Column: Nekrasov’s Notebook

The Green Bay Packers have been a staple of American football culture for 100 years. Imagine if one day they closed the gates to Lambeau Field and never played another game.  

For fans of Bury FC, that’s the reality they face today. After 134 years of operation as one of the oldest soccer teams in England, Bury was expelled from the English Football League Aug. 27 due to breaches of financial rules. Bury Football Club is no more. 

The surge of emotions when a ball ripples the net. The straining muscle fibers of a runner crossing the finish line. The explosions of a crowd when a football player crosses the end zone. Something about those moments brings us together in a way few other things do in life. 

But for Bury fans, those experiences are gone, sucked into a vortex where the industry’s money is pumped into the world’s most attractive sports franchises – the Golden State Warriors, the Manchester City’s, the New England Patriots of sports. Hamstrung by a series of irresponsible owners unwilling and unable to rectify the club’s financial situation, the Football League ruled that Bury’s finances were no longer sustainable under then-current owner Steve Dale, according to The Guardian’s David Conn. 

With Bury owing roughly 3.7 million pounds in mortgages on its stadium and Dale showing no signs of ability to pay the debt off after being allowed to purchase the club in December 2018, the Football League finally expelled Bury from the English third division after a last-minute buyout fell through. And for a club that has existed since the reign of Queen Victoria, that was that.  

A hundred years ago, teams like the Packers and Bury were staples of local culture. Local fans flooded makeshift stadiums to watch teams of semi-professionals and amateurs represent their home colors and their local identities. 

But today, as Jonathan Wilson argues in a column for The Guardian, globalization is transforming sports into an international commercial enterprise. 

It’s totally normal for me, an Israeli-American of Russian descent who grew up in Nashville, to support a soccer team based in London, England. It’s just as normal for someone born in Lynchburg, Virginia, to support a basketball team based in Sacramento, California. 

As a result, local identities in our interconnected world are becoming less and less important – people just don’t stay in the same place for as long anymore. 

But when 134 years of history is lost in an instant, those local communities come into perspective. We all want the glamor of a winning team – but maybe investing in the teams that define our communities is more important. 

Look around any crowded city street from Bangkok to New York, Moscow to Cairo, and sports are everywhere. Jerseys dot the crowds, TV announcers scream at every play and people from every age group and skill level play on fields and courts across the planet. Our world is sports crazy – and we bond as humans through those sports.  

Losing the emotions that make sports great, the local ties that Wilson discusses, leaves us with a sports world with drama but no human connection. And if we can’t connect to the men and women we watch take the field every week, why should we keep watching? 

If we invest our money and our time, not in the global sports mega-franchises that commodify our emotions, but in our communities, we may indeed get lower quality athletic competition. But is saving why we love sports in the first place worth losing some of that TV drama? I would argue that it is. 

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