Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Will the NFL Finally Be The Answer to Climate Change Action?

While I live in Austin, I was fortunately spared the worst of Hurricane, and then Tropical Storm, Harvey.  (No one saw this coming. With a name so innocent who could have thought it would be so dangerous? *eyeroll out of my damn head*.) But being in the backyard of such a catastrophe assuredly had it in the mind of many residents here. 

As the storm finally gave Texas a bit of relief many thought this might finally be time to discuss climate change.  Of course, the GOP always has some indecipherable timeline in their head about what time is too close to a tragedy to discuss how to prevent it. Twenty children are viciously murdered in Sandy Hook and it is “too soon!” to discuss better gun control. A year’s worth of rainfall falls on Houston in a weekend and it is time to “focus on rescuing people!” not talk about how it could all be prevented.  But if history has told us anything, it is that these tragedies will fade from the forefront of most people’s minds. When the subject is brought up again at a time that is thought to have given the deferential amount of grieving period, the obvious response from the right will be why people are bringing up such an old story.  It is lose-lose for those wanting to use immediate undeniable occurrences to discuss what can be done to fix problems.  In other words, Harvey and its aftermath, by themselves, may not be enough to affect actual change.  Do you know what I realized it finally going to make this happen?

The NFL.

How the NFL will solve this crisis first came to mind after I finished a run in 104 degree Austin heat not too long ago. I plopped down in front of a box fan and poured ice cold water over me. While I tried to summon the energy to stand in the shower, I realized the NFL season was rapidly approaching. How could football season be right around the corner when it felt like I was standing on the surface of the sun.  Granted, this was Texas, but still.

I thought of those giant fans they use for the first full month of the season which shoot out cooling water onto the players on the bench. Then I thought of how when it really starts to snow, football fans say: "This is football weather!"  Why do they say that? Why isn’t hot weather considered football weather?

Because October, November, and December used to actually be freaking cold. The bulk of the football season used to be played in crisp, cool weather, often punctuated by snowfall and ice and wind and brrr. That is no longer the case. 

Long into the season, higher temperatures prevails.  The SuperBowl held in 2014 was played on February 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. People were worried about what temperatures would be like the day of the game as it would be the first “cold-weather” SuperBowl. Those worries were unfounded when a 49 degree starting temperature at kickoff only made it the 3rd coldest SuperBowl ever. (Granted, a big snowstorm hit the next day but that doesn’t negate a nearly 50 degree evening in New Jersey.  On Groundhog Day.)

The days are warmer, the nights are warmer, and the games are being played by faster, stronger men, pushing themselves more to the limit than ever before. The NFL rarely has men playing every down anymore, especially on defense, with the era of specialization upon us. Nutrition and hydration are no longer seen as things only the weak imbibe. So much more attention is being spent to getting the best out of the human body.  However, even with all of this, is only a matter of time before some player, in the heat of a September game, succumbs to the weather in a potentially fatal way. Then, finally, Congress may act. Why Congress? Wasn’t this about the NFL?

Think back to 2005 when Congress had hearings on steroids in baseball LONG after it was obvious that there was rampant use of steroids in baseball? N.B. I'm not saying they didn't have the right to do so (sports like MLB fall under "interstate commerce" according to Art I, Sec 8 of the Constitution) nor am I saying there isn't a legitimate interest. Congress is supposed to hold hearings about issues which concern the public. Let’s be honest, nothing worries the hardhat carrying John Q. Public more than sports and money. But sports have received extensive government assistance at the national, state and local levels. It's dishonest for baseball officials to claim that a steroid abuse scandal among players and league officials is "private business." The reality is that the sports industry has greatly benefited from exemptions to the anti-trust laws, subsidies for stadium construction and an assortment of federal tax breaks.

Baseball might be the national past time but right now football moves the needle. The NFL will bring $14 billion in revenue this year. That amount is more than the GDP of 36% of the countries on this planet. (Oh yeah, I really did my research on this one, folks!) When something begins to affect the bottom line of billionaire owners, and a death, especially to a franchise player would be just that, climate change will finally matter.  Of course, when I say “matter” I mean to their bottom line. They don’t care about the health and well-being of players.  If they did, hiding behind line of “inconclusive evidence” towards concussions and traumatic brain injuries would have never happened.  But the NFL  does care about making money.  And people dying on national television during a game because it is eleventy billion degrees in November will finally make somebody notice. By “somebody” I mean billionaires. By “billionaires”, I mean the people who control the elections by filling the coffers of our politicians. The NFL owners may finally be the answer to getting morons like Jim "Here's a Snowball in February so Climate Change isn't Real" Inhofe, to act to assure the rest of the world doesn't burst into flames or drown in a flood. Like the NFL, these politicians don’t care about people or “the earth.” 

What they care about is getting donors and staying elected.  How will that happen?

Just looking at presidential elections, NFL owners, not shockingly, lean to the right. In 2008, nine owners donated a total of $300,950 to the McCain campaign. Thirteen NFL owners donated a total of $412,600 to the Romney campaign in 2012. But here is where it gets interesting.

The biggest donating NFL owner, by far, was Texans owner Bob McNair. That’s HOUSTON Texans owner. You might have heard about a little thing that happened in Houston recently. Ole McNair has donated $3,560,700 over the four elections from 2008 to 2014. The bulk of that came in 2012 donations to Conservative PACs “Restore Our Future” ($2 million) and American Crossroads ($1 million). In other words, 99.06% of his donations when toward Republicans. None to Democrats.

As the NFL is overwhelmingly played outdoors, it is the one most affected by the climate. Bob McNair is worth 3.3 billion himself. Other owners, who have proven repeatedly to be able to hold entire city’s feet to the fire by promising to move to other locations, are also worth billions.  If their product, their bank accounts, and their ability to live ostentatious lifestyles are threatened by the changing climate, this might finally be smoking coalplant we have needed to save ourselves from the wrath of Mother Nature.

So, maybe this will be the hurricane which finally gets the NFL to make a change. When they survey the landscape and see one party is the one who believes the 99% of scientists on the matter and the other likes to listen to Alex Jones, they will go with the ones who support their best interests.  This isn’t the best way to get to where we need but when “500-year” events which happen on the regular, we will take what we can.

Are you ready for some football?

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