Although known as “America’s game”, the National Football League’s success has been built on the quintessential model of socialism. It has a salary cap which limits each team’s spending, a revenue-sharing system – effectively a tax – which transfers money from the high-earning franchises to the poorer teams and most interestingly of all, the NFL Draft.
The Draft is the lifeblood of the NFL. The Draft is the three-day jamboree at which each team takes it in turns to select the best of the upcoming graduates from the college ranks. But in contrast to the Randian economics of the Tea Party movement, it’s not the best team that is rewarded with the first pick in the draft, but <gasp> the worst.
The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
The most pathetic and miserable team is awarded the top pick. Next is the second most feeble until right at the end, after all the other 31 teams have snapped up the best of the talent, it’s the turn of the previous year’s Super Bowl champions.
What this rather socialist approach does is create parity. Which leads to hope. Fans of teams in the doldrums know that the silver lining of a few poor seasons will be a crop of good young players which could transform their team into winners again. This is how the New Orleans Saints could pick second in the 2006 Draft and win the Super Bowl four years later. And the players don’t get any say in the matter. In the US, superstars from college actually have to join the teams most in need of their services. I know; shocking isn’t it?
The aforementioned salary cap ensures that Dallas Cowboys owner, billionaire Jerry Jones, can’t simply buy his way to success like George Steinbrenner tried to do with the Yankees.
And revenue sharing of the NFL’s multi-billion dollar TV rights is split equally between the big market teams such as the New York Giants and itty bitty Green Bay Packers of Green Bay, Wisconsin, population: 104,000.
The outcome of this socialist structure is one of the most competitive and equal sports leagues in the world. Since 1995 there have been 13 different winners of the Super Bowl. If the Seattle Seahawks defeat the Denver Broncos on Sunday, that will make it 14.
In the parity-strewn utopia of American football every team has a decent chance. On any given Sunday one team can beat any other and clubs often go from ‘worst to first’ within their divisions.
Although NFL bosses seem to have realised that equality is the best environment for the game to flourish – and is good for business – this doesn’t seem to penetrate the concrete brains of many of the American Football loving American Right.
The book The Spirit Level, by epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett shows, using evidence from 30 years of research, that more unequal societies have a much higher likelihood of social ills. From increased mental health problems and teenage pregnancies to crime rates, obesity and lower life expectancy. Even in rich and developed countries, these problems persist where inequality is high.
As Sunday’s Super Bowl reinforces, we do better when we’re equal.
Chew on that Tea Party.
Harvey A. Gold