In professional and college sports, it’s always about the money

A whole week in Los Angeles sports for righteous indignation.

It seems that several pundits, administrators and would-be fans have finally realized that professional and collegiate athletics is ruled and driven by money above all else. These are the same people who piously claim that sport should be all about camaraderie, loyalty and hero worship.

At best a naive state of mind, also delusional and hypocritical.

They want it both ways, big teams with the best players in the world, as long as the costs of landing and maintaining such talent don’t trickle down to the higher costs of tickets, pay TV and merchandise. . It’s also the set that groans the loudest when their teams fail, shout on Instagram and talk on the radio like petulant 10-year-olds.

When news of LeBron James’ nearly $100 million 2-year extension broke, armchair bloggers started blogging and babbling. Too much for an aging superstar, who hits the injury blotter far too often and is already earning close to $50 million a year. Not to mention that the team already carries too much aging talent between Lebron, AD and Westbrook. And many fear that last season is just a preview of the struggles on the pitch that are likely to continue.

All of this could be true, but it is only part of the equational totality. The Lakers had no choice. The LBJ brand alone is worth hundreds of millions for the Buss Family Trust, Lakers TV partners and subscription orders. Consider that the first time Lebron left the Cavs, the value of the team went down by $1 billion. Is it a lightning rod? The one who gets tagged to sometimes “check” when it suits him? It certainly is. He’s also an NBA opportunist, not a local hero who has spent his entire career in Los Angeles, like Kobe and Jerry West.

But he remains the most notable and popular player in the game, whose name constantly makes headlines, for one reason or another. LBJ the producer, social media icon, pitchman and yes, basketball player translates far beyond the game, no matter what the team is doing on the court. As long as it’s on the list, The Lake Show will garner serious national and global attention, always playing during prime time and Christmas Day.

(By the way, Clipper fans, any Kawhi Leonard sightings to report?)

LAngeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard sits on the bench during the first half of Game 6 of the NBA Basketball Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

More laughable than the Lebron contract outrage might be the California regents and our own governor feigning distress over UCLA joining USC by taking most of its programs to the Big 10, including football and basketball. . Bruin Athletics was hemorrhaging money, due to several factors, but perhaps none more obvious than the lousy dividend returned on their Pac-12 network television contract.

Meanwhile, the Big-10 has just completed revamping its network television deal, a package that will now earn the conference more than $1 billion a year. Millions will be earmarked for the schools themselves, including the Bruins and Trojans.

We must have missed last year’s press release when the governor and regents were ready to write a check to UCLA to address the university’s huge athletic deficit, a deficit that school administrators were considering. seriously to remove several programs.

It is understandable that the demise of a legendary conference like the Pac-12, of which UCLA and USC had been a part for a century, is somewhat sad. Those of us who grew up on the Pac-8, then 10 and finally 12 can’t help but be somewhat dismayed that the teams and institutions we learned to follow and emulate as kids are now all as accountable and fallible as publicly traded companies. Wall Street.

But at least we still have the games. These contests of real strength and tangibility – when a real winner usually emerges.

Because when all the noise and the predictions have died down, all the spots have been sold, the synergy exploited and the merchandise distributed, the only thing that resonates is who wins, with how and why.

The rest is – and always has been – a matter of dollars. Stop preaching and pretending it didn’t and was “so much better”. The best moments are fleeting and hopefully create fond memories, but nothing of value ever lasts as long as we would like.

Cynicism aside, there’s still a lot to love and appreciate when it comes to sports. On that we can all agree.