Virtually all elements of society seem, in the last quarter of the twentieth century, to be beset by economic importunity. Other values are eclipsed by the proclaimed necessity to run every activity and organization as a business and the relentless commercialization of human life and politics. Nowhere is this economic inexorability
more apparent than in professional sports, where ‘professional’ does not refer to a person whose advanced education and cultivated skills are used to serve others, but simply designates someone who makes a living as an athlete. Indeed, the distinction between professional and amateur, once so robust that it was used to strip medals from athletes who took money, has become obsolete. Nowadays athletes lose medals only when they are caught taking drugs. Salaries in professional sports have become uncoupled from performance, as familiar headlines about journeyman major league baseball players signing million dollar contracts demonstrate. Legitimate ‘stars’ (or ‘superstars’ as they have come to be known as the rhetoric inflates accordingly) demand to renegotiate their contracts when they have had an impressive year but are silent when their numbers fall. And virtually every piece of visible attire an athlete wears is marketed, by name or by number.