Bread & Circuses

By Dr. Samuel M. Jay 

If you’ve listened to our show at all, you know one of us was excited about the Red Sox winning another World Series.

It wasn’t me.

It’s not that I am a Dodger fan nor a Red Sox hater, but that I love baseball.

It sounds painfully cliché to write “ever since I was a kid,” but ever since I was a kid, I have been obsessed with baseball. I had Chicago White Sox wallpaper in my bedroom despite being a Cubs’ fan because I was obsessed with The Big Hurt. It was not Frank Thomas’s greatness as much as it was because he played first base. Like I did.

Plus, I was a fat kid and didn’t have a lot of (great) players who I could pretend also wore Lee’s husky jeans.

Sorry, Cecil.

This season, as with every other season -minus 2016- I was sad when it was over.


It was a shitty World Series.

Clayton Kershaw, our generation’s Sandy Koufax, got rocked. Manny Machado, a guy I had liked when he wasn’t getting any media attention, showed himself to be a total ass. It was nice to see Mookie Betts win, but even his performance was uninspiring.

In the days since, I’ve been processing my melancholia, trying to understand why this year has felt different. The sadness is a little darker. It has weight. Stickiness.

“Bread-and-circuses” is a term we give to cultural events that offer entertainment but are void of critical acuity. They are meant to distract us from politics, not to trigger contemplation about them. The practice is as old as the Roman Empire where food and entertainment were doled out to keep the masses appeased.

Sports have been criticized as serving this function. Dr. Sarah Fields made this argument on the show a few years back.

What is different now seems to be the efficacy of sports media content to capture my attention and emotional investment. When sports that I am invested in are on, I do not have to think about what is going on in Washington, DC.

Now that the World Series is over all I have is University of Iowa football once a week, but those 3.5 hours on Saturday are not enough to distract me from the serious reality of the dumpster fire that is our country.

Normally, being a father and a husband would help with the diversion, but when I see my kids I just want to say “sorry.” And that’s my default response to my wife anyhow.

We hear the NFL is declining and that the MLB is tone deaf. The NBA is doing fine, but soon the Warriors will start boring us.

Sure. I guess.

But sports are going to be fine. ESPN is going to be fine. The NCAA is going to be fine. Everyone is going to be fine.


Because for a lot of us, all we have as wool-over-our-eyes are sports.

We have partners and kids and family and friends.


But on those nights when everyone goes to sleep and we stream ESPN through our mom’s DirecTV username and password or skim Twitter or read The New York Times, it’s much more palatable to watch David Price overreact to delivering a performance he was already overpaid to provide than it is to flip to CNN or MSNBC or Fox News to watch the President of United States of America systematically pull back all cultural progress that has happened since 1968 for the sole purpose of making his balding, overweight, BVD-wearing functional corpse feel better.

Reminder: Spring Training starts in just over 100 days.

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