I can’t help but notice a few striking similarities between us and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.

The Romans cherished entertainment and so do we.  They had their coliseum – we’ve built hoards of them.  Their fans left for the exits long ago and that monumental feat of theirs lays in decay.  It’s not an unreasonable thought to see our society taking a similar path.

The other day, a gal I admire said: “Greg, you’ve got the guts to write about stuff other people only think about, but never say.”  Well … I’ve never been one to shy away from controversy.

With the NFL lockout going on, and the NBA may soon follow suit, I see a growing unrest in many fans.  With the economy the way it is, record high gas prices, soaring food costs, the tension of being able to pay the bills, and not knowing if you’ll have a job or not weighs heavy on many now days.

A friend of mine, who is an avid sports fan, told me he’s getting fed up with the antics in professional sports.  The way he put it was, “The fans should go on strike indefinitely and then none of em’ would have a job.”

I must admit I used to be an avid fan myself, but when the satellite bill exceeded $100 a month I said enough is enough and propped up an antenna in the attic – I refuse to pay for TV anymore.

I can’t really consider myself a fan anymore; I’m more or less a “passerby” now.  I’ll occasionally watch a race or game on TV if I don’t have much else to do or check a final score on the Internet, but that’s what I’ve been deduced to – you might say I’ve headed for the exits.

When my favorite NASCAR driver got into a fistfight with another driver not long ago my opinion of him was dredged through the mud.  I was watching a prize fight some time back and the English champion was knocked out in the first round by his opponent and the fans started raining down hundreds of brown beer bottles on the challenger.  The police had to cover the fighter with their bodies as they escorted him out.  (I haven’t watched a match since)  I’m of the opinion that new sport “Ultimate Fighting” is just downright barbaric as well.

I must say I find it appalling that the NFL players have filed a lawsuit against their employers.  I wouldn’t dare do that to my employer or I would be holding a tin pan in a soup line somewhere.

Attendance is down in NASCAR as it is in other sports venues.  The NBA lost money as a whole last year and our local team had the dubious honor of garnishing the lowest attendance in the league this year.  That team’s in the red to the tune of $60 million for the last two years alone.  Some might say it’s because they don’t have a very good team.  That may or may not be true, but if we’re faced with the choice of having to dole out the lion’s share of our paychecks for gas to get back and forth to work, with whatever’s left to put down on bills, and hopefully have something to eat in the end, entertainment’s no doubt going to be pushed under the rug.  (And ironically enough I don’t foresee things getting better soon)

When times were good, I’m sure the Romans paid their gladiators well to brutalize each other in the name of entertainment – How are things so different today?

With some research I found some interesting salary stats that I’ll give a couple examples of:

Alex Rodriguez who plays for the New York Yankees recently signed a 10-year contract for $275 million dollars – that figures to be $27,500 million a year.  Albert Haynesworth of the Washington Redskins signed a seven-year deal worth $100 million – that figures out to be $892,857.13 per game or $14,880.95 per minute. (And those figures exclude any endorsement deals the athletes may have)

Do you really think someone’s worth that kind of money, in light of it’s just a game that’ll be nothing more than a fleeting thought in short order with most of us? I’ve asked that question of many, often, and I’ve never gotten anything but a solid “No” in response.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sports, but if you find yourself worshiping the game or are glued to the set and ESPN something’s wrong with your priorities.  We live in a society that heavily leans toward self-gratification, as did the Romans.  And when we feel we must be constantly entertained every waking hour there’s something wrong with the thought process.

I must admit my favorite columnist is a sportswriter with the Indy Star.  I love Bob’s pieces and his satirist wit, but if it wasn’t for sports he’d have to find something else to write about – and I’m beginning to think what’s so wrong with that?

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at www.builderofthespirit.org.

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