“No one sporting goods store will ever conquer the entire world. Never. Now gimme back my hooch, sweetie pie, papa can still see straight.”
-Babe Ruth, 1930
This week, after nearly 50 years of absolute domination, The Sports Authority’s iron grip on day-to-day American life has been broken. For nearly half a century, Sports Authoritarianism reigned as the defining ideology in American politics, economic theory and prenatal care. The Authority rose to power in the 30s and 40s as a purveyor of mid-level sporting good equipment and came to dominate every corner of the everyman’s existence.
Despite filing for bankruptcy The Authority remains the largest single owner of moon real estate. It’s hard for anyone born before the 1980s to imagine a world free from The Authority. But ding dong, America: the witch is dead.
On October 24th, 1929 economics happens in a bad way. For reasons everyone knows and can coherently explain, The Great Depression begins. Across the U.S., markets (where all the money is bought and sold) spiral.
Enter 15 year-old Johann Frolf. Frolf was the son of young Swedish immigrants, Hass and Phieffer. Young Johann was a high school student on New York’s Lower East Side during the collapse. He was a troubled young man, described by his 9th grade math teacher as “quiet, angry, doesn’t mix well with other students — you know, I wish there were resources dedicated to examining these troubled kids. Oh well, I’m sure in the future we’ll have a coherent system for helping these kinds of people before they turn to violence.”
At the height of the panic, Frolf recognized the sporting good market as the ideal place for a young entrepreneur to make a buck.
From the age of nine, Frolf had worked for his parents’ landlord, hunting rats on all fours like a cat. He took his savings from this work and purchased dozens of second-hand jockstraps from a local boys’ orphanage. He resold the used straps at a 10% markup, mostly to members of the clergy. Frolf turned the profit from those sales into capital for the purchase of his first storefront.
By 1943, there were Frolf’s locations in Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont. Frolf’s message was simple: cheap sporting goods, a return to family, love of country and a virulent anti-jai alai message of isolationism. Frolf began to systematically destroy small, local competition and donate profits to politicians willing to ease anti-trust regulations. In the summer of 1943, Johann began referring to his movement by a new name: The Sports Authority.
By the 1950’s The Sports Authority spanned much of the East Coast of the United States. Frolf had married his high school sweetheart, Bjork Spaghetti. In 1952, President Harry Truman appointed Frolf to his cabinet as his Chancellor of Athletics and Physical Purity. While in this role, Frolf released what has become known as “The Kayak Manifesto.” The Manifesto is regarded to be one of the single most influential pieces of unbalanced, white-man ranting ever written. Frolf wrote the entire 6,969 page document floating in a kayak on Lake George.
The Manifesto outlined Frolf’s plan to infiltrate politics via sports then, to dominate the world. It sold over 500,000 copies in the U.S.
Throughout the 60’s The Authority expanded rapidly. Rallies for The Authority routinely drew crowds of over 5 million attendees. Authority Youth programs sprung up in elementary schools across the country. Frolf briefly appeared on the short-lived seven dollar bill in 1967. The Authority’s power seemed unstoppable.
By the 1970s, Frolf’s health was failing. His son, Benson Frolf, had taken over as Supreme Commander of The Authority. In reality, power rested with a group of powerful generals called the Sportinistas. The ailing Johann settled into his role as Authority figurehead and world dignitary. He personally counseled President Richard Nixon through Watergate, advising him to change the phrase “I am not mommy’s bad boy” to the now infamous “I am not a crook.”
Frolf died of a severely chapped ass in May, 1974. When you’re old, almost anything can kill you, including an ass so chapped it looks like two craisins. Critics claimed that he was found face down on the kitchen counter with his penis dipped in an apple pie. This story has been widely debunked but did serve as inspiration for the classic 1998 film “Sweet Dick Sam.”
After Johann’s death, the Sportinistas began to pursue a complete takeover of every aspect of American life. They opened gymnasiums, supermarkets and purchased massive swaths of prime moon real estate where they planned to establish “total dominion and just one Pizza Hut for when we’ve had too many brews and need a bite”. It is during this period that The Authority’s most brutal, sustained crackdown on jai alai began. They expanded west of the Mississippi, violating the Modell Accords of 1968. The sporting good world attempted to rein in their power, but by then it was too late. Their march could not be stopped.
1975 – 1990 saw a brutal suppression of jai alai in the U.S., lead by the Sportinistas. Frolf had dedicated several passages of The Kayak Manifesto to violent, anti-jai alai rhetoric. In the Manifesto, Frolf decried jai alai as ‘pointless’, ‘boring’, and claimed that ‘any sport whose main U.S. fan base is in Florida has to be a joke.’
The Authority hosted jai alai ball burnings and refused to sell jai alai equipment. Any employee suspected of playing jai alai was fired and blacklisted by The Authority.
To this day jai alai is largely seen as a dumb sport no one likes.
The aggression of The Authority was not limited to jai alai. The Authority embarked on a campaign of ruthless couponing. Each weekend, millions of mailboxes were stuffed full of demands for consumers to purchase discount Gatorade squeeze bottles and Spandex bodysuits — whether or not they ever planned to use the equipment.
Employees of The Authority were forced to wear red golf shirts made from that wicking material that just clings to stink. The control of The Sportinistas was complete but resistance was growing among the couponed and jai alai sympathizers.
Increased international trade, globalization and Target™ led to a drop in Authority stores’ sales, still the backbone of The Authority’s power. Amidst the drops in revenue, The Sporinistas were ousted in 2005. Johann Frolf’s 12 year old inbred, hemophiliac grandson, Boogar Frolf, was made acting President of The Authority. But his leadership was to be short — Boogar’s attempts to sell ‘real life Pokemons’ (spray painted dogs) in the stores led to his removal by The Authority board. In 2008 The Authority’s power was so diminished, they were forced to abandon all hope of their moon colony. In 2010, Nick Cannon briefly served as CCO before being snatched up by Radio Shack.
This month, the faltering giant announced it would divide its assets and close its doors forever.
There’s been much speculation regarding what a post-Authority world could look like. Some in the media attribute the fissures in both major American political parties to the power vaccum created by the fall of The Authority. Where will America look to find deep discounts on mesh shorts. And what will become of the moon?
Only time and maybe a Refinery29 horoscope will tell. One thing is for certain: we must never forget the lessons of The Authority. We’ve walked the road paved with stones of unchecked power, unbridled greed and a lack of compassion. Let us take the road less traveled from now on.