American sports can learn from Spain's ban on bullfighting
Bullfighting is a Spanish tradition, but it was banned when it was declared unjust
American sports should follow suit; monumental steps often aren't so monumental
At first the Spanish were outraged by ban, but now controversy has died down
ARBUCIES, Spain -- The bill to ban bullfighting here in Catalonia passed last week, and -- to cite the excellent B.o.b. --after all the pandemonium and all the madness, there comes a time where you fade to the blackness.
In this particular case, the blackness is silence, and it's happening now. Outside my window, I hear a young child speaking to his mother. I hear a motor revving and a trunk closing. Nobody is screaming or throwing bricks through windows. Nobody is threatening to boycott the government or lead an overthrow of regional parliament in Barcelona.
People were mad.
Then they were sorta mad.
Then they were less sorta mad.
Now they've moved on. There's always soccer.
Besides, the bullfighting ban wasn't a sports decision, so much as a political one. With bullfighting serving as a distinctly Spanish endeavor, Catalonian nationalists ridded their region of the sport as an enormous single-finger salute to the rest of the nation (Many in Catalonia view themselves as separate from Spain -- and want it to be made official. In a border-free Europe this makes little sense. But, hey, what do sense and politics have to do with each other?).
Still, there is a lesson to be learned here. Not long ago, the idea of a no-bullfighting-allowed section of Spain seemed as likely as a no-Palin-in-the-tabloids U.S. mandate. Though soccer is Spain's sport of kings, bullfighting evokes both great passion and great tourism revenue. Hence, when animal rights groups complained and complained over the decades, Spain's decision makers laughed. "Kill bullfighting? We might as well kill tapas, too."
Now it is dead.
The powers that be in American sports should follow suit; should understand that monumental steps are often not so monumental and that righteousness -- in any form -- feels right.
For example, since purchasing the Washington Redskins 11 years ago, Daniel Snyder has pooh-poohed any and all efforts to have his team's racist nickname changed to something more, well, decent. How, after all, will the longtime fans react? Will the loyalists feel as if their organization has punched them in the collective gut? Will people turn toward the Baltimore Ravens or, heaven forbid, the Philadelphia Eagles or New York Giants?
Truth is, unless the team is renamed the Washington Snyders (With an egomaniacal owner like Snyder, don't rule it out), a switch to Senators or Presidents or Capitols or Hogs (my personal favorite) would open up myriad opportunities. New uniforms. New merchandising. New advertising campaigns. No more accusations of being insensitive racist pigs.
The possibilities are limitless.
Yes, personal seat licenses bring in millions of dollars for professional sports franchises. But can't the next team that decides to build a new stadium just charge fans for the seats, and not the right to buy a seat?
Sure, Pacman Jones runs a 4.3 40. But maybe clubs like the Cincinnati Bengals could offer the nickel position to someone with a smidge less talent who hasn't had 234,211 brushes with the law.
OK, the St. Louis Cardinals love Mark McGwire, and he seems like an awfully nice guy. But maybe -- just maybe -- the team would be better served in 2011 with a hitting coach/mentor to young players who didn't cheat to get his, ahem, hits.
Granted, ESPN has done well financially by hitching its promotional wagon onto the backs of athletes like Barry Bonds and LeBron James. But isn't news better served by being professional and honorable and unbiased?
Let's ask the bulls.
Jeff Pearlman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.