Dave Zirin in The Nation:
In The Godfather, Part II, dying mob boss Hyman Roth wheezes the obscene truth to young Don Michael Corleone. “Michael,” he whispers, “We’re bigger than US Steel.” This scene updated for 2004 could have Yankees kingpin George Steinbrenner booming at pubescent Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, “Screw US Steel. We’re bigger than the damn mafia.” Just like Hyman Roth, “Big Stein” would be telling no lies. Professional sports are now the tenth largest industry in the United States, generating $220 billion in revenue every year. And just like Roth’s rackets, it’s a business that stinks to high heaven.
If, in 1900, a forward thinking person had predicted that sports would some day stand as one of the great pillars of American industry, that person would have been proclaimed mad and then subjected to some combination of leeching and lobotomy. The Victorian idea that sports undermined character and promoted a slothful work ethic dominated most people’s perceptions of organized play.