Where greed is not good

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

clubs use fenc­ing to make the lucky fan who finds a park­ing place on the street or in some­one’s front yard walk around the sta­dium to find a way to his seat. Who can af­ford the $7 hot dog or the $10 cup of warm beer af­ter pay­ing $300 for his ticket and another $40 to park the car?

Some clubs, like the one in Cincin­nati, are ap­peal­ing to mu­nic­i­pal pa­tri­o­tism. “NFL play­off games are rare and won­der­ful chances for com­mu­ni­ties to show­case their com­mu­ni­ties in front of a na­tional TV au­di­ence of roughly 30 mil­lion view­ers,” the Ben­gals front of­fice said, urg­ing fans to buy tick­ets. The gougers re­main ex­cited about Sun­day’s game, and how foot­ball can make every­body happy, healthy and pros­per­ous, but only if the gougees do their part. “How­ever,” the Ben­gals own­ers said, “we need to be can­did that un­less our daily rate of sales in­creases, we will not achieve a sell­out, and the game will not be tele­vised in Cincin­nati, Day­ton or Lex­ing­ton, Ky., per NFL pol­icy.”

Tele­vi­sion’s foun­tain of money has all but ru­ined the ap­peal of sports, even at the col­lege level, where coaches are paid mul­ti­ples of mil­lions an­nu­ally, where loy­alty to the old school has all but dis­ap­peared and the play­ers, no longer sat­is­fied with a free ed­u­ca­tion (such as it might be) and pub­lic adu­la­tion be­fore they re­tire to bag­ging gro­ceries or draw­ing un­em­ploy­ment checks, are de­mand­ing part of the loot at the gate.

You might think that it would oc­cur to the own­ers, or univer­sity pres­i­dents who are the own­ers at the col­lege level, that stran­gling the golden goose is not a longterm strat­egy for suc­cess. Fans, read­ing about out­landish salaries paid to play­ers who are of­ten just this side of il­lit­er­ate and own­ers who would shame Gor­don Gekko, get no relief from escalating ticket prices.

Mr. Gekko, in fact, has gone to work for the gov­ern­ment to warn ev­ery­one not to be like him. Michael Dou­glas, the ac­tor who por­trayed the fic­tional Mr. Gekko, says greed is not so good. Now he tells us. He will make tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials for the FBI, pro­mot­ing its “Per­fect Hedge” cam­paign against in­sider trad­ing on Wall Street. The cam­paign will in­clude real-life wire­taps from 57 suc­cess­ful prose­cu­tions for fi­nan­cial fraud on the street.

“In the movie,” he says, “I played a greedy cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive who cheated to profit while in­no­cent in­vestors lost their sav­ings. The movie was fic­tion, but the prob­lem is real.”

Greed has its uses, but it costs, a les­son Gor­don Gekko learned to his sor­row. There’s a les­son here for the he­roes and the bums of sport if they’re smart enough to learn it. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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