Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday's Musings on Sports - Does the Price of the Ticket Include a License to be Rude?

A few years back I was driving on a highway near my office when I provoked the ire of the driver of a Mercedes. When I merged from the Clearview Expressway onto the Grand Central Parkway, the Mercedes driver did not feel that he needed to yield to traffic coming on from another highway, but I merged anyway. The driver then pulled along side my car and tried to get my attention. For some reason, I obliged by rolling down my window. After he finished his harangue, I said to him - "nice car, does it come with an option for manners?" The guy turned red in the face and I quickly closed the window.

For fairly obvious reasons, people seem to think that if they pay more money for something, they have the right to be rude. This principle manifested itself (again) this past weekend when a 50 year old fan at a college basketball game allegedly called a student athlete the n-word, and the player reacted by shoving the fan. The player has since been suspended by the NCAA for three games, but the concept that because a fan pays big $$ ticket prices he can be as rude as he desires is the untreated root of the problem. Although a fan would never, ever, say certain things to the athlete if the two of them were alone in a room, when the fan is in the pricey seats at the arena, all rules of civility are broken.

In fairness, these problems are not unique to the high $$ seats. I can recall sitting with my kids in the bleachers at Wrigley Field and cringing every time a fan who was wearing non-Cubs merchandise walked by. The fans were absolutely ruthless and I felt like I needed to either cover my kids' ears or have a serious talk with them about how this conduct was unacceptable. Still, it seems that the problem is more significant and the (non-intoxicated) fans feel more justified when they are paying higher prices for their seats.

The concept that a person's morals can be corrupted based on their sense of entitlement can be seen in the story of Korach. The gemara teaches that Korach was very bright as and also very wealthy. Chazal teach that there were two incredibly wealthy people, Korach and Haman. There is even a yiddish expression "Rich as Korach." Rashi states that Korach even had prestige as he was one of the carriers of the aron kodesh.

But Korach's wealth and power led to his downfall as he challenged Moshe with silly questions because he felt a sense of entitlement to more. As a result of his arrogance and over inflated sense of self worth, Korach harangued Moshe to the point that Hashem caused the Earth to open and swallow him alive.

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