New Orleans I used to watch football and basketball games from time to time, actually a lot of time. Pre-pandemic, I became addicted to going to the gym, jumping on the elliptical machine daily, reading my Kindle, and watch-listening to whatever game was on ESPN the whole time. Over the years, I have more and more sworn off the habit, but I still read the sports page religiously. I still believe some of the best, pure writing in the newspapers is in the sports pages, as well, a conviction I have held onto for a lifetime.
But I’ve soured in recent years, so find it next to impossible to watch, even the beloved New Orleans Saints, where I live. The Colin Kaepernick situation and the weird way that the union handled the matter, the division of the players, and the largely offensive way that ownership handled protests for justice, made it next to impossible for me to endure. I guess “next” is the wrong word pairing with impossible, since in fact, representing our union, Local 100, United Labor Unions, I signed and filed charges with the NLRB against Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, for threatening the players with dismissal from the team, an 8a1 and 8a3 charge. Combine that with the excessive injury reports and the NFL’s dilatory way of increasing safety and compensating claims, and it was just hard to enjoy, despite and because of the fact, I had played as a boy and in high school, and still have the bad knee and Vietnam draft exemption to prove it.
At the same time, it’s a matter of faith that in New Orleans, the whole city seems happier and more content, when the Saints win a game. My son inherited my original habit and faithfully watches the Saints, the NBA Pelicans, and the Astros, the nearest major league baseball team. I have to admit that I was desperate to read about Alabama getting beaten. I pay attention to LSU without love, and Arkansas with nostalgia. Old habits are hard to break.
My interest has piqued about sports a little more recently, as I’ve freely admitted, when the General Counsel of the NLRB, issued an opinion arguing that NCAA athletes are not student-athletes, but worker-athletes and covered by the protections of the Act, including the ability to organize a union. I can’t help thinking that this could be a game changer for all sports, giving participants a voice and a hedge against their institutions and the usual dictatorship of their coaches, no matter how well intentioned.
I keep thinking about ways to get sports’ rights in front of the players, whether a website, a hotline, or social media. I wonder about the timing and sequencing to make this work to build a critical mass, rather than a rathole personal avocation. I also wonder if this is just a rationalization to return to an old compulsion, an addiction, and distraction.
What can I say? We shall see.