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WWL>Topics>>1-15 1:10pm Open Mind: jazz heritage & football

1-15 1:10pm Open Mind: jazz heritage & football

Jan 15, 2014|

Angela talks to the Author of "The King of Sports" and President and Executive Director Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Michael Sartisky to talk about the worship of football at the sacrifice of jazz heritage and culture in New Orleans.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Well I'll tell you it's a blue sky day in paradise absolutely gorgeous outside hoping your enjoying it. And I hope the to listen for the next hour. This is a show that -- try to put together a couple of times but which led to reschedule and I'm just so delighted that both of these gentlemen are on are here today. Talking about something I think is. Very very interesting and very very important. One of the strongest commentaries I've read in a while ran recently in the edition of the New Orleans advocate. Written by Michael -- to -- it is entitled. Not collecting culture worshipping gridiron. It pulls no punches. -- to ski blast New Orleans culture that brags on its love of jazz. Believes the newly renovated singer theatre two thirds empty. For a phenomenal performance by favored son and musical prodigy Wynton Marsalis. Leading his Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra. In his next breath start to -- attacks which he calls quote a nation addicted to a brutal and ultimately meaningless spectacle. -- football. Some of his concern also comes from the -- just -- by Gregg Easterbrook entitled. The king of sports. Football's impact on America. Gregg Easterbrook is a gifted journalist and author who writes a weekly column for espn.com. Called Tuesday morning quarterback. He too pulls no punches. As a lover of all arts and a saint and what the column said may -- think. Are we losing interest in so many aspects of our culture. If so will the struggling arts survive. But equally disturbing is the question a book game of football has become. Is it as some believe and in titled tax talking business that entertains us with its brutality. Again I loved the arts and in more than loyal to our saints. But this is worth a discussion. And that's what we're going to do as we've invited column writer Michael -- to escape and author Greg Easterbrook on an open mind. I truly appreciate both of you being here. Greg you are. Not physically here richer with -- and and thank you so much. Okay we're gonna start with Michael. It is to be said that Michael is the head of the Louisiana endowment for the arts for thirty years. And these these are your thoughts not the thoughts of the endemic to very clear on that I have to say I read it and I read it again. And part of me laughed because it's very funny in some parts and part of me was just a moment. So. What inspired you sit down with an end. Well as the first of all it is a pleasure and an honor to be joining you and Greg to be joining you as well over the over the airwaves here. I was motivated first and foremost simply by the experience of sitting in that beautifully 52 million dollar renovated -- theater. Which everyone in New Orleans you know it is I know is thrilled that we brought back that historic institution. They've done a beautiful job. There is no more distinguished. -- musical prodigy. In this city then went Marsalis coming from you know the distinguished Marsalis family itself. And he brought down the -- Indian Baptist Church choir hundreds strong led by it is its dynamic director. And how could I help but be struck that I was sitting in a building that was two thirds empty. And not because he didn't have celebrity -- like jaded in my column by saying perhaps people didn't know about it because it was only on the front page of the paper and out of the sports section. But yet there was Witten who box weighs just remarkable. -- point out to my girlfriend who he was because he sits modestly in the back row of the press section and there was no way of knowing that that was what Marsalis really. Unless you you had foreknowledge which I did. And the performance. Was. Absolutely mesmerized. It it I think I said at one point it it was a shocker Zulu one moment in strains of revelations the next it was Saturday night. Merging into Sunday morning. It -- -- list all of the great feelings and spirit of our culture. That the church origins of the music as well as the jazz and blues origins of the music and the African the Gaspar coming home here in New Orleans birthplace of -- Two thirds and two thirds and and just by pure work coincidence. I happened to hear on NPR -- -- an interview with Greg Easterbrook. And I heard about the book and what the topic was instantly ordered it. Greg. I've pretty much consumed it. And I wanted to discuss it with friends so much. I went on Amazon and bought three more copies from my best friends so I would have people to discuss it with immediately. Interested in bashing football. And just for the record I'm a former varsity basketball player my son was a varsity football player for two years at Newman. I was so Little League coach for seven years I was a soccer coach for five years. My column along a longer version of which occurred in other publication of the Louisiana endowment for the humanities cultural vista's. Is called the choices we make define us. And what I was trying to contrasts is where our society. Invests its money. In uses that investment as a way of expressing. Its values. In the contrast with. People's obsession with the saints as I said in the column. The 900 people who occupied. Singer Paul that evening. Maybe would have fit between the 48 and fifty yard line at saint -- And as they also point out the column -- even though this concert was on a Sunday. The saints were out of town they had already lost. And so it's not that they were over competing competing you know for time of war for space. Let me start with you asked what my reason was and I have much more that I would like to contribute as well about the relative. Contrast in funding for cultural institutions and our state. And the enormous losses by the way the cultural community has been eroded and financially. Virtually as badly as our coastline has been eroded by the recent storms. Don't think everybody understands that he that we can get Internet and interactive newspapers -- -- bring -- and as Greg you're listening to Michael. And sort of where he's coming from bringing in your book. Which I've read many articles on your book and it takes my breath I've not read the book but the things that I have read about -- book deal. Kind of I don't like to know from you what motivated you to write the book. Well and yes -- question his. I'm a big lover of football. Critic of the sport but I also love the sport I played in high school and college some place in college. Attended wage a winning football -- Somalis including. And including many games that would the Mercedes-Benz superdome. Portland -- I think the sport it's fantastic but you can also likes something and feel that it has deep seated problems. That need significant reform. We've been a lot of issues through that way about all the fifty NFL level you know cause significantly subsidized by the taxpayer which is incredibly expensive. Or may need subsidies levers -- needs of these professional football does not need to average people's taxes being used to subsidize. At the college level will be the quality of play is fantastic college -- aggressive urban. But only 54% of the players graduated division one of and that's something that big universities including elation -- -- core group. Ought to be ashamed and at the high school level bicycle football can be fabulous experience just like. Any high schools or to be a good experience for boards or girls and teachers and -- discipline teamwork and -- High school football exposes. One point one million -- a year to neurological injuries that may take them through life. In return for only the tiniest chance to only 12000 however. Receive a paycheck from from the NFL. And in an increasingly high school's football become. A year round event to destroy his ability divorced. Decent GP -- to emerge and do extra curriculars and get regular admission to college we'll get recruited and I must say Louisiana has the worst in this regard. Louisiana normally allows year round school Oprah practice. Louisiana was your round contacts. Critical football practice which is just crazy. With one boy and 2001 and 2000 and make it into the NFL benefits from that the other 1999. Or harmed by it. So it I think the sport is a wonderful sport but it needs to be reformed and a great deal of words. We're going to take a quick break but we're gonna continue the conversation I think many people will want to hear. Both those lovers of football and lovers of the arts because what we're saying is in sort of where our priorities. I know Greg is talking about something much deeper than that. But to stay with this we're gonna continue right after this I'm Angela under the W well Michael -- to ski who is the how many get it right this time. Is head of the Louisiana endowment for the humanities. Read a book. Wonderful book. By Gregg Easterbrook. And it's about the NFL but. It really is sort of married in the discussion. Of where our priorities. You can love football but we have to understand how much perhaps I think this is what -- -- saying Michael angry that it takes from communities. Michael your concern of course is that it's taking. Things from other things arts center which are also offering. For a myriad of reasons not just football but it's where where how do we think of ourselves as a community. I think I wanna start first with. Greg Greg. Weird when did this enormous. Mass appeal of football -- it wasn't always like and that's always been football fans. But it's escalated. Well it proposes increasing in popularity for a -- good. For at least century. And in the post were -- to World War II would it be in the past space policy America's national past time. In part because after World War II there was the commanders expansion of the public universities since system. But that the new public universities are expanded once. Emphasize football in part as a way to build excitement around their schools and and I think that much is great the fact that -- the big college programs -- Young people in general billboards in particular certain vocal coach it's good that's good for society but. But that the growth of the public university system after the war -- enthusiasm for. Football to expand and then when when cable television arrived roughly of them in the -- 1980s and he went from having one -- two. Football games on television per week in the typical sort of having forty or fifty which is the number today. Football proved to be the number one thing on TV. Follow football just dominates the television went to demonstrate to go to games and I enjoyed attending games of course but. -- Best to watch on television that's easiest and cheapest to watch on television. Last year number one show on network television. Was NBC's Sunday night for all of -- -- -- sport that's of the Erwin Cho the number one show on cable television was your experience. But the united football again -- the number one sport and number one show that now dominates American television or that. Really nothing ever has including sitcoms and truck and crime -- It's in the sense that we're a little on the himself signed. Not perhaps at the expense of other elements of society. Well you know I would love to be able to thank you could do suggest culture. Or an opera network television would draw seventeen million viewers has become a little bit last week I don't think that's ever gonna be realistic. So I don't have any objection to a lot of football games on TV my objections of the ones I stated before subsidies to help Harmon. Armed educational games themselves or are great. But whether you could whether you could redirect money it's to date spent on football but would they are so it's certainly possible. Well that is actually one of the -- someone to make it after listening to both of -- Wouldn't it be a great thing that the NFL would give 1% of revenue of every game to the hearts. Well you could propose that -- looking owners say they give away precious little money. As it is in in the king of sports I guess roughly estimate that the NFL receives about. A billion dollars a year public subsidies. And and give back and as charitable work and Philip offered Philanthropic contributions above 3% of that so. When you say subsidies would you elaborate on that. Well that's the key subsidies are 70%. Lead. League wide average 70% of the cost of construction and operation -- you know -- concession that he wants to India. Has been paid for by the public usually by state taxpayers sometimes a local or federal taxpayers. -- and Louisiana you're you're you're the king of subsidies and New Orleans at this facility -- the saints play as -- for almost entirely by. Taxpayers stated federal taxpayers have paid. If you convert to today's dollars about a billion dollars to build renovate and repair the superdome. That the stadium in Indianapolis is also open. Entirely publicly for another couple others that. But you have a dubious distinction of having both of having an entirely publicly funded stadium that's the most expensive. And -- terms of the United States. So I'm gonna play doubles up there just for a second I think there are some people who would say. It's worth it it's worth it in the sense that it adds such an element in New Orleans which already has some fabulous elements. And that if we if we -- it didn't exist tomorrow we'd be in trouble. The the small business person the restaurant the hotel. So yes were paying. Were paying even if you don't go to the game you're paying but. We're getting something. All of the existence of the -- -- about -- all these subsidized. Nature. That bothers me I'm glad that it's there I wished governments and the owner who is a billion there which simply pay for it himself. That's that we free enterprise is supposed to work. That's my objections about the fact that it's there. Greg Greg let me interject for second and ask you question. Now in addition to the subsidies which as you said here in Louisiana come to about a billion dollars. Public taxpayer dollars the mind you this is at a time. What for example in this morning's local newspaper. The university ignore -- which was the major state institution here. Has in the last five or six years under the current. Administration in Baton Rouge. Lost almost 50% of its funny it struck its annual funding is drop from something like 52 million a year to 36 million dollars or 34 million dollars here. But let me ask you this way. There are eight. Home games played. In the Super Bowl super -- in the superdome -- In it I would challenge our local media. To do. Today a thorough and systematic economic analysis. You know. The -- of what the real benefit that is derived particularly comparing it to the subsidy. For eight days. In -- -- -- there 365. Days in the year. And it would be extremely useful I think for people to be informed. So that policy decisions in the future. And it doesn't count what I believe is about as three million dollar a year if I'm correct in your book. Incentive payment to Tom Benson. By the state government and then another five million dollars a year in -- space in in what is now called instant power. We're gonna have taken the break I stay with this this is -- is a very interesting topic now let's go to -- Cullen in the newsroom. The king of sports football's impact on America a book written by Gregg Easterbrook guard guest. And also Michael -- to ski who is on head of the Louisiana -- I keep saying this wrong why in my blocking. Louisiana endowment for the humanities. And lower really talking about is. Let's look at the emphasis were putting on football in our lines. Individual lines in our communities lines. And is it perhaps at the expense of our cultural. And -- in an. All of the things that make this area of special. Are just hanging on by the fingernails. And it isn't football's fault no I don't think we're saying that but maybe we need to look at some of these things. Would you have brought at the very good point ending. In the commercial. About what we really need to talk to Greg about. Football and it's. Keep saying the word are we possessed. But the emphasis on airlines. Greg. Well in in my booking -- sort of a culture -- chapter is significant to the question this football becoming disturbingly like Nicole. Mainly for its effect on young people and of course in the boys and men. Well but for the nation -- -- old boy is obsessed with football. It's their well forcing disclosure could be obsessed with and that is as long as if it weren't publicly subsidized and damaged reputation didn't damage -- education that would have a any objections to at all but. Americans do you take football switchers don't. But but you know Michael -- bring up it is it is a violent sport. And it's just something about a culture and it just doesn't. I avoided in my column what I thought was the over obvious comparison to the Roman coliseum in the gladiators -- mean. It yet is it just -- simply too obvious to me but as long as we're pursuing the topic now you know. That's often sided even -- 2000 years ago as an example of a culture that had been culturally magnificent. That ruled the world. But in its latter days and actually the days of its decline and I think that's where the connection. Role in it's the cloning. Appeased the urban masses. By providing them spectacle. As distraction. Chariot races. That killing and killing Christians actually. And my concern as an observer of culture you know is that this country you know where. Just ten years ago the entire country watched. And laughed Ken Burns series. On the civil war. Because that was such a premier example. Of how. An important subject could be rendered in interesting ways. Engaged people about fundamental. American concerns and values the entire I don't know there's an American who didn't see Ken burns' civil war. In contrast we seem to have slipped from. And you know people obsess about this very violent very destructive. Very expensive. Activity. And of course my principal concern is that it's at the expense of other things that are equally. Important. And it's not just Louisiana at such as football by the -- the state also subsidize the final four for example to the tune of six million dollars. Which worked out 200 dollars a seat. As as a public subsidy for the NCAA to host that event -- that. The might packet just say for second. Let's contrast ourselves to another community community that new worlds doesn't generally have higher regard for the city of Atlanta. The city of Atlanta proper and you may be surprised you know it's not that much larger than the world's. The metropolitan area used yet full count me in the surrounding counties. But the the city of Atlanta itself. Only has a population of about 422000. Compared to -- hour give or take 35360. House. But the High Museum of Art low as an annual budget 24 million dollar year. The Atlanta symphony very close friend of mine is the president. Has an annual budget just the symphony. Although they have a popular music cultures such as classical music councils of popular music their annual budgets. 47. Million just for the Atlanta -- If you add together the annual funding from all sources public and -- Of the ten or twelve major cultural institutions state from Shreveport to New Orleans including Baton Rouge he comes to 48 million. In other words the high museum of -- hit the Atlantis at the alone and it has an annual budget. In -- in the city of 422000. People pay that is equal to. The major institutions in the entire city which. But but one why have we. We Harold it's not a lot. And yet we're not financially supporting him or not financially is -- the state funds I know that's done. But even individually you don't have to like -- you don't have to like opera you don't have to like the symphony but you don't wanna live in a community that doesn't happen it. About jazz and blues and yet -- contemporary music and I'm not I'm I'm not talking about just high arts. -- I view that civil war was not an idea. Hi art scholarly. Piece that piece of artistic production. Ken Burns me I'm used all of the skills of cinematographer -- Right and storytelling and -- in storytelling. And ironically even when something in the arts. Is successful for example twelve Pierce's way as as you know just just one the golden global war. And in the state I know was thrilled that -- -- The film set in Louisiana has been recognized. Haven't seen anybody comet Angelo on the irony in the fact that with that film is about is the vicious plantation system of slavery. That exploited African Americans for a 150 years and damaged lives which is what the film actually portraits. And ironically because football. Is also linked to our worship of celebrity. And -- particularly in in in -- And so we look at the film and we we're thrilled with the celebrity of it. But I haven't seen any public discussion of the implications of what the film actually addresses and that's disturbing that -- says something about the culture -- that it. How we're gonna take another break but please stay with this for talking culture and football right after this all our discussion today with Michael -- to ski and Gregg Easterbrook is about football and about culture. And sort of our priorities. Greg in your book you mentioned that and this was sort of by opening to. That the NFL. Not the owners who only each team with the NFL itself is a nonprofit. That was sort of shocking. But -- that distressed anchors and Angela -- congress hasn't changed as I don't get -- NFL headquarters of 345 park avenue in New York city's magnificent. Building walking into the -- of Goldman Sachs. It's on paper a tax exempt charity and Roger Goodell the commissioner of the Philippines and so. Thirty million dollars a year appears on paper to be the administrator of some great Philanthropic. And I endeavor this is an artifact of a piece of of a sentence actually slipped into a piece of legislation. Passed by congress in 1966. It's ridiculous that the that. The NFL can appear to be a charity on paper. But the simple solutions for congress to extract themselves from the legislation in congress hasn't done anything about it senator Tom Coburn from. Oklahoma as a bill to strip into all of its nonprofit status guess how many cosponsor senator. Coburn has zero. There's there's only one person in the United States senate. Who will attach his name to stripping the NFL. Of nonprofit status and if the senators afraid to take. Such an obvious boondoggle boondoggle will this -- -- But but what is the hesitancy to -- is it just now become so powerful and so. And intertwined in our economy that we're not going to bucket. Well I think the article does have a fair amount of political power it's not omnipotent of course it's awesome political battles but. Paramount political power members -- not so much in the senate but certainly certainly mayors and governors bow low to the NFL because they don't want to be accused. In any waiver of of causing him to change it is not -- this change is an eighteen years and I don't think it's likely to happen in the future but you've seen in Louisiana about -- don't move. Who styles himself as the conservative governor has consistently boat -- to the New Orleans Saints handing them all kinds of money including ridiculously named. Inducement payment which recently -- about. Six million dollars here's basically gifts to Tom Benson billionaire to get him to leave. His team in the city which is likely to be what happens in in any case so politicians secretary terrorists before the -- they don't. They they they fear that if they -- that I handouts to NFL owners. -- to a movement on the political blame them I don't think so what can guarantee that won't happen I don't think it'll happen. The constructive example -- state of Florida where last year. The multi billionaire owns the Miami Dolphins commanded 400 million dollars from public subsidies and mr. legislatures said no. For the dolphins to move -- again it's just as good as they used to be so wish politicians would stand up. But I wish politicians would stand up on a lot of issues. What do you see in the future I mean are we just it's just like. Snowball going down the mountain. Well you're absolutely go back as what -- -- work something mentioned earlier the fact of the unit also -- -- in yes obviously this proposal. Well very aggressive sport and even even with the safety reforms and progress will always be -- very. Aggressive sport and what's happening in our society as a whole actual violence is in decline. -- primer down almost everywhere. New York City today is -- for the walk at night in New York City that it wasn't 1950s. Homicide and then. Well very strong enforceable crimes her record lows. Compared to population in in many states. Auto accidents -- a record lows -- income health outcomes are increasing for most people the reality of our licensee for all the time. So it is utterly to -- pop psychology but where that we seek are -- together can't we stick in violent. Football entertainment violent video games are on movies the distinction is movies and video games to ounces fake companies are in football people are. And definitely don't want anybody from the NFL to be injured it's not that 1700. NFL players. I care about their adults you know the risk to make a free -- chores never located. In return for the risks that they take my concern mainly is use the high school players. Who are too young to understand the risks. Who legally -- children. And almost certainly will never receive any benefits and tangible benefits from playing football they're getting injured that's the group that I worry about. And and looked -- to make a parallel to that. Roger Goodell the NFL commissioner as you've pointed out Greg X thirty million dollars a year. That's roughly. Fifty times what Tulane president Scott -- makes. And everybody in this community knows how extraordinary president counts contribution. To New Orleans. Certainly post-Katrina but in general and and the enormous benefit that he has brought. To that universe. And we're talking a value system and we have to take another break we'll be right. Our guest today have been Gregg Easterbrook who's the author of the king of sports football impact on America. And Michael -- to -- who was with the Louisiana endowment for the arts runs it has for the last thirty years. And I people were talking about isn't football verses cultural things it's. Kinda killing all work together but I would like to pick Greg's thoughts in our final moments. On in your book QB kinda have some thoughts on what the NFL can do better. All public subsidies most of these should be -- that's a decision for for state and local government to make that. Shouldn't be in the course you know well we're at ridiculous tax exempt status of the technical courses should be should be revoked. The article should also work harder to reduce injuries they have made some progress of the bridging credits for at least another sting hearing things about -- -- which is. That are often over five years ago that -- to repeat which to me the essential point nobody wants -- -- plan to get hurt there's only 1000. 700 of these examples that they -- on the fuel -- injured each other's heads. Is copied by four million. Youth and high school football players that example as to get better. Thank you for everything for being on the show I look forward to reading the book and sharing your book as Michael sector skated with his friends so Michael. What's the answer for how we can support the arts. The -- and the humanities. It. It is an act of political well that's it and it comes to the core question as I defined it in my column. These are the choices. That define us and if our culture. Whether in the United States in general or Louisiana or new warlords -- particular. Choose. To invest in football and not culture and education then very simply we will Barbara rice. I thank you very much for joining us it's been a fascinating discussion I hope it's been thought provoking for those out there are listening stay with this we're gonna continue. Not they show a bit onto another subject but now let's go to the newsroom and who was there Chris Miller.

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