Friday, October 20, 2006

The Ethics And Morality Of Rooting Against The Mets

Well, the Mets lost and the Cardinals are going off to face the Tigers in the World Series.

As a lifelong Yankees fan, I've always had a good, healthy hatred for the cross-town rivals. Generally speaking, unless the opposing team is the Dodgers, I'm with whomever the Mets are playing on any given day. That said, yesterday's 3-1 victory by the Cardinals was the outcome I was looking for.

However, I began to wonder about the propriety of rooting against the home team. I figured that I don't owe any real allegience to the Mets players - they're making a hefty chunk of change just playing (minimum salary: $327,000, average salary: about $1.5 million), and they're going to make extra money for being in the playoffs. True, the playoff money would be larger if they got to the World Series, but so what? The money would go to either them or the Cardinals anyway - one of them had to win and one had to lose - so what difference does it make?

But then I began thinking about the other people involved - the owners of businesses around the stadiums. Since the Mets didn't make it to the World Series, there goes at least tow (and maybe three) days of extra cash in their pockets. In a highly seasonal business where there are only 81 home games in a year, an extra two to three days of business can be a big difference. Then, of course, there are the people who work inside the stadium: ushers, ticket takers, beer and snack vendors, T-shirt and paraphenalia salespeople; all these people work only when there are games. By losing last night, the Mets players cost these people two or three days of wages - about 1/90th of their annual salary (when playoff games are taken into account). That's not chump change to some of these people - that's their livelihood! Parking lot attendants won't be working because people won't be driving to games that aren't being played at Shea. And lastly, let's not forget that playoff games bring in a lot of revenue to the local tax collectors. I remember reading somewhere that if the Yankees or the Mets don't make the playoffs, it costs the city over $10 million in tax revenue.

To be honest, of course, the money isn't really being lost - it just shifted from New York to St. Louis. Instead of Shea Stadium ushers being employed, Busch Stadium ushers will be earning paychecks escorting people to their box seats. Instead of New York's tax coffers filling up, St. Louis' will. So, in the end, while it may be a local loss, it's not like it's a total loss - one team had to win and one had to lose. A Mets win would have come at the expense of the people of St. Louis, and vice versa. So, is rooting for either team ethical when one side will lose and people unrelated to the game will have their personal finances made or broken by the events on the field? Can I ethically root for the Mets if it means that some poor parking lot attendant in St. Louis will be out of work? Can I root for the Cardinals (putting aside the fact that I'm rooting against the Mets out of hate) when a Cardinal win will cost some poor pretzel vendor a fair chunk of change? Is rooting for either team ethical?

I suppose that there are two ways to look at it. The first way is that rooting for a team (any team) is ethical because, if not for the people rooting for a team, the whole enterprise would fail. Without the fans, no one would watch the games, the television networks couldn't sell the advertising spots to advertisers, the players couldn't get paid and the ticket takers, parking lot attendants, etc. would all be out of a job anyway. So, the fact that I have an interest in the success of one team means that I am helping, in an indirect way, to employ those people. In that sense, rooting for a team (any team) is ethical and productive.

That may be fine for the regular season, where each team will play 81 home games (barring rainouts) regardless of the success of the team on the field. But what about the playoffs, where only one team (and the people associated with it) will see revenue? When it comes down to a hot-dog vendor in New York or a hot-dog vendor in St. Louis, does one have a better claim to my fandom? Does it make a difference (ethically or morally) which team I root for?

I suppose that, when thought of in those terms, that rooting for the Mets would be the proper course. After all, when it comes to tzedaka (charity), we are taught that all other things being equal, the poor of your home city come before the poor of other cities. That being the case, when it comes to some poor pretzel-vendor here or some poor pretzel vendor in St. Louis, I should be looking to support our own pretzel guy - after all, he's a New Yorker!

Soemthing to give thought to next time I root against the Mets...

The Wolf


Anonymous said...

Should you root against anyone? As opposed to root for someone else? Binpol Oyivecha al Tismach. I believe that means that one can feel pleasure in his victory, that is different from feeling pleasure at the defeat of his opponent.

Anonymous said...


Rooting for a team is totally an emotional, subjective thing. It's immoral to objectify it like you have done! :)

Anonymous said...

Oh please. Forget the money. For most teams, you may have an argument, but this is still the Mets. You can always root against them no matter what. LET'S GO YANKEES!