Written by: Shane Shoemaker
Take a look back at the 1994 MLB players’ strike when the league went into a total stoppage late into the season.
I wasn’t even 10 years old at the time, but I do remember being a big baseball fan, and if I’m not mistaken, baseball was arguably the most popular sport in America during that time, it wasn’t the NFL. But when the players’ strike hit and America’s greatest past time came to a complete stop, it soured a lot of fans’ interest for a long time. Even at a young age I remember my grandfather saying something like, “I don’t care about watching them anymore,” as he referred to his beloved Atlanta Braves going on strike.
This was a sentiment felt by a lot of baseball fans. They felt betrayed by the players and the league for not giving them what they had spent their money on, what they had spent hours every day and night watching on television.
They just wanted their baseball.
If you look back on the 1994 players’ strike in the MLB, it was really quite warranted, at least from the view of the players. In a quick summary, the players balked at the idea of the owners, whom they felt were trying to clean up a financial mess in the league, trying to institute a salary cap. The salary cap would have been a way to incorporate revenue-sharing amongst the league that would’ve helped out smaller market teams and kept salaries from inflating. The players had to agree to this and didn’t. The MLB was absent from August of 1994 until April of 1995, that resulted in the loss of over 900 games, that which included the 1994 postseason and the World Series.
It was all about business, getting what was fair for the league and the players. But fans didn’t care anything about that. They just wanted baseball.
You see, fans don’t care how much money you’re making if you’re an entertainer. They don’t care what you’re hobbies are, what you ate before the game — and sometimes they don’t care if you’re a lawbreaker (if you’re winning). You’re here to entertain them and that’s it, nothing more. They don’t care if you make one red cent. The expectation, from a fans standpoint, is that if their paying hard-earned money to buy the merchandise, the tickets and whatever else there is to buy, then you’d better entertain them. Maybe that’s harsh, but it’s realistic.
And the same goes for political views.
Admittedly, there’s nothing worse to me than seeing celebrities and athletes tweet about political or social issues. I literally don’t care what their opinions are, even if they are ones I agree with. They have every right to tweet and post about it, but I don’t care in regards to their political opinions. Again, like most, I just want to be entertained by them, and to me, that’s not entertainment.
Is that wrong on my part or on the part of other fans alike? I don’t know. Probably. Because we treat athletes and other entertainers like soulless creatures with no matter or right of opinion. We treat them like fictional characters from a book or television show. But I guess when you’re watching them through nothing more than a television screen for a couple hours a week, how could you not?
Professional sports is original reality television, and with that being said, it is indeed a television show like any other drama that’s on television. And just because no one is playing a different character other than themselves or there isn’t a scripted storyline being played out on a scheduled forty-five minutes of airtime doesn’t mean its not a television show.
If we really view sports like I think most of us do — as an escape, a place to get away from the worlds problems — we don’t want the worlds problems to bleed over into entertainment. When Colin Kaepernick decided to sit down during the national anthem last preseason, it took away from “the show.” “The show” that I’m referring to is the sports show you decide to watch, in this case, it’s the NFL. Again, it’s not fiction, it’s a reality show, but the storyline of the show is not about what social issue is bothering the player(s) personally, it’s about about who wins and who loses, and for the most part, that’s all a sports fan is interested in when it comes to sports.
When you see an NFL player protest an issue before a game, that’s out of his “character.” Remember, he’s just a football player to us, that’s his role on the show.
Just imagine — and I know this is a fictional show — the character Rick Grimes from the “The Walking Dead” right before the show started, in the scene he was about to act in, gave his personal political opinion about something. That would totally take us out of the show, and that’s what’s happening in the NFL.
When it was about business in the MLB during 1994, it wasn’t necessarily that fans were upset because they felt the players or owners were greedy (even though that was part of it), it was because it took away from their escape, their entertainment value.
The same is following for the NFL now when it’s become about social issues. Although I do believe some fans believe that kneeling or sitting violates a form of patriotism — that and I also believe fans are confused and even questioning what the actual protests are even about any longer and what the end game is — it’s taking away from their football, their choice of entertainment.
Whether it’s a misguided interpretation of how we view sports figures or not, we will continue to view these people as nothing more than entertainers because that’s how we know them — and that’s usually through a television set. We trusted them with one thing and one thing only: entertainment. It doesn’t matter if it’s money, social issues, political protests or anything else — if it takes away from our entertainment we, as a fan, might take ourselves away from them, the entertainment.