Words

by Corey

Three men sat at a table today and congratulated each other on a job well done. Not only had they sold their interests in a local business, but they had managed to make that business profitable after purchasing it from previous, nefarious management. Along with this, the company had been an important player in its industry, innovated on a few new concepts, adapted others. They were never the best, but they had been good. The company had been sold at profit, and two of them will ride off into the sunset.

This probably happens all the time in these here United States. We never really stop to discuss and gab about InVestoCorp Industries or MegaEcoSynergy Inc. But when a stick or ball is involved, it becomes life and death.

I am coming around to the idea that large scale professional sports has more of a detrimental influence on our society than a positive one. It provides a poor return on investment. Sports can often become a zero-sum game. Either you win or lose, and eventually, there can only be one winner. 98% of those who participate don’t make it in any given year, and the odds may become even more unfavorable when you take into account market factors and regulations that govern the state of play for the individual franchises of any sport. As a consumer, you could probably do much better than professional sports in terms of disposable value.

Ah, disposable. Not quite so, is it? If it were truly disposable, HSBC Arena could be swallowed by a hole in the space time continuum and no one would flinch. No, we are suckers for the product. We are determined to have a stake in the game, no matter what the cost. Tax dollars are no exception – we’ll gladly toss our combined wealth as a community into the pot to keep our entertainment from vaporising.

I’ve been trying to put all of this in perspective, the business of sports. What would happen if the NFL would go dark? Who would lose out? How many jobs would be lost? How much money would be saved by us, the consumer, for them not being in business? How much money would we save if there was no local hockey team to waste money on in the fall and spring? Business is the art of taking money from you. It’s the whole point of the affair. It’s the accumulation of wealth. You can also like it and have a passion for it, but the money is kind of a big part of it. As a consumer, the goal should be to get out alive, and if at all, with a product that works.

And sports is a place where all the lines are blurred. We spend but get no product save a few moments of emotion. Owners sometimes come not to make profits, but simply to entertain themselves. Hobbyists. No one is in it for the reasons that would apply in the business world, and yet it is a business.

Sports seems to be a place where few laws of normal social reality apply. It’s totally cool to hit people at high velocity. Try it at the water cooler and you’ll probably have to watch a video in HR. Paying for admission to see the product perform allows the consumers to claim expertise in its function. I drive a Chevy, but I am unqualified to own the corporation.

The more I try to bridge the gap between the fake world of sports and real world of life, the less I think the attempt is relevant or matters. The Sabres were sold. In the end, whatever. Cities have survived without professional sports franchises on this planet for, well, much of our organized existence as a species. The Sabres existing in this market, in the end, will not define my social experience or the path of my life. The Buffalo Bills may go, and we may find that life is totally fine without them.

Tom Golisano would probably disagree, seeing as how he has become the triage specialist for sports ownership in this city. I’d like to find out if we could make it as a city without professional sports. I’d like to know how we would all answer that question.

This season I’ve found myself growing emotionally more distant from sports. I’m still fascinated by decisions and the process of decisions, both on and off the ice. Events, critical moments, and the drama of strategy and tactics draw me in – just not so close anymore. I’m pretty sure this has less to do with winning and losing and more to do with growing up. Maybe I’ve gone through a couple of the stages of grief. Anger at losing, denial of the realities of business, bargaining that they can turn it around in just a few more weeks or that next emotional high will be the payoff. The last stage is always acceptance. Pretty soon you just get to a point where you accept whatever comes and move on.

Whatever happens here, will happen. Maybe Lindy stays. Maybe he goes. Maybe they burn it all down and start over. Maybe its just entertainment after all, and whats so wrong with that if thats the way people like it? Who am I to lay out right and wrong and where out priorities should be. I think in the end I’m just looking for a little more than complaining about Tim Connolly, and at the very least the past few weeks have given me that. This is an opportunity for reflection and introspection about our relationship with sports. Don’t turn those down, man. Your brain could probably use some exercise. It was during the tenure of the now departing Sabres ownership that I got to that point in my own sports psychology.

It was a pleasure doing business with them.