Archive - Apr 2006

April 26th

Take Me Out At The Ballgame

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Memo to the Stadium People: YOU WERE DUMB.

I apparently have to use the past tense, because at long last, we can stick a fork in the debate over taxpayer-funded stadiums here. It's done. It ended the only way it could have ended, with a taxpayer-funded stadium and a bunch of stupid, stupid points made.

Both sides made stupid arguments, but I don't want to say that, because the modern construction of "both sides did X" is specifically designed to mask the fact that one side did it a lot, and more egregiously, than the other one. Both sides took money from Jack Abramoff's clients. Both sides believed Saddam had WMD. Both sides lack civility. You know what I mean.

Anyway, the reason it could only have ended with a stadium is a cruel aspect of political reality. Rejecting a stadium proposal remains politically valid for five minutes. Approving it lasts forever. In a statewide version of "Are We There Yet", saying "no" to a publically-funded stadium means the people who want one have to ask again. And again. And again. Until they get what they want. Because once they start building it, it can't be stopped. And of course they kept asking, and of course they eventually got their way.

So now would be a good time to look back at the three worst arguments of the Twins' stadium debate. Those of you not from Minnesota don't have to worry. These arguments are universal. And if you haven't heard them in the past five years, you'll hear them in the next five. Or you live somewhere without major-league sports. Or minor-league sports. Or college sports.


This argument goes thusly. The government funds the arts - theaters, museums, concert halls, and the like. These activities appeal only to a small, intellectual, pretentious part of society. But sports is beloved by the common man, the masses, the red-blooded Americans who like their cheese in individually wrapped slices the way God intended. So the government should be even MORE willing to fund sports, because more people can and will enjoy it.

This is a compelling argument, both despite, and because of, the fact that it's completely fucking backwards. Government supports the arts because, ideally, they have a value beyond mass commercial appeal. The invisible hand of capitalism is too busy masturbating to pick up a paint brush. There may have been a time, before the skybox, before the TV deal, before training facilities and licensed merchandise, when sports was not a commercially viable institution, but these days? It's a business. A very successful, profitable business. And all public funding does is improve those profits. You stop funding theaters, and the only theater we have left will be musicals based on the work of middle-aged pop stars. You stop funding sports, and sports will continue unchanged.


This is the big dumb anti-stadium argument. Have a referendum! No taxation without representation! Let the people decide!

Fuck the people. The people can't be trusted to decide either jack or shit. The "put it to a vote" argument only gets made by people who know they'll win the vote. They're not interested in democratic principle or good government. They just know that if it comes down to a ballot measure, they'll win. Which is sound strategy, but shitty arguing.

You know who else wants a vote? The anti-gay-marriage fuckers. They want to put civil rights to a vote because they know that more than half of all people are bigoted assholes. We live in a representative democracy, people. We vote for representatives who pretend to look out for our interests in matters of public policy while getting bribed, cajoled, fed, and bought outright by the people they actually end up representing. Subverting that system because it won't give you what you want this time is not taking a stand on principle, it's throwing a tantrum.


No, they fucking well won't. You know why? Because they're STILL HERE. And we've turned down a new stadium what seems like four thousand times in the past decade. And the Twins are still here. If they had a better offer, they'd have taken it. Lease or no lease. That's what you pay lawyers for.

And on the off chance the team does move, you, as a fan, have options. If you love the sport, well, you live in a major metropolitan area. You can watch baseball. You can sit in the stands and watch baseball to your heart's content.

And if your pure, Field Of Dreams Special Edition DVD love of the national pastime is tainted a smidge, limited to the majors, well, there's always cable. Or you have the same option the team has - find a city where the baseball environment is more friendly, pack your ass up, and move.

But it doesn't matter, because they're not leaving. The doomsayers weren't right a few years ago, when they had to invent potential municipal suitors out of whole cloth. So how can they be right now, when they're not even bothering to pretend there are cities that WANT our team? They can't.

But that's OK, because they didn't have to. They just had to keep asking, and now we're gonna be paying for half a stadium, yet strangely not getting half of any revenues that stadium produces. And while that sucks, I will take my cold comfort in the fact that we can finally stop arguing about whether to build a baseball stadium, and start arguing about whether to build two football stadiums.

Because like a fly in the soup, everybody's gonna want one.