For those of us born and raised in the United States, both democracy and sports are words and ideas that resonate.

They are not necessarily compatible words.

Team sports especially is far from a democracy; there is a rigid hierarchy and extremely limited movement between the castes. The vast majority — the fans — have almost no power beyond demonstrating approval or frustration (and even this matters less than their spending habits, on tickets, merchandise, memorabilia, online slots, and more).

The virtues of the team are touted, the communal good for which all toil. Like soldiers on the front, the players are encouraged to subsume individuality and critical thinking for the development of an instinctive reaction to the single-minded goal of the hive mind. Is it propaganda, delusion, or mere hypocrisy that the goal is determined far above the team, in a place where there is an “I” and it stands for Investment.

The chosen few, whose dedication and discipline mask the overwhelming importance of blind pre-determined biology, enjoy attentions and favors that would embarrass a medieval sultan — for a few years, anyway, until their worth is exhausted inside the arena. There the player grunts are ruled with an iron first by their sergeant, the coach. Yet even the coach is nothing but a slave to the manager, and the manager a slave to the owner, the investors, the corporate sponsors.

Yikes! You’re looking for the exit. Here it is, in the form of online casino games. Thanks for stopping by!

Okay, so some sports seem to celebrate the individual, the arguably noble purpose of human achievement. The runners, the racers, the lifters, the players on a team of one, pursuing their own path to victory. How does one define democracy in terms of a single constituent?

This may depend upon whether it is a sport in the sense of competition or record – setting, versus a sport in terms of a general category of career paths. The professional is less a citizen of a democracy than a supplicant, whose livelihood depends upon the goodwill of the sponsors, the owners, the masters. While it is just about possible to make one’s own way in the world of business, those that pursue sports for their income find their choices limited for them in nearly every possible way — all the more so, should they ultimately achieve any distinction.

In many sports, one must rely on making all of the money they can during their career because they are not good for much else when they are done. In many cases the medical problems created during the career cost more to maintain as an athlete ages than they ever made while they were being paid to play.

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