Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Sunday Soapbox: "It's Just Business" -- How Much For That Ditty In The Window?

In any given week there are usually one or two stories in hockey, or the sports world in general, that are guaranteed to annoy, confuse, amuse or just plain piss me off enough to talk about.

Rather than continue to inflict these meaningless rants on Beloved during our daily commute (although I will miss the eye rolls), I thought I'd explore them here in a new feature I'm calling The Sunday Soapbox. Like it? Hate it? Think I should just do everybody a favour and get the hell off the internets, leaving them to people who know better? Let me know in the comments.

This week: HNIC, The Song, and putting a price on being "a fan". Please ensure onions are firmly affixed to belt prior to proceeding.

The saddest statement I've run across (so far) in the HNIC Theme Song imbroglio came from "Louis". I've never met Louis. I have nothing against Louis. I'm sure Louis is a fine fellow. But Louis depressed the shit out of me.

In a brief exchange in the comments section of the New York Times coverage of the saga, Louis and I debated the relative wisdom of the CBC's decision. When I pointed out that if Ms. Claman and her lawyers were just trying to squeeze the song for the largest possible pay-day, as Louis was implying, they could simply sell the tune to TSN for "a thousand times more" than Mother Corps had ever paid. It was Louis' response that depressed me. "Then she should do that and quit squeezing the CBC. It’s just business."

"It's just business". If we, as a society are indeed going to hell in a hand cart as some of our more "eccentric" members insist, then that phrase would adorn the license plate. The sad implication is that all things are expendable, and that anything can be sacrificed, as long as it "makes good business sense". This may hold for strictly "business" transactions (although a few Enron investors may beg to differ), but in the sports world it's scariest string of words a fan can hear. Because "it's just business" has no room for the deep emotional investment we, as fans, make in our favourite sports.

"It's just business" tells us, the fans, that not only do our passion and loyalty not matter, but worse, that the owners of the teams to whom we freely give that loyalty and passion couldn't give a rat's ass about either.

"It's just business" is why hockey fans in Winnipeg, Quebec City and Hartford no longer have teams to cheer for and why Hamilton never will.

"It's just business" is why we've replaced grand old arenas like the Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, Boston Gardens, The Spectrum, and Chicago Stadium, infused as they were with history, character and noise with soulless cookie cutters stuffed with luxury boxes whose "naming rights" are whored out to whichever corporate pimp comes up with the biggest cheque.

"It's just business" is why, on most nights, you can hear a pin drop in most arenas as the well healed snack on sushi and Perrier in those boxes, throwing an occasional glance to the ice between rounds before disappearing half way through the third to beat traffic.

"It's just business" is why a working class family has to spend the equivalent of their mortgage payment to go to a game.

"It's just business" is why that same family, after spending that money, can only hope to actually enjoy a hockey game amid the deafening music that has replaced the organist, the commercials running on the scoreboard or the blinding array of strobe lights and flashing signs exhorting them to "MAKE SOME NOISE!!" five seconds after the aforementioned deafening music killed the spontaneous chants of the crowd.

And "It's just business" is why people like Louis will never understand how, in a sports landscape where all of the traditions and lore that make being a sports fan worthwhile are slowly and constantly being stolen from us in the name of turning a buck, losing some silly song would mean so much. And that makes me sad.

1 comment:

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