You see, Transformers II is coming out this summer. That says it all right there. It seems that when making money becomes the focus, the art suffers just as much as the sport suffers. Both art and sports are about the doing. And they are about doing for doing’s sake. When it’s about money, you get
There is a level of making money on artistic endeavors like the Weinstein Company, Sony Classics or Focus Features. They make prestigious pictures that make a comparatively meager amount of money. This is kind of like minor league ball. It’s still a pure game but there’s still a commercial value to it ("Hit the bull and get a free steak").
Then you have the pick-up game in the park. The Whiffle Ball game in the back yard. Just people playing a game to play the game – that’s kinda how Kevin Smith made Clerks. They are playing for the pure joy of the game. Yes, they want to excel and be their best. But the most they hope to get for their effort is bragging rights.
I, personally, do not follow sports. I was close to being a die-hard Met fan, until they traded away their 1986 team before the 1987 season. I remember watching the ’86 series like it was yesterday. That, to me, was baseball at its greatest: you were truly on the edge of your seat as the pitcher and the batter were steeped in battle, flinching at every swing and literally jumping for joy when the fated ball passed through Buckner’s legs.
I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the next season to start. Then the Mets traded Lenny Dykstra. That pissed me off. And it’s not about whether they made a good trade or bad trade. (You can discuss the merits of their trades with the Mad Dog. I don’t care.) It just made me realize that to root for the 1987 Mets would basically be rooting for a trademarked logo, not the group of individuals who made up a championship team. Suddenly, I didn’t care.
Going to a game at Citifield is less about enjoying a game and more about having the Heritage Pork Porchetta and a choice of six red wines. All this hoo-ha is taking the focus away from the experience of the game itself. People are coming to see the park more than they are coming to see a baseball game. Hell, the name, Citifield, is meant to make you think of a bank instead of a ball park. Plus, higher ticket prices: the addition of more luxury suites that rent for $250,000 - $500,000 each per season, an average ticket price of $170 for the lower level seats, make the game less accessible to the average Joe-lunch-pail. Sure, if the Mets are playing, I root for them (especially when they’re playing the Yankees). But ask me one of the players name and it’s like you’re asking Tom to highlight the mise-en-scene in a Kurosawa flick.
Which brings me to the movie side of it all. Most people say that movies are worse than ever. This is somewhat true. And I say somewhat because there are great movies still being made: Michael Clayton, The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire, the Harry Potter movies. But the big difference is that studios have learned that movies don’t have to be good to make money. As a matter of fact, it can be a detriment. So, they put the big budgets behind pop-corn movies and crap that is faster and furious-er.
Again, there’s a lot of great pop-corn movies: Spider-Man I & II, The Dark Knight, the Harry Potter movies for instance. But there is a glutton of crap movies: The Hulk, the new Star Wars movies, anything with Shia LaBeouf, Daredevil, any of the “insert-genre-here Movie” movies (Scary Movie, Date Movie, Super-Hero movie, etc.) of course: Transformers I & II (I know the second has not come out yet, but if that is a good movie, I will eat a plate of dog crap in Macy’s window).
But even the good pop-corn movies are not exactly the most artistic endeavors. They loose a lot of purity, especially when they are focus-grouped to death. These movies are not made for the love of making movies, they are for the love of a paycheck.
And that is what is wrong with professional sports. It is not being played for the love of the game. Don’t get me wrong, the people who are talented enough to make it to the majors love the game. That’s just not their motive for playing any more. I’m sure Toby McGuire didn’t sign up for Spider-Man 4 because of his love of films. No, he did it for the big, fat paycheck.
Now, take a movie like 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck. When George Clooney made that film, he did not expect to rake in $100,000,000 at the box office. Which is a good thing, because he would have gone postal over its $31,000,000 gross. Instead, Clooney had something to say. And through is knowledge of film, he said it better than anyone could have. He crafted an excellent, classic movie that said something because that’s what he set out to do. Not to make a boatload of money.
The same year, Star Wars Episode 3 came out and made $380,000,000 domestically. Now, which movie was better?
Take Slumdog Millionaire. This movie was made thinking that no one would even buy it. Talk about not being in it for the paycheck. But this gave Danny Boyle incredible freedom to make a great movie without having to worry how it would play in
When films are made for the money-making aspect, the joy and soul starts to get sucked out. Look at what happened to Disney movies. Disney reached a point where you could simply imagine people sitting in a board room saying that singing gargoyles would make a marketable addition to both the movie and the accompanying Happy Meal.
So, what is wrong with Sports today is very much the same thing as what is wrong with movies today. Both are endeavors about experience and accomplishment. This is truly the essence of artistic endeavor as much as it is athletic endeavor. But when they become mired in the attempts to capitalize on them, their point shifts from artistic or athletic endeavor to a money-making endeavor. And while people have the right to make money off of art and sport, it lessens the experience if just a little bit.