This is a pretty good time of year for me as a sports fan. Spring training is underway and, with some of the changes made last year and some of the additions from the offseason, I’m cautiously optimistic for the Cardinals.
The Blues are showing signs of life. They looked dead on the ice two months ago, but since then have been playing like the team everyone expected at the beginning of the season. As a seasoned Blues fan I’m not excited — this team has pulled a playoff bait-and-switch too often for that — but I am intrigued.
The MLS season is about to get going as well. It has been a pleasure to see the league grow over the past 20 years. It’s not the Premier League, but it puts on reasonably good soccer and has given the sport a definite boost in this country.
Speaking of the Premier League, Manchester United is in position to claim a top four finish and with it a spot in next season’s Champions League. That’s a heck of a lot better than I thought they’d finish back when the fired Jose Mourinho, who had lost the locker room completely.
For those who aren’t familiar with the top English league, liking Man U is a bit like foreigners liking the New York Yankees. A lot of them don’t necessarily know the nuances of the sport, but they know the Yankees are talked about a lot. So they become fans by osmosis.
I’ll admit, that’s how I started. They were the team that was in the title hunt year in and year out when I first started paying attention. But over the years I’ve developed an appreciation for the team’s history, for the style of play and the fervor of the fan base.
But Man U is also giving me some reason to be cautious. There’s talk of the team potentially being sold to a Middle Eastern buyer. That’s not so rare in the Premier League. Several teams have been purchased by wealthy foreigners, with mixed results. Some have had their fortunes soar. Others, like Arsenal, have fallen from grace. (But what can you expect from Stan Kroenke?)
The purported buyer in this case worries me, though. It’s Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. He has been in the news for the past few months because of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist murdered in Turkey at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Khashoggi was a journalist and a critic of the Saudi regime. As critics go what he said wasn’t earth-shattering. But he was killed for it. There is little doubt among most in the international intelligence community that bin Salman knew about the killing and, quite likely, gave it a green light.
Should bin Salman’s bid for Manchester United be real and, if he becomes the team’s owner, I’ll have to make a decision. It won’t be a difficult one, really. I can’t support a team whose owner kills journalists. It’s that simple. But simple decisions aren’t the same as easy ones. I’d miss the team. I’d miss rooting for the Red Devils and watching televised games from Old Trafford.
On the grand scheme of things that’s not so much to lose. There are those who have sacrificed much more for far greater reasons. But it does reinforce that there are ethical choices made in how and what we consume. I don’t agree with all of Khashoggi’s opinions. But I can’t stand behind someone who had him killed for writing them.
The team’s sale is, if it ever happens, further down the road. So for now I’m still very much engaged in how they’ve turned around what looked like a lost season. And I’m hoping I won’t have to quit following them in the future.