Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's the 2011! Nonsportsman! of the Year! Award!

And you said I'd never get around to it!

Major sporting events, of course, begin with a national anthem.

But this is a major nonsporting! event, and so we ask that you rise for The Hallelujah Chorus... played on a banjo:

That actually was quite stirring, I think we can all agree, and doesn't his beard kind of look like it's made out of actual bits of cloud? Also, it will help me in my quest to restore the dignity and honor of the banjo.

With that, it is time, once again, to bestow the highest honor our Constitution allows me to bestow, an award that has been given out every single year it was given out, going all the way back to the time I first gave out this award, which is quite a history, when you stop to think about it, which you ought not to do because you'll never go on to read the rest of this post.

The Nonsportsman! of the Year! Award! celebrates that person or thing which had the greatest impact on the world of sports that year, while not actually being a sportsman, which is why I call it the Nonsportsman award. If genius is 99% one type of spiration and 1% another type of spiration (I can never remember the mix right, which is why I'm not a genius), then sports can be rightly said to be 99% athletes and 1% other stuff, so, okay, I'm not as good with an aphorism as Ben Franklin, but if we're going to go around constantly comparing people to Ben Franklin, we're not going to get very much done and people are going to suffer from chronic low self-esteem. So let's move on.

Sports is 99% athletes and 1% other stuff, and this blog and the idea of a nonsportsman exists to celebrate that other stuff, recognizing that there are those who are good at sports and they probably spent their time beating up those of us who were not good at sports and who, once, when given a chance to pitch on their law school softball team, held a lead into the 8th inning, having given up only one hit and then were inexplicably replaced by the girl who organized the game, only to watch the more-popular, more-athletic person who replaced us give up seven runs and lose the game.

And somehow those of us who were not good at sports were blamed for that, which makes those of us who were not good at sports secretly glad that most if not all of those of us who were good at sports were, at last check, working as counterhelp at a dry cleaners and living with their parents even though they were well into their 30s. HA!

And so I celebrate people who have an impact on sports but aren't directly involved in sports, and, as is tradition, I hand out the runners-up prize first, just to make sure that the runner up knows he or she lost, and has to suck it up and pretend to be happy about winning second place even though he or she definitely is not happy about it.

Sports doesn't do that. Sports doesn't hand out the loser's trophy first. When the Super Bowl -- the epitome of sports, in that it is big, loud, overly-hyped, broadcast at an inconvenient time and often, when you get right down to it, boring -- is over, you don't even hear from the losers. They are banished, disappeared, renditioned the way the GOP wants to start doing to ordinary Americans because the only way to fight terrorism is to become more evil than terrorists themselves... wait, what?... and the Super Bowl focuses on winners: you get to see the Lombardi Trophy and the MVP trophy that should have gone to Clay Matthews last year when the Packers won and you get to see people hoisting their little kids up because we weren't getting sufficiently emotional about a bunch of millionaires winning a game.

But in nonsports, we hand out the loser's certificates first -- thanks for participating, we say, you lost, but here's a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni and a home version of the game to make you feel like crap -- and then go on to focus on the winners, because that's how real life works: In real life, when you lose, they remind you about it and you have to work for the guy who got the job you applied for and pretend it's okay.

So! Our 2011 loser... that is, runner-up for Nonsportsman! Of The Year! Award! is:

Jesus Christ.

Oh, Jesus had a pretty good year, didn't he? I mean, sure, he came in a little late, this year, but Jesus has always been a big player in the sports world, going back long before 2011. In fact, Jesus' impact on sports goes back to His actual lifetime, when He helped the apostles give up fishing to follow him, that being divine proof that fishing isn't a sport.

But this was the year Jesus upped His game considerably, serving as the Denver Broncos' 12th Man and helping Tim Tebow rack up both an impressive number of victories and an impressive number of people who got irritated by Tebow's existence and/or Christianity, which, for Tebow, appear to be pretty inextricably intertwined.

So omnipresent was Jesus (as you'd expect) that He not only got on the nerves of devout (?) atheists who are so insecure in their nonbelief that they feel the need to make fun of people who do believe, like Bill Maher, who tweeted (on Christmas Eve!)

Wow, Jesus just f***ed #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler “Hey, Buffalo’s killing them."
That, of course, incurred the wrath of conservatives, which, of course, was Bill Maher's intention (along with making himself feel better about not believing in something by pointing out that people who DO believe in God don't always get everything they want, a ridiculous straw man argument constantly raised by atheists to prove, or disprove, something or other about religion.)

(In claiming that Satan was Tebowing, Maher didn't just jump on the already-ended bandwagon of Tebowing too late and too lamely; he also muddied up his concept. Was he trying to say that Satan was mocking Tebow? Because from what I know about Christians [being one], if Satan is mocking you as a Christian, you're doing something right. Or is he saying Satan's a fan of Tebow, in which case, why would Satan be celebrating when Tebow was losing? That's (one of) the problem(s) with an ill-thought out, attention-seeking attack on religion made for the sake of making it.)

Hey, speaking of ill-thought-out attacks on religion, what does Kurt Warner have to say about Tebow's favorite Son of God?

You can't help but cheer for a guy like that," former NFL star Kurt Warner [told the Arizona Republic]. "But I'd tell him, 'Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you're living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.'

And Kurt Warner lives by his words. Kurt Warner always put down the boldness in regards to the words. Right, Kurt?

I wonder what Jesus might say about hypocrites?

Anyway, there's no doubt that as a result of Tebow, many, many sports fans this year began to view Jesus not just as the guy who ensured that Notre Dame scored touchdowns back when Notre Dame still had a football team (they don't anymore, right? I mean, I haven't heard about it since Charlie Weis was hired to dismantle it, so it doesn't exist anymore, does it?) but also that Jesus was a real, live guy who happened to live in Colorado.

Which is weird, because who'd have thought South Park was a documentary? Maybe what they said about Family Guy's writers is true, too?

But Jesus, try as He might, wasn't able to do more than be the runner-up for this award, because, in part, Jesus is only recently a Nonsportsman!; prior to this year, Jesus actually had a vibrant career in sports.

No, I'm not talking about the Onion's parody of Jesus' career:

I'm talking about Jesus' actual career in sports, as a two-sport athlete in baseball:

And in basketball:

That's right. Jesus was sort of a basketball-and-baseball version of Curtis Tomasevicz.

You all remember Curtis Tomasevicz, right? The famous athlete who played football at Nebraska before switching to a lucrative career as a bobsledder?

I wonder how much bobsledders make?

No time for that!

And no time, either, to wonder why, in that statue of Jesus playing basketball, He is apparently stealing the ball from a little kid and Lording (see what I did there?) his greater skill and height over them!

It's time to reveal the
2011! Nonsportsman! of the Year! Award!

recipient, and that winner is:

Collective bargaining.

You probably thought, you suckers sitting at home on your couches last year wondering just how hung over Ben Roethlisberger was in that Super Bowl, that you could tune out politics and just focus on sports and that everything would be all right, that the two parties would work out their differences and come to a compromise whereby the Democrats got a law passed that required their constituents to vote for them no matter how many times they abandoned their so-called "principles" and, in exchange, the Republicans got to ritually slaughter an "anchor baby" on the floor of Congress each month (and also, payroll tax cuts were extended for 28 minutes).

But you were wrong, because politics may be easy to ignore until the politicians go and cut school funding entirely and your kids face a life of prospects that would make a Chinese factory worker laugh and thank God he'd been born in China, but when you want attention, you get attention, if you are Collective Bargaining, that is.

Collective Bargaining, most people think, came into existence when Wisconsin Gov. Scott "Patsy" Walker and Ohio Gov. John "I Don't Have A Nickname For Him So Let's Call Him A Jerk Who Claimed His Wife Wouldn't Let Him Run For President" Kasich decided that the only possible way to pay for very minimal state services like "keeping kids from dying in the street" was to end collective bargaining.

(SPOILER ALERT! Even though collective bargaining was ended in Wisconsin, "keeping kids from dying in the street" ended up being too expensive, still, for Wisconsin to put into effect this year, and so Gov. Patsy was forced -- forced! -- to kick 53,000 people off of Medicare before the end of the year, probably so he could afford to go on paying nearly $300,000 to hire private lawyers to defend the law that he got passed ending collective bargaining, because the Wisconsin Attorney General is too busy rooting out terrorist training camps in Wisconsin to take part in actual state government. This has been your Wisconsin Government Minute Spoiler Alert!)

Collective Bargaining at that point was simply something that politicians said and talked about but that didn't really matter, like other things politicians said and talked about that didn't matter, like deficits and health care and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and civil liberties; nobody paid any attention to Collective Bargaining, and if they did pay attention to it, they did so only because the people who were talking about it were sleeping in the Capitol or being unshaven or otherwise kind of disreputable.

But Collective Bargaining, like a retired-but-still-attention-seeking Kurt Warner, will not be ignored, and so Collective Bargaining forced itself into our collective consciousness by taking out the one thing people truly care about: sports.

Think I'm overstating that? Think again. Consider Wisconsin alone. Good ol' Wisconsin, all progressive and whatnot. This year, Wisconsin cut spending, cut pay for government workers, kicked the aforementioned 53,000 people off of Badgercare (a Republican! program, for God's sake), killed a railroad, talked about putting in pay-per-use roads, and enacted all kinds of other spending-cutting measures because we're out of money, or so it was said, and Wisconsinites, good ol' Wisconsinites with their beer-and-cheese bellies and jovial, fat natures, went along with it because we're out of money, or so it was said, and then Wisconsinites, good ol' Wisconsinites, with their deer-hunting beards and Wisconsin Dells, gave $62,000,000 voluntarily to the Green Bay Packers.

Wait, I didn't say that right. Let me try again.

Wisconsinites, after a year of letting their Patsy of a governor cut everything in the world gave $62 $##($#&%^&$ million #$(#*#%&% dollars volun$(#*#%&#(tarily to the Green Bay $#(##*%&%%^& Packers.
So don't tell me we care about anything more than we care about sports.

Collective Bargaining, aware that the only thing that gets most Americans to do anything at all is sports thus forced its way into the sports world, locking out the NFL for most of the offseason (something that turned out to matter not much at all, other than to reduce by about 0.000001% the amount of speculation centered on Brett Favre), and reducing training camp to what felt like 4 days, but when that didn't work -- obviously, because right about when the NFL season started, people went right back to sleeping through the rest of their lives and allowed Republicans to start holding up legislation simply for the sake of holding up legislation, Collective Bargaining decided that it had to do more, and so it took the NBA hostage, which I personally didn't care about but which lots of other people apparently did.

Collective Bargaining was more (or maybe less?) effective with the NBA, canceling about 1/4 of the season which would be a major victory for Collective Bargaining but let's face it, America actually cares very little about the NBA regular season, a season that matters less than any other regular season of any other sport at any level; the NBA regular season has about as much impact on the NBA playoffs as baseball's cactus league does, and that's why nobody really cared about the NBA lockout which in reality may not have been so much a lockout as it was simply a cost-saving measure by the league, anyway: A year or so ago, David Stern warned that the NBA needed to cut costs by about 38%, and one way to cut your payroll expenses is to not have your workers show up for 1/4 of the time. (Far-fetched? I think not: David Stern has shown that he is willing to manipulate teams for the good of the NBA time and again. ["Good of the NBA" being defined as "whatever David Stern wants and/or Mark Cuban does not want"])

Collective Bargaining didn't just attack football and basketball; no, its efforts were far more far-reaching. Spanish soccer players went on strike, demanding back wages and that Americans stop calling it soccer, Italian soccer players stopped working because of changes to their collective bargaining agreement and only just came back to playing, with much of the season canceled. Tennis players threatened to strike, and who even knew there was a union of tennis players?

Collective bargaining even went after the 1% directly -- shutting down part of the Joffrey Ballet's season, a move that all but guaranteed Swan Lake its first-ever shot at the playoffs.

What was the end result of all that collective bargaining and not working?

Not much, in some cases, but much in others.

In Spain, the futbolers got a promise to pay them the wages they'd already been promised to be paid.

The NBA contract, in almost all respects, appears worse for the players, who get less money given to them and support for small-market teams which is a great idea in theory if you happen to hate capitalism and the free market (if teams want to move, let them move. The economic impact of having a pro sports team is vastly overstated in almost every instance, so market interventions to keep teams in a given location are simply subsidies for a small minority of fans, or protection for incompetent management.) Players get a higher percentage of cap space guaranteed to be spent, but less job security-- teams can now dump a player each year with no salary cap hit.

The NFL seemingly didn't change much but the devil was in the detail: teams were committed to spending at least 99% of their salary cap space, which could end the practice of teams like Green Bay and Tampa Bay hoarding money under the cap and underpaying players -- saving money at the expense of the product on the field, in some cases -- and a draft-class salary cap which ought to end the practice of giving huge sums to rookies while requiring veterans to rework their contracts, providing a little fairness on the rosters. (The Players' Association didn't do much to end the habit of handing $24,000,000 to unproven-but-popular players like Trebuchet Fitzpatrick, and didn't impose an upper salary limit on individual players like Peyton Manning, which means that teams will still be free to drastically overpay some people at the expense of putting a higher-quality product on the field, and the players association didn't do anything to allow advertising on game-worn jerseys, which would likely increase revenues by a huge percentage, but which advertising is being held back in part by the Brothers Manning, who would lose individual deals that make them lots of money, so in many ways the NFL still kind of mirrors regular society, with 1% of the people controlling too much of the power and wealth, but it's a start.)

But let's not be too pessimistic: As with the Wisconsin State Senator recalls, achieving a significant percentage of your goal is a victory, and sometimes it counts a lot if you just show up and fight -- that's the message of #Occupy Wall Street, after all: just be, and by reminding people that you exist, maybe that will help everyone pay attention and start fixing the problems. And in that sense, Collective Bargaining didn't just carry the torch for a while in 2011, but it lit the flame, earning it Nonsports' Highest Honor.


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