Like the perpetual rising and falling of the curtain, the
debate over the proper role of government in supporting the
arts is one that will never come to rest. But before discussing
whether the Feds and states should even be funding
the arts, while there are still some arts left, it might
be instructive to first ask ourselves what value the arts
have in our own lives.
Perhaps we can make some strides towards calculating that
value by comparing dance, one of the artiest of the arts and
heavily dependent on handouts, with basketball, a fast-growing
young sport which requires no federal funding. (True, pro
sports owners will continue to angle for taxpayer-funded stadiums;
but note that we specified it requires no funding.)
To definitively compare the game of basketball with the art
of dance, we need only look at the Spin. When a dancer twirls
around two or three times, what has really been accomplished
by this action? Yes, fans have reported sensations of excitement
or upliftment; but as we know, the testimony of ordinary folk
can't be believed - eyewitnesses are regularly unable to agree
on the most obvious details of events, etc. So all a spin
move in dance can show for itself is a lot of fuzzy, circumstantial
In basketball, on the other hand, when the performer spins
around, it is to put the ball through the hoop,
or to deliver the ball to one of his teammates for an open
shot. The value of that spin is quantifiable - it is potentially
worth two points, and maybe an assist. Further, if that spin,
that head fake, that shake-and-bake does not get you a good
look at the basket, or the first step so you can blow by
your man for the easy lay-up, ultimately taking a bad shot
and missing, you are considered to have lost your
team two points.
Thus, a move to the basket can be evaluated as a success
or a failure, which increases the sport's accountability to
the public. Further, when you score, you win the game, become
a star, sign a big endorsement deal, make money, create jobs,
which in turn stimulates capital investment and generally
fertile conditions for widespread economic growth. Just remember
to work on your free throws.
Dance lacks this clear demarcation of value, and due to this,
sufficient popularity to survive as a business. How many gym
shoes did Mikhail Baryshnikov ever move? Not just compared
with basketball's All-Time Sales Champion, Mikhail Jordan,
but almost any NBA player? It logically follows that once Congress
finally, completely pulls the plug , dancers should turn to
gymnastics, martial arts, or modeling, and help get this economy
back on track.
It's the same case with music; listeners purport to "feel"
things from the music, even though sound vibrations can only
be physically detected from unnaturally boosted bass; to
have emotional experiences, and even claim insights and
understanding can come from listening to music. Absurd!
If people "understood"
anything through music, how would performers like Britney and
Madonna ever have found an audience?
Now, with a Battle of the Bands, there you're on the right
track - there we're talking about spoiled winners (because
the spoils go to them,) and sore losers. In this arena, the
emphasis is off elitist, purely musical considerations and
vain emoting, and more healthily focused on striving and competition,
crowd-pleasing stunts, etc.
If the arts survive, let's at least appoint someone to head
up the National Endowment for the Arts with an orientation
that'll really turn the ship around. Our candidate is available
now, working only as a rude, egotistical television commentator.
He's a solid Republican, with political aspirations, public
recognition, and plenty of relevant experience: Charles Barkley.
© 2005 by Bill Ross
(Permission is given to reproduce
with attribution and a link. Thank you.)
(As long as we're on the subject of the basketball business
hear people referring to the "strike" that turned the
'98-99 season into the only the "-'99" (or "asterisk")
season. We hate to get technical about such matters, but
that wasn't a player strike - it was an owner lockout, remember?
of course, that the star players make a truly absurd amount
of money. But why is it that people don't complain as much
about owner profits as they do about player salaries? Would
the owners pay those salaries if they didn't make a profit
overall? And, more importantly, does anyone go and pay those
outrageous ticket prices to watch the owners deal?)
Jackson for President!
With his running mate, from North Ca-a-a-arolina... HE CAN'T
Names in Sports
It's always those same names playing and winning, no matter
how unlikely it looks