Submitted by Roldo on Mon, 09/07/2009 - 14:04.

I sort of don’t pay much attention to the Plain Dealer sports pages. But it’s hard not to read them since there’s so little else to read in the paper. So last week I caught Bill Livingston’s spanking of pitcher Cliff Lee.


Sports gets a lot of free publicity and eats up a lot of resources sorely needed elsewhere.


Livingston’ last week brought some reality to the sports pages when he chastised Lee, traded recently to Philadelphia, for Lee’s comments about Cleveland fans. Lee blamed fans for not attending more games. He said, “That’s why the team didn’t make money, because the fans weren’t there, supporting the team.”

Livingston wrote, “It is hard to believe anyone could make such a clueless, almost callous, statement.”


He pointed out that those working fans were encountering a deep recession here.


“Do you suppose Lee felt bad for the Cleveland fans who have lost their jobs? Does that matter? Or is Lee’s self-absorption too all-encompassing to permit a glance at the world outside the white lines,” Livingston wrote. Tough stuff.


But major league ballplayers are so well treated in our society that it’s hard for them to empathize with ordinary people. Everything is too easy for them. And sports reporters are prime enablers.


We helped them be callous, Bill. We treat them too well.


Livingston could have mentioned that Lee’s multi-million contract ($4-million for 2008; 2009 not available) was subsidized by you and me. By   our taxes and other gifts.


Lee pitched in a $154-million stadium paid for largely by Cuyahoga County taxpayers. Indeed, every January some $8 million or more of public funds, mostly general funds from the strapped County, goes to pay bonds, added by the extra cost of the arena, part of the Gateway project.


If the team owners had to pay for their own “factory” they wouldn’t be able to pay those multi-million contracts.


Further, the stadium and arena pay no property taxes and never will, allowing more revenue to be siphoned off to the teams and its players.


Rarely, if ever, do sports reporters give us this information. I’d say they avoid touching these economic issues.


So, Lee actually owes a portion of his fancy salary to the fans he was dissing. He was biting into the hands that fed him.


Newspapers also provide sports constant free publicity to sports, adding to the value of the sports franchise and its players. No other business – and it is a business – receives such attentive helpful coverage.


I’ll say this for Cliff Lee, however. He gave $10,000 to Cleveland Indians Charities in 2007, the latest IRS figures available. So he had some concern for Clevelanders.  


I thank Livingston for being less than a flack for sports figures. We need more critical coverage on the sports pages. Especially the economics of the industry. Yes, it is an industry. One that takes too much of our community resources.


( categories: )