While New Orleans festers, life in the NFL goes on. The NFL’s Official Website, while mentioning the problems and “heavy hearts” of the club, did not even hint at the possibility of a cancellation of the preseason game with the Raiders. From a normative perspective, one can wonder about the Saints playing a preseason game, of all things, while Rome burns. An odd thing to say the least. Sean Salisbury and Mark Schlereth criticized it on ESPN Wednesday night, but I have not heard or read other dissenting voices.
The relative lack of attention given to whether the Saints would play the final preseason game, much less miss a regular season game, leads into my main and non-moralistic point — sports is different. The explicit revenues spent on games provide only a partial, maybe even tiny, indication of its value. This is a theme that I would like to explore more down the road. Even when the rest of the counrty, or a specific region, screeches to a halt over some tragic event, sporting events keep right on going unless there is no other alternative. Here and there, some second guessing about whether it should surfaces, but by and large, the games go on as scheduled. The very fact that this happens with public support — people show up and tune in with clocklike regularity — affirms sport’s uniqueness as a product or service. Even though sports is just a form of entertainment, the public place sports on a pedastel up there with “essential” activities.
An anecdote here in Bowling Green from the early 1990s provides a specific illustration. When a devastating ice storm struck Kentucky, the Governor closed down all interstate highways to traffic. Basically, only emergency and law enforcement vehicles were pemitted access. A guard on the WKU basketball team had been at home about 70 miles away when the storm hit. He petitioned for and was granted a special exemption from the restriction so that he could rejoin the team. His hooking up with the team equated roughly with a heart surgeon making it back to Louisville to perform a transplant. The general feeling around town was, “Well, he’s got to get back — it’s basketball after all and the team has practice and a game.”