The Blog

Stardumb: Professional Sports v. Hollywood and Music

Also: Tiger Woods v. Michael Moore and Anna Quindlen v. common sense.

7:00 AM, Apr 17, 2003 • By DAVID SKINNER
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Throughout the recent debate, show-business types and music professionals seemed far more prone to imagining they knew, even after hardly any study of the questions involved, what twisted horrors were in store with the unleashing of American military power. This element of personal vision goes a long way in explaining the ideological divide.

Why should entertainers as opposed to athletes find themselves believing in the power of their own personal vision? Well, what other than some very special mojo belonging only to the person with the box office hit or multi-platinum record can possibly explain their incredibly good fortune?

There are many talented actors and musicians who never make a living at it, let alone become stars, whereas if you can score twenty points a game against professional basketball players, you're going to enjoy steady employment. There is no one futzing around the local Par 3 course who can play golf like Tiger Woods, whereas if you look hard, you'll find singers as good as Sheryl Crow or actors as good as Tim Robbins who can barely make ends meet.

Other differences come to mind. Athletes are used to representing other people, whether it be a city or the United States. At least since the Greeks, athletic glory has been intimately bound up with national pride. Their glory is our glory. We feel proud of them when they go abroad and conquer opponents. Thus they experience professional (as well as personal) obligations to the United States.

Meanwhile the American people are less invested when a Hollywood reel or an American CD crosses the globe and turns actors and musicians into stars. This lack of a bond goes both ways. Actors and musicians are less diplomats than freelances. Art, it is often argued, transcends national boundaries. Less often considered is how sports emphasizes national boundaries.

But not only does entertainment transcend national cultures, but America's entertainment industry is legendary for its cultivation of countercultural film and music. Dating back to Vietnam, pop music has been home to loosely stitched patterns of leftists sentiment. Only country music stands out here as exceptional and, more likely than not, pro-American. Movies, too, have played a major role in the development of an anti-bourgeois, anti-Washington agenda from "Dr. Strangelove" to "American Beauty." Professional sports, meanwhile, play a much less important role in the counterculture. To state the obvious: There is no Bob Dylan of the NFL.

George W. Bush, compulsive jogger and onetime president of a major league baseball team, may also have a lot to do with this split dividing athletes from entertainers. The former cheerleader's personality is more or less typical of a jock from the popular crowd. You know the type. Complacent rich kid from a powerful family, just brimming with school spirit. He's been in dozens of Hollywood movies . . . and he's always the bad guy.

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.