Two recent events in the world of professional sports offer important insights into American life today.
The NFL story concerns an ad ABC TV showed before Monday Night Football to promote its hit show "Desperate Housewives." As described by USA Today, the ad "showed towel-clad actress Nicollette Sheridan trying to entice Philadelphia Eagles star Terrell Owens to skip the game. He agrees as she drops the towel and rushes into his arms." ABC and the NFL have apologized.
The NBA story concerns the worst American sports riot in memory. At the Detroit arena, members of the Indiana Pacers ran into the stands and fought with fans after fighting with Detroit Pistons players.
Three important lessons:
First, let's finally stop repeating the false notion that big business has conservative values. Big business has no values. Big businesses are concerned with making money for their stockholders. Nothing else matters to publicly owned companies.
Liberals perpetuate the falsehood of big business as conservative for three reasons: They have a materialist view of the world (just about everything is explainable by economic status and motives; it aids in getting people to vote Democrat); many people resent the amorality of big companies; and it seems to counter the argument that the major news media are liberal -- "How could the news media possibly be liberal when they are all owned by large corporations!"
If ABC or Fox or any other network could increase ratings by showing an orgy during "Captain Kangaroo," they would.
Second, it is yet another example of how deep the values divide in America is that liberal commentators overwhelmingly ridiculed concern with ABC showing the raunchy promo right before televising the widely watched Monday Night Football game. From The New York Times sports pages to USA Today's editorial page, there was annoyance with those who objected to the promo, not with the promo itself.
For example, many liberal commentators offered the novel idea that if the football player -- or Janet Jackson -- had been white, few would have objected. The only other liberal annoyance was that a woman was portrayed as a sex object. Nothing about protecting children or the concept of public decency.
Liberal opinion makers tend to have little regard for an issue that deeply concerns most conservatives -- how high or low the decency level of public life is. That is why liberals are more likely to be apathetic toward public cursing as well as to public displays of sexual behavior. Indeed, they consider it the height of conservative hypocrisy for Republicans to order an R-rated movie in their hotel rooms, or curse privately and then object to such behaviors when done publicly.
Yet the difference (which is lost on some conservatives as well) is enormous, aside from what children will see. For those -- conservative or liberal -- who do not see the difference between public and private behavior, I cite the simple example of a man relieving himself. In private it is perfectly appropriate; in public it is highly inappropriate.
In all liberal societies, people are losing a sense of what is appropriate. For most liberals today, the issue of appropriate behavior pales in comparison to prescription drug prices and other economic concerns. That is why Janet Jackson's breast baring at the NFL Super Bowl and the ABC promo are no big deal to most liberals. Yet, to most social conservatives, they represent a society in decline. If you wanted a clear values difference, that is about as clear as it gets.
Third, regarding the fan-inspired riot in Detroit, it is widely believed that alcohol played a major role in the fans' behavior -- such as screaming obscenities at players and throwing objects at them. The availability of alcohol at sporting events despite the fact that fan behavior obviously deteriorates as games progress and self-control weakens is another example of big business putting profits above everything.
But there is a deeper lesson.
From the beginning of the crusade against tobacco I have argued that the war against tobacco was a sign of a morally confused, if not morally lost, generation. That this generation chose to make war on smoking (which is dangerous to one's health but leads to no evil) rather than on alcohol (which accompanies most child abuse, spousal beatings, acquaintance rape and other violent crimes) was almost all one needed to know about the elite's changed moral priorities since the last crusade against a vice (Prohibition).
When I was a kid, people got dressed up to go to ballgames, and the worst words fans screamed were "you're a bum" or "kill the ump." But, of course, many people smoked. Today there is no smoking even at outdoor stadiums, but many fans scream obscenities and routinely act like lowlifes. This is because we have substituted preoccupation with smoking for preoccupation with cursing. We have, in short, put concern with health over concern with character.
One can learn a lot about life from sports. Unfortunately, however, as far as professional basketball and football are concerned, the lessons to be learned are largely negative.
Maybe we should stay home for a while.