About a week before Super Bowl XLV, Bill Maher delivered an uproarious rant, opening with "Americans must realize what makes football so great: Socialism." Relying on the National Football League's ("NFL") revenue sharing policy -- all broadcast money is split equally amongst the league's 32 teams -- along with a few other general facts, Maher leapt to many presumptive conclusions arguing that the NFL was more Democratic Party while Major League Baseball ("MLB") -- whose teams do not share broadcast revenues equally -- was more Republican Party ("GOP").
Interestingly, years before Maher's funny tirade, the late, great George Carlin unleashed a hysterical performance piece entitled, "Baseball vs. Football." The content of which would likely lead most people to conclude the opposite of Maher's sport/party affiliation pairing. Carlin's football observations were all about its warlike nature -- sounds GOP to me. Regarding baseball, he concludes, "the object is to go home, and to be safe. I hope I'll be safe at home, safe at home" -- the Democratic foreign policy.
With Super Bowl XLVIII fast approaching and the wealth concentration issue more on people's hearts and minds than it was three years ago, I wonder if upon reflection Maher still advocates the "NFL brand of socialism" for America?
To reach his NFL is socialist and "more like the Democratic philosophy" conclusion Maher's biggest point was that the NFL "literally shares the wealth. TV is their biggest source of revenue and they put all of it in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways." He went on that the college draft is in inverse order to how well a team finished the season -- last picks first, first picks last. Then lauded how an underprivileged kid could achieve the NFL dream -- a race and economic-class blind selection process.
No argument from me on any of those points. But Maher misses so much that I believe a GOPer would love:
• Only the best make it to the NFL -- a result emanating from innate size and speed overlaid with large doses of discipline, courage and hard work. At any one time, there are just fewer than 1,700 players in the NFL. If you aren't good enough you don't make it and there are no handouts for those sent packing.
• Before getting a shot to make an NFL roster the player must spend several years as an unpaid intern -- called college football, aka the NFL's cost-free feeder system. The hopefuls must play for old alma mater, risking life and limb toward a dream, while being paid zilch. Meanwhile, the colleges and universities rake in hundreds of millions of dollars, via their own football broadcast deals and game day ticket sales -- all on the backs of the unpaid performers.
• The average NFL playing career is six years. When you can no longer contribute you are replaced and immediately leave the league. If you were around long enough to earn a pension you can look forward to that but generally there are no parting gifts, you won't be living off the doll and it is really time to go find a new career.
• Regarding gender: 100 percent of the players are male. 100 percent of the coaching staffs are male. 100 percent of the referees patrolling the field are male -- for obvious biological reasons (here comes the flak). The rare owner or front office employee maybe female but those positions are chiefly male, as well. The cheerleaders primarily represent the fairer sex -- think the world famous Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Jets Flight Crew and the like.
• In the Socialist column, teams do have to adhere to a salary cap and the players are unionized. But, in a concept that I'm sure Maher is familiar with from his own career, each player has an agent trying to get him as much of the team's salary allotment as possible, as well as line-up big money endorsement deals. The more valuable the playing position, the bigger the star, the larger the wealth concentration.
• There are also incentives. Teams keep proceeds from the sale of luxury boxes, stadium concessions, etc. related to their home stadium, which is typically larger dollars for those in bigger markets or with state-of-the-art facilities. Players earn additional pay for being on a playoff team - higher achievement, earns more, round-by-round of success.
• Also, George Carlin was right -- every game is a combat! Something the 100+ million people who watch the Super Bowl know, as do the companies who pay four million dollars for every thirty-second commercial aired during the annual extravaganza.
In conclusion, I guess I'd say the NFL looks a lot more like Social Darwinism than pure Socialism to me. If this is what Bill Maher really wants for America he's more GOP than he knows. Can you imagine how happy this news would make Bill O'Reilly?
p.s. BTW, Bill Maher, if you see this and would like to catch a Jets or Giants home game next season you have an open invitation here. I've got club seats to both. NFL games are a blast!