Climate Change and Pigskins?

[This piece first appeared on the main “At First Glance” pane of the site, so that those allergic to sport might not miss it.]

It is surprising and encouraging when unlikely dance partners like these get together: global consciousness meets pro football?!  (For another similar example – which I also refused to place in’s jock ghetto — read about Canadian Olympic medallist Sara Renner’s outlook here.)

Leigh Steinberg is one of the top sports agents in the United States. (He is alleged to be the model for the film Jerry Maguire, if that helps you any.) He’s well known to sports fans because he has represented many of the top athletes, including many of the National Football League’s number one draft choices. I heard Steinberg on jock radio during the build-up to the Super Bowl. I hadn’t known until, oh, three minutes ago that he insists that all his clients include some form of community service or charitable giving in each contract they sign. So I was startled – perhaps as much as interviewer Jim Rome – when Steinberg veered from talking about the athletes he represents to a blunt and bright discussion of climate change.

“Global warming is here,” he said, and began talking about the numerous ways in which the monstrous stadiums of the National Football League could become more sustainable, even to the point of being net producers rather than consumers of energy. He is working at “putting athletes aggressively into environmental causes and efforts”. Sheesh. What’s the world coming to when football people jump on the ecological bandwagon?

Well, people are waking up, most importantly those of us living in the Privilege Zones of the planet. It’s a hopeful development, even if it’s not much more than a glimmer in an agent’s eyes. As for me, I sleep with EcoWoman every night – my wife Diana is an environmental avenger and a federal policy analyst – so climate change and other matters of planetary hygiene are standard fare. Suddenly, though, green freaks like us aren’t on the fringes anymore. Canadian newspapers and media outlets, including those leaning to the right, are filled with news and analysis on the threats posed by our consumption of energy and goods, and our bizarre levels of waste. Walmart, of all things, is dedicating itself to environmental leadership. (I know, I know, I was sceptical too, at first, but it’s real.) And think about it: if big business doesn’t get on board, the rapid social changes we need to make just aren’t going to be quick or thorough enough. We need everybody.

Even the NFL: it and other facets of the sports industry are enormous money machines, and have a large ecological footprint. They’re not renowned for walking lightly on the land, but maybe they’ll at least consider changing their shoes. Who knows? Maybe guys will take the bus to the game. Maybe they’ll recycle their beer cans. Maybe they’ll insist on stadium-mounted windmills. A man can dream.

[Other NFL reflections can be found here. Never fear. There’s more to life than sports, but then there’s more to SPORTS than sports…]

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