Ratto: The Stanford Conundrum

Slowly but surely the COVID cracks and chasms reveal themselves

Ray Ratto
July 09, 2020 - 8:53 am
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The shock of Stanford's decision to eliminate or reduce 11 sports is just now beginning to reverberate across the rest of the athletic diaspora, slowly but surely revealing the cracks and chasms of what we have always imagined is a limitless vista of American amusements.

And it isn't that intercollegiate squash is all that integral to even the greater world of squash. It is about the acknowledgement that even Stanford, financially fat Stanford, has limits to its world. That The Farm is, finally, just like everyone else in the era of rogue bacilli. The news has overturned college sports as it tries unsteadily to pretend that the virus still doesn't effect the young just like it does the old.

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The Ivy League already showed that, casually eliminating all its fall sports menu in hopes of either moving it to spring or chucking it entirely. True, the Ivies aren't addicted to television money and therefore don't have the same pressure of outside suits upon them, but the Ivies also wrapped themselves in a cloak of eliteness that allowed them to have sports as amusement. Now, it's just a burden on the calendar, a physical threat like a night at a club or a day at the beach, a place where gathering is part of the problem. The difference is that the Ivies didn't have to negotiate their collective decision with some network nag.

But even at the pro level, the stresses are showing. The NFL's Washington Pendings are in ownership turmoil, as three minority owners packing 40 percent of the club are looking to extricate themselves from the boot of Danny Snyder after years of letting Snyder slowly screw the franchise into the earth's crust. Part of is the virus, part of it is Snyder's near-sociopathic decision not to change the team's nickname, part of it is the diminishing number of sponsorships and ticket buyers, part of it is just being fed up with a football and business model that has been in a downward glide path for nearly 20 years.

NFL teams don't fail to the point where ownership turns on itself. That is clearly happening in Washington, where years of of insularity and rot have finally emerged fully developed in the pressurized environment of COVIDWorld.

Even the Atlanta WNBA mess, in which co-owner Kelly Loeffler, a Trump creation who is the interim U.S. senator from Georgia has been declaring a culture war on the league's players and their insistence upon commemorating, honoring and expanding the Black Lives Matter tent. Loeffler is already compromised by a runoff election in which she is trying to run to the right of an arch-conservative named Doug Collins (not the coach but some otherwise uninspiring lightweight yahoo), who is himself trying to mirror Donald Trump's clown shoe footprints, and her stance viz. the league's players is partially politically motivated. The rest of it is apparently financially motivated, where according to The Athletic's Jeff Schultz Loeffler and co-owner Mary Brock have been looking without success to sell the team because of persistent losses.

These seemingly unrelated items are all byproducts and reflections of COVIDWorld, and more are coming. The games, as it turns out, are just the face mask that not enough people are wearing; it's the business beneath them that is starting to reveal its foundational dysfunctions.

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