Thursday, May 19, 2016

Steph Curry's Elbow.

Seen this before?
By Richard Mellor
Afscme local 444, retired

I know this is going to bring me a little heat. It’s going to make me a little unpopular with Warrior fans and I am going to be accused of being “negative”.  It’s the same when one criticizes a contract or points to weaknesses or failings in the negotiating team’s strategy at the table. No one wants to hear anything but good news.

I am talking about Steph Curry’s knot in his elbow.  He had a great night last night, scoring 15 points against the Thunder in a two-minute period. There’s the video, a very short clip showing one of Curry’s great three pointers, and he doesn’t even see it go through the hoop as he turns around as it’s in mid-air. He’s not selfish it seems.

The video below that one has Curry showing the huge knot in his elbow and smiling, AND he did it all with this HUGE knot on his shooting elbow. No big deal. Curry smiles in the face of adversity.” Writes Alysha Tsuji at USA Today Sports

I can’t help reacting to this. Let’s get real here if we’re talking about adversity. Curry has lived a fairly privileged life. He is a millionaire and, barring a career ending injury, will earn millions of dollars more in the years to come mostly through selling clothes, sneakers and other junk on TV most likely. Even if he does suffer an unfortunate injury that shortens his career, he will be in great demand. He has a great life ahead of him.

It’s not that Curry isn’t a nice person. He appears to be. He might be generous and kind and a loving husband and paren’t. This is not about Curry. It is about sports as a commodity and its ownership by a few wealthy individuals. Humans have always played competitive games, it’s a natural part of human culture.

Athletes generally make more money selling shoes, clothes and such than they do from playing sport.  At one time, Michael Jordan, who is worth $1.14 billion according to Forbes was being paid $20 million a year by Nike for advertising its products.  He is not alone of course, but he is one of the most famous Americans.  Naturally, the conditions in Nike’s factories are horrendous and when one Asian Nike worker on tour in the US tried to meet with Jordan and Nike head Phil Knight in 1996 she was snubbed. Knight is worth $24.5 billion according to Forbes.   These sweat shops that have made Knight and Jordan billionaires are notorious for beatings, rapes, and forced labor, that’s adversity.  It’s ironic that Forbes refers to billionaires like these as “self made” men. Why would I have any respect for Jordan or Knight?

I have spent my life as a blue collar worker in two of the world’s top advanced capitalist economies. I have been fortunate, especially since arriving in the US 43 years ago. But knots like the one on Curry’s arm I’ve seen on co-workers a thousand times and they still come to work; they still use the jackhammer, the shovels the tools we used and they still use that elbow.  Despite the propaganda that workers are always trying to get out of work and trying to fake injuries, I found as a union steward for years, that it was always a struggle trying to get my co-workers to actually go see the doctor about their injuries never mind file a workers’ comp claim. A lot of this reluctance has to do with coercion and losing out on opportunities if you complain but it’s also due to the strong work ethic. I’ll tell you who profits from workers comp, doctors and lawyers.  Working people don’t respect shirkers, that’s why they’re not so fond of bosses and we have nothing but utter contempt for brown nosers.

It’s just not blue collar workers either is it. We work alongside each other, nurses, teachers (talk about adversity) clerical workers who suffer severe eye strain, carpal tunnel and other such side affects.  Others work with chemicals and toxic substances that over 25 or 30 years take their toll, printers breathe in bad stuff their entire lives. Oh, and there’s that little detail called black lung that they’re trying to say isn’t caused by mining. In my case, all my co-workers my age have structural problems, their hands, arms; in short, their bodies are messed up. They didn’t just get these problems, they more often than not came to work and did a good days work for years despite having these problems and the pain they bring.

There’s too many examples to cover but every worker can tell this story.

Sport as a ruling class tactic for social diversion rather than a healthy aspect of human culture is nothing new. The English historian Christopher Hill wrote of the tumultuous Century of Revolution and how “James 1 in 1618 and his son in 1633”  encouraged Sunday sports in order to prevent, among other things, the population from going, “…in disgust to ale houses, and there indulge in ‘a number of idle and discontented speeches”.  Another religious official was worried that without sports “to occupy them on Sundays they might meet for illegal religious discussion.”  Better that they engage in sports the Duke of Newcastle claimed as it, “Will amuse the people’s thoughts, and keep them in harmless action, which will free your majesty from faction and rebellion.” *

The diversion was not sufficient to keep the coming English revolution at bay that would cost Charles his head and the aristocracy some of their social power.  Despite the sophistication that exists today, it won’t work forever here either.

I am thrilled by the Warriors successes. I am happy for my community and especially Oakland, the city my son was born in and a city with great working class history.  I know money can’t bring happiness, there’s never a truer adage than that.  So I am happy also for Curry and his teammates.  The issue for me is that Curry’s talent, the team’s successes and the pleasure people get form watching sport is not dependent on sport being a commodity, an industry linked to the clothing, apparel alcohol and entertainment business.**  If they were all amateurs as track was when I was young, we would still be as thrilled. The owners of sports as a commodity are hedge fund managers, speculators, investors and other parasites who can’t bear any gathering of human beings taking place without them taking a buck out of it.

Cheer the team on but let’s not lose perspective here. Sports figures are totally owned by corporations like walking bill boards. Look at your co-workers, friends, neighbors. Think about your parents who worked all their lives to give you a better one. There’s a lot of adversity all around us and we should be awed by the average human being’s ability to weather it despite great personal sacrifice. The fact that a single working class mother, or father can work and raise children is adversity in the extreme. Let’s not lose track of the fact that a small group of wasters are conning us all here. The players are exploited too, they’re just paying them $3 million dollars more than they would you for a bump on the elbow.

The first step in eliminating oppression is recognizing it exists.

*The Century of Revolution 1603-1714  Christopher Hill

**In 1990, Jesse Jackson and the civil rights group Operation PUSH commented that Nike sold more than 40% of its shoes to members of the black and minority communities. Who knows what it is now. One has to wonder if that is the best way to keep youngsters well shod.

1 comment:

BenL8 said...

I enjoy your writing, Richard. Hope your audience grows. Paul Buchheit writes many articles at Nation of Change, check him out. My blog, has an interesting topic. I'm up here in Mariposa, I write for the little Democratic Party quarterly. We have a tea-party Congressman. Here's a summary I left on an article by Gerald Friedman: "
We still have about 19 million workers out of work, about 1 in 8 (see, and about 1 in 3 U.S. workers earns less than $25,000 a year and also wants full-time living wage job. Actually 45% or 71 million earn less than $25,000 a year, a Social Security Administration figure, but of that 45% about 12% are employed part-time willingly. That leaves 53 million adults, 1 in 3, who want a good paying full-time position. The average income for that 45% of the workers with incomes below $25,000 is about $11,000 a year. Our powerful economy produces $41,000 per capita each year, a figure, and that equals about $82,000 per worker. Look at the inequality there, almost half of U.S. workers on average earn about an eight of the overall average! And the CBO says that about $100,000 per household is the average annual household income, while the median is $53,000. The issue is inequality, low pay, and not enough jobs. Sounds like the Great Depression.
The solution in the 1930s was public jobs, public employment. Between 1940 and 1945 employment increased by 40%, fairly incredible, and the output (GDP) increased by 75% in 5 years, also incredible. Unfortunately the output was meant to explode and destroy (bombs and munitions), not last and serve. It's only by denying these facts that conservatives can boast and criticize the Keynesian proposal to create public jobs. Denial of reality is a specialty of these right-wing nuts. The federal government could just print the money to fund Sanders' proposals, the inflation rate last year was the 3rd lowest since 1933. Or we could easily tax wealth, the national debt is $18 trillion, the national private household net worth is $86.8 trillion, a Federal Reserve figure. I suggest readers go to Dollars and Sense magazine and read the other articles by Gerald Friedman. Just look at the potential for prosperity for all we have, the average household net worth is over $700,000, and annual income is about $100,000. None but Sanders even begin to propose making shared prosperity a reality. Transforming this country requires a revolution." Well, I have not considered Jill Stein or the Peace and Freedom proposals, I haven't read them, I suppose they have economic program. Forgive me. In 2008 and 2012 the Green Party did not have a good grasp of economics, and now I participate with the devil, the Dems, because they are the only reasonable group around. I'll vote for Sanders. Have a good day. Ben