His sendoff was not one of sports’ finest hours. Shame on the Utah Jazz — and on us.
Last week basketball legend Kobe Bryant put an exclamation point on a remarkable career, scoring 60 points in his final game as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The media quickly dubbed the game an instant classic, as they breathlessly rattled off a nearly infinite list of superlatives regarding his extraordinary performance. But what if the results of the game were as phony as professional wrestling?
This possibility was raised by a Chicago announcer, Pat Tomasulo, whose profanity-laced video went viral as he criticized Kobe personally, as well as the lackluster competition he faced in the Utah Jazz, suggesting a high school basketball player could have gotten the same results as Kobe. The personal attacks and profanity aside, Tomasulo hit on something that the mainstream media conveniently ignored. The fix was in… it was to be Kobe’s night. If you believed Kobe had magically discovered the fountain of youth that night or the Utah Jazz defense was bedazzled by Kobe’s mere presence, then you’re probably a bit naïve and also believed it when President Obama said, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
Such shenanigans are nothing new in the world of professional sports, where in the name of a good story or out of professional respect, a team or athlete has tanked for the benefit of others. Quickly coming to mind is pitcher Denny McLain admitting to giving a retiring Mickey Mantle a good-bye gift by grooving a gopher ball, allowing Mantle to hit his 535thhome run, moving the slugger past Jimmie Foxx on the all-time home run list. Let us also not forget the final week of the 2001 football season when Brett Favre took a dive so Michael Strahan could set the record for the most sacks in a season.
Despite some rare lapses of the trivial sort, professional sports in America are on the up and up, and the outcomes aren’t rigged in advance. I wish I could say the same thing for the political class in Washington, D.C., where more and more of our citizenry are growing increasingly pessimistic and bitter that the fix is in, and certainly not in their favor. As the middle class standard of living shrinks and the deficit balloons, we have watched a generation of politicians come and go, making themselves wealthy by being ‘public servants’. The Clintons and former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert arrived in D.C. within five years of each other, each with humble bank accounts. Today the Clintons have amassed a financial empire large enough to make Daddy Warbucks jealous, and Dennis Hastert who was a public school teacher before going into the public servant racket, somehow has enough cash floating around to pay millions in hush money to cover up his alleged sexual misconduct with his male students.
If you’re still not convinced the political class has rigged the game against you, have your kid open up a lemonade stand on the corner. Watch as they get an adult lesson on the rule of law, while at the same time, despite the pretense of an intense investigation, we all know the FBI will never find a smoking gun in Hillary’s email scandal or that any IRS bigwigs will suffer real consequences for illegally stiff-arming the political opposition. While you and I are subjected to a growing list of laws and regulations that we have no choice but to obey, the ruling class can waive off the laws they don’t like by simply labeling their municipalities as “sanctuary cities” or by having the President say, “I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” as rationale for why the system of checks and balances on the Executive Branch no longer apply.
We would never accept such tomfoolery with our favorite sports teams, and we probably spent more energy in solving the steroids issue in baseball than our systemic issues in Washington. In this, maybe President Garfield was right in 1877, when he pointed out the mess in America is our own fault by saying, “Now, more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption.”
Call me a party pooper, but I believe the Utah Jazz had an obligation to play the best basketball they could possibly play instead of getting caught up in Kobe fever, and that the American people have every right and obligation to stand up to politicians’ overt collusion, in which they take care of themselves, like Gilded Age robber barons, at the expense of the Republic.