Selling hope and the bobblehead boys

fieldofschemes-BurnsRatnerRogers Sportsnet is blowing its horn. “Our own Damien Cox,” it reported tonight, to paraphrase, has the scoop on the appointment of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s (MLSE) new president, Brendan Shanahan. The NHL executive is further being called “the former Olympic champion.” Damien Cox is a Toronto Star columnist and a regular on PrimeTimeSports.

How do journalistic scoops and exclusives work these days? A few days ago, we blew the whistle on W5’s “scoop” on the Canadian Special Forces operating in West Africa, which was actually arranged by the Department of National Defence. Rogers owns 50 per cent of MLSE and a new $5 billion contract for TV rights to Canadian NHL games. Does one think this “exclusive” non-story was going to be leaked from the boardroom of the MLSE empire to the CBC?

And on analyst Nick Kypreos’ “theory” that this represents “the present generation (of hockey players) taking charge”, etc. Finance capital is non-generational, Nick, and “in charge.” 

The much-hyped announcement comes on the eve of the final weekend of the NHL, as the Toronto Maple Leafs have missed the play-offs for the 8th time in the past nine seasons. Here we have to do with another MLSE capital-centric solution to the inherent problems of these collections posturing as “Canadian teams.”

Problem with its Toronto Football Club (TFC)? Spend $115 million to hire some mercenary soccer stars.

Need to expand the BMO stadium from 21,000 to 30,000 seats for both the soccer team and possibly the CFL Argonauts, who currently play at whatever SkyDome is called these days, i.e., to maximize revenue and profit? Another $10 million from the City of Toronto, which actually owns and financed the stadium in the first place and then gave it to MLSE in a long-term lease for a song – a pay-the-rich scheme also called “public-private partnership.” MLSE is also demanding $10 million apiece from the province of Ontario and the Canadian federal government toward the $120 million projectThere’s still a long way to go for this project — and, since this is Canada, it’s an extra ten yards farther. 

For MLSE, anything goes. Need to upgrade its basketball talent? In February former Toronto Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo publicly admitted that he essentially “tanked” the Toronto Raptors during the 2011-12 NBA season, in order to improve its draft position.

In the real word, tanking is equivalent to throwing games and a criminal offence. 

“Admittedly, I tried to tank a couple of years ago,” said Colangelo, who joined the Raptors in February 2006 after 15 years in Phoenix, including 11 years as the Phoenix Suns’ general manager. He rationalized his machinations as follows:

“I didn’t come out and say, ‘Coach, you have to lose games.’ I never said that. I wanted to establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that, but I wanted him to do it in the framework of playing and developing the young players. With that comes losing. There’s just no way to avoid that.” The ex-GM said Toronto was aiming primarily at landing a high draft pick for the 2012 draft.

However, referring to coach Dwayne Casey, “He did too good of a job in motivating his players.”

That is a conspiracy to defraud Toronto ticket holders over a complete season. This man was declared the NBA’s “executive of the year” on two separate occasions. The moral decline of sport begins at the top.

The MLSE is an enormous monopoly, a $2 billion-a-year private sports, real estate and entertainment empire, and a principal force driving the annexation of Canadian sport as member of the main American sports cartels – National (sic) Hockey League (NHL), National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Soccer (MLS) and the American Hockey League (AHL). As a component part of annexation and nation-wrecking, MLSE is also driving the militarization of sport and public place. Through its much-advertisied “good works” of its foundation, a charitable tax write-off half funded by public contributions, MLSE actively promotes the neo-liberal program of voluntarism, whereby communities and the society are to fend for themselves to build much-needed facilities for sport.

Along with being named president, Shanahan has also been appointed alternate governor to the NHL. Shanahan has been vice-president of the NHL for “hockey safety” since 2011. During the past three years, the unconscionable evidence of the growing threat to the safety of players, especially from concussions, is a matter of public record and public concern.

In parallel, Trevor Linden has been installed as the new generational face for the Vancouver Canucks. The ex-player was the agent who, as president of the NHL Player’s Association, stabbed executive director Bob Goodenow in the back in 2005 – after the owners arbitrarily locked out the players. But with Goodenow’s tactics, the players didn’t cave and ultimately it was the monopoly capitalists who cancelled the season. Linden organized a putsch in order to broker a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which met most of the league’s demands; its been all downhill for the players since then.

Now these characters turn up in the executive suite, and the sports media calls it “restoring the brand.”

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