFL owners meet in January.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)  

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 104

Pub: Dec 25, 2015