John Rocker, a Major League Baseball pitcher for six years, is the author of "Scars and Strikes." After retiring from baseball, Rocker embarked upon a successful career in real estate development.More ↓Less ↑
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. A uniquely American phenomenon, there’s nothing better than sitting down to a hearty meal in the company of family, friends and loved ones. Thanksgiving is special in that it’s about appreciating what you have with the people who mean the most to you.
At the risk of igniting an ACLU lawsuit, Thanksgiving also is the start of the holiday Christmas season. While the radio stations and department stores switch to Christmas mode the day after Halloween, no one really gets into the spirit until the turkey gets roasted on the fourth Thursday of November.
Most Americans spend their post-Thanksgiving meal in a tryptophan-induced coma on the couch watching the second half of a football game. A small but visible minority, though, are out on the streets waiting for the start of another annual tradition that has become as intertwined with Thanksgiving dinner as cranberry sauce. Black Friday’s origins supposedly go back to the city of Philadelphia, where a newspaper article coined the term to describe the post-Thanksgiving travel rush. Later theories claimed it was the time of year where retailers finally began to make a profit and go from the red into the black with the start of the Christmas shopping season. The current installation of Black Friday is a day where various department stores and other businesses mark down prices and provide some of the best sales of the year.
For the average American, Black Friday is an excellent chance to save some money and ensure loved ones get the gift they want at an affordable price. In the Obama economy no one can blame Middle Americans for pinching pennies.
Now, I’m a businessman who specializes in the cut-throat real estate market. I’ve given talks about sales at business seminars around the country. As a professional athlete, from the time I graduated high school, I was an active participant in contract negotiations with some of the biggest sports franchises in the country and throughout the world. If anyone knows the art of getting a good deal and doing everything it takes to nail down your price, it’s me. Negotiations are not always pretty, but it’s how the sausage gets made. With that said, I admittedly am put off the by Black Friday where people forego Thanksgiving dinner with the family to stand in line all day to get a cheap deal on a new flat-screen TV. I was amused by one of the photos circulating Facebook that stated, “Black Friday: Because only in America, people trample others for sales exactly one day after already being thankful for what they have.” Then again, this is a free country, and as long you aren’t harming anyone, to each their own.
Recently, though, scenes of Black Friday have shifted from Americans looking to get a good deal to ravenous hordes of people who are willing to do anything to get their piece of the pie before everyone else. It’s almost become a tradition in and of itself to turn on your TV the Friday after Thanksgiving to see reports of violent outbursts at Black Friday sales events at locations around the country. A YouTube video posted with an article in the LA Times reveals scenes of Black Friday 2012 reminiscent of a U.N. food shipment being air dropped to a mob of starving refugees in a Third World war zone.
Eric Golub of the Washington Times Communities jokingly stated, “The only places more dangerous than the Gaza Strip and Detroit are American shopping malls on Black Friday.” With the current unrest in Egypt and Israel, this may be a slight overstatement. Still, upon further investigation, Golub might not be that far off. ABC News reports chronicled how Wal-Mart resembled a battlefield on Black Friday, with numerous incidents around the country centering on one of America’s most successful retail outlets.
In northern Florida, two individuals shot and wounded each other after supposedly fighting over a parking spot. In Covington, Wash., an elderly driver, believed to be intoxicated, ran down two shoppers with his SUV. One woman ended up pinned beneath the vehicle and is now in serious condition. In my home state of Georgia, an all-out brawl erupted at the Westfield Galleria in the Roseville Mall. The fight allegedly broke out after an argument about a pair of sneakers.
Looking back, who can forget the Wal-Mart worker who was trampled to death in 2008 in Valley Stream, N.Y., by a stampede of Black Friday shoppers. The most unsettling aspect of this specific incident is that the shoppers showed absolutely no concern for the well-being of the individual they were literally running over.
The cold and chaotic unruliness that reigns on Black Friday is merely a reflection of the greater degree of unrest that exists in our country. It seems as if many of these shoppers are merely interested in giving in to the “mob mentality” with the motivating factor the cheap thrill of violence and the shopping incidental at best.
The Obama economy is seemingly teetering on the edge. The fiscal cliff is a reality, and with unrest looming in the Middle East there’s a very real chance oil prices could skyrocket. If past incidents are any indication, our federal government seems unable to adequately prepare for major disasters. The scenes we see on Black Friday could be a mere stock market drop or levee break away from you. If this is what people are willing to do to get a cheap deal on an X-Box, just imagine what would happen if a real crisis occurred.
Some shoppers seem to have taken note of the recent trends and made a different type of Black Friday purchase. CBS Station KYW in Philadelphia reported that gun-sales records were through the roof. The FBI received approximately 154,873 calls for background checks for gun dealers, a 20 increase increase from 2011.
Black Friday seems to be a microcosm of the overall mentality of the “gimme dat” culture. In our bold new America, we can no longer have nice things. Black Friday is just an illustration of how America has become an open air bazaar instead of a living breathing organic country. If gun sales are any indication, though, not all Americans are going to be left in the dark.