How Socialism Made the NFL America’s National Pastime
History calls those men the greatest who have ennobled themselves by working for the common good; experience acclaims as happiest the man who has made the greatest number of people happy.
— Karl Marx, Reflections of a Young Man (1835)
Who is most responsible for making the National Football League into the world’s richest and most successful sporting league?
George Halas, the NFL’s founder? Vince Lombardi, the great coach? Pete Rozelle, the pioneer commissioner? Joe Namath? Joe Montana? Tom Brady?
The correct answer is Karl Marx.
That’s right, Karl Marx — otherwise known as the patriarch of the global and contemporary movement known as “socialism.” [*see footnote below]
Next Sunday, more than 100 million viewers will tune in to the Super Bowl. Many of those watching will be red-meat ravishing red-staters and stalwart conservatives, their minds chained to some Dystopian philosophical mantle falsely asserting that fierce competition between businesses and among individuals combined with the prioritization of profits breeds two certain outcomes: (1) strength and (2) prosperity.
But this isn’t true. It’s certainly not true in professional sports. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Fact: The NFL has enjoyed unparalleled national success over more than a half-century because it adopted virtually all of the principles of SOCIALISM.
Indeed, the NFL is a socialist enterprise. Socialism works. And the best example of this is American professional football.
Gather your jaws off the floor, and open your minds, my fellow football fanatics.
The NFL is a monster.
It’s the richest and most successful sporting institution in the history of the world. It’s America’s true national pastime. Forget Major League Baseball — which slipped off the pedestal as the nation’s premier spectator sport 60 years ago because of its rejection of socialism and embrace of me-first/fuck-everybody-else capitalism.
Football initially surpassed and eventually supplanted baseball as the national pastime in the early 1960s, when television became the new barometer of popularity. Now, both college and professional football demolishes baseball in ratings to the point where Major League Baseball avoids scheduling post-season games against the NFL regular season. Want proof? Consider that nine of the top ten most-watched television programs of all time are Super Bowls. Not baseball. Football. By contrast, the World Series of Baseball’s highest-rated game ever in history (played in 1986) drew about a third of what an average Super Bowl attracts.
How did this remarkable transformation come about? Two words — revenue sharing. In other words, the governing body redistributing wealth.
Earlier, I alluded to Pete Rozelle, who really is the most important figure in the history of professional football. If the game has a Karl Marx figure, it’s most certainly Rozelle, who ran the NFL for nearly 30 years and was the architect of the NFL-AFL- merger in 1970. I suppose it’s Friederik Engels would then be Dallas’ Lamar Hunt, who held the same power over in the American Football League (AFL). When the two pro football leagues signed huge national television contracts, Rozelle and Hunt had the tremendous foresight to divide profits and share the millions in revenue equally between all teams. That meant money from CBS, ABC, NBC (and later FOX and ESPN) would be divided into equal shares between New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — and much smaller cities like Green Bay. Despite the big market teams enjoying significantly greater numbers of fans and viewers, Rozelle and Hunt (along with team owners) understood that the overall game — the COLLECTIVE (remember our Marxism, classmates) — would be much better off if all teams were given an equal chance to compete, win, and prosper. In 1970, the two leagues merged and adopted this same policy for all teams.
Wow, talk about a chapter straight out of Das Capital.
Today, all NFL teams receive an equal share of the profits generated from the league’s coffers. For this reason, Green Bay (population 70,000) can compete with New York (population 8,000,000). Both teams can also be just as profitable.
By contrast, baseball maintains an economic system reminiscent of the robber baron days, an area of “haves” and “have nots.” In baseball, big market teams reap and keep the lion’s share of their television money and horde their profits from merchandising. Accordingly, big and powerful teams like the Yankees, Mets, Cubs, Angels, and Dodgers can buy up all the talent every year when players around the league become free agents. Smaller cities like Kansas City and Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay — with far less money to spend on good players — can not compete. The competitive imbalance causes fans in some cities to lose interest. The entire league suffers. That’s one reason why baseball’s TV ratings are in the shitter.
Indeed, while professional football is based on the principles of socialism, baseball remains very much wielded to the principles of capitalism. And based on any tangible metric, the evidence is abundantly clear as to which system is more successful.
Socialism’s intent is sharing resources and encouraging cooperation.
Let’s examine how the NFL operates as a business model. Consider the following:
REVENUE SHARING — All 32 NFL teams share television money in equal shares. “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.” Sound familiar?
MERCHANDISING PROFIT — Until 2010, NFL teams shared most of the royalties earned from merchandise sales. However, courts ruled that this policy violated anti-trust laws. Now, the 32 teams will be able to make their own deals, which ruins a system that has worked well for the past fifty years. So, Jerry Jones becomes the owner of the NFL’s most valuable franchise, despite not winning a championship in a quarter-century (admit it — you knew the attack on Jones was coming).
THE NFL DRAFT — Every year, the weakest teams are given an advantage. Sorta’ like the poor. Losing teams are given the opportunity to make the first picks when drafting new players. This gives bad teams a greater opportunity to improve and perhaps become better. By contrast, the best teams must pick last in the draft. This is the way taxation should work, according to the principles of socialism. Tax the wealthy — they’ll still do fine. At least the poor teams have the chance to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
SCHEDULING — The teams at the top get penalized. They are required to play tougher schedules the following year. The worst teams play a weaker schedule. Whatever you think about this system, it works. Chalk up another win for NFL socialism.
GAME DAY — All NFL teams play games on the same day at the same time (in rotation). They are equals. No team gets special treatment. It’s not like baseball in which teams can play pretty much whenever they want. No NFL team is permitted to schedule its games apart from the rest of the league. The league strictly dictates pro football’s regular-season schedule and game times are known and expected by fans. No outlier competition. Total cooperation. More socialism.
And so, virtually everything the NFL does is patterned on the principles of sharing and cooperation. Profits are divided equally. Teams needing help are given competitive advantages. And teams that consistently perform well are asked to sacrifice more.
Conclusion: The NFL is the best illustration of the success of socialism.
Footnote: Okay, so this isn’t totally true. But “Karl Marx” rolls off the tongue easier than Auguste Comte or Saul Alinsky.