Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bourgeoise Ideology and Sports

A distinct feature of Bourgeois ideology (or as Weber would have it, the Protestant Ethic) is that a moral value is attached to "hard work." If you work hard, you are morally good; if you do not work hard, you are morally bad. If somebody pays you for labor, you then owe that person your complete and total effort, %100, mind and body.

This leads to one of the major excesses of capitalism: the belief that to pay for labor is to purchase a man for a limited duration. By accepting a paycheck, you are no longer considered an independent person; you now owe your employer the total effort of your body and mind to the ends of the employer. You have sold your total effort for a set duration.

The excess is that you don't pay for goods and services; you pay for a man's efforts to your ends. The employee now owes his employer total effort, and if he is "morally good," he will provide that effort.

This is a dehumanizing ethic.

This ethic often gets extended into sports. This week Peter King comments on Terrell Owens saying "On the field sometimes, I'm not really into it. It's almost like I'm kind of faking it. I'm not happy, and it really was affecting my game."

King responds:

If there's anyone left on Planet Earth who supported Terrell Owens and rooted for him, I submit to you there is now officially no reason to do either for the rest of your life.

Terrell Owens got a $5 million bonus this year, and makes a salary of $5 million. He had a workout bonus of $1.1 million, which I doubt he qualified for because he had better things to do this offseason than, God forbid, actually work out regularly with his team to get ready for the season. So let's forego the workout bonus and just deal with the $10 million. If you divide $10 million by 17 (the number of weeks in the regular season that players get paid for), it comes out to $588,235.29 a week.

This is what he's saying to Jerry Jones: I am on the field for about 60 plays per week, and you pay me $588,235.29 for those 60 plays. On some of those plays, I'm not going to try very hard, because I'm just not into it.

Peter King, like many sports fans, has internalized the bourgeois ethic that places moral value on hard work, and that assumes that getting paid means you owe total effort. Thus, he tells us, regardless of whether Owens is happy, he has accepted money, and now he owes total effort. By failing to put forth total effort (by not accepting that getting paid means he has sold his mind and body for a set duration), Owens is "morally bad" and, according to King, nobody on planet earth should root for him.


  1. One issue that is more frequently coming into play with T.O. is that T.O. is being held up to "T.O. Standards." It doesn't matter if hungover and lame, T.O. is 1000 times better than Roddy White. However, if a ball sails 10 feet over Owens' head and he doesn't catch it, Joe Buck smugly calls it a "drop" just because T.O. is so great, we know he can make that catch.

  2. I wonder if Peter King has ever returned a paycheck to Sports Illustrated after turning in a subpar column b/c he wasn't feeling his best?

  3. (whistles) Well-said, well-said. I feel like applauding. The courts have not helped on this issue in America, either. It was good of you to include this as a link on your comment.

  4. what i dont think King realizes is that TO is not only getting payed to perform but also he that will knowingly generate attendence....TO could stand on the field and pick his nose and as ridiculous as it may sound alot of people would probably pay to see him do it...if this were any random role player or non superstar saying this it would be much much more unjustifiable but the fact remains...TO is an entity unto himself