Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Anyfell

NSFW: You're on your own with the lyrics.

NOD TO PUCK PUNK. The most popular sport in America. But let's look at it. In each city it's a monopoly. And how does it work? Rich men buy a team. That's capitalism, right. Not exactly. It may be how everyday people think capitalism works, but it couldn't be farther from the truth. There is no competition.

There is no competition. Why ticket prices keep going up and up and up. No other game in town. Why the NFL is a telling metaphor for what is going wrong in America.

Every city has a sports talk radio station. Fans get mad when their teams don't perform. The radio hosts fan the flames. Blame the coach. Blame the owners. Blame the players. We deserve better.

True. But what the sports talk hosts never mention is that the fans, more than the owners, really do own the teams. The more they rail, and fume, and derogate the men in charge, they never ever seem to remember the most important fact.

Which is that the NFL is not a football game; it's a stadium business. Asses in seats at $300 to $1000-plus a butt-cheek. And who pays for the stadiums? The citizens of the cities in which these teams play. Even Rome, decline and fall era, didn't have the gall to make the suckers pay for their own bread and circuses. But Rome didn't know about bond issues, and they didn't have Teevee.

Fact. I've been to dozens of Phillies games, and more than a few NHL games, including the Flyers, but I have never in my 60 years been to an Eagles game. Too expensive. And I'm not alone. Tens of thousands of devoted Eagles fans have never seen their team play in person. But every citizen of Philadelphia is paying for the Eagles, because the stadium was built by public debt. The owner of the Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, has seen his investment stake balloon to $3 billion. How? By providing Super Bowl champions? No.

How do monopolies prosper? Econ 101. By charging above market price for everything. The stadiums built by public monies, through political deals that value fan loyalties over bridges, highways, and schools, also include space for vendors who charge double the going rate for hot dogs, beers, and fried potatoes. The fans get it in the neck at every turn. Even the ones who never go to games pay twice the legitimate price for the fan jerseys everybody suddenly now has to have.

A long long time ago, you didn't show up at your team's game as Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, or Brian Urlacher. You went as yourself. You didn't even go to the supermarket as Tom Brady or Troy Polamalu. I know. Men used to wear coats and ties and usually hats (not caps) too, and ladies wore slips.

But we're all united by the GREAT THINGS about the NFL First, it's so egalitarian in the current American sense of the term. Meaning, there's a top-heavy totalitarian organization that looks like it's trying very hard to keep every playing field level with a lot of rules and dictatorial edicts about how you get on the playing field in the first place, which is why is everything is utterly and absolutely parity-like in the NFL unless your quarterback is named Manning or Brady, which is the moment when the draft and the salary caps and revenue-sharing and all that crap go right to hell.

The second great thing is the way professional football has become such an avenue of opportunity for the, uh, less advantaged among us. Think about it. A hundred years ago, football was a game played by elite students who were going to fo other things with their lives. Today, thanks to the NCAA and regulations and freedom of opportunity and shit, it's this huge business that provides economic opportunity to about 200 of the 250,000 illiterates who get recruited and then can't possibly have enough time to study for a college degree before they get jettisoned into careers as Domino Pizza delivery boys.

And the 200 who get drafted into the NFL! Wow! Boy do they get rich!

Except for the ones who die young and impaired* Which doesn't happen very much because the NFL has an incredibly strong union that has always cared more about its members than, say, the power and privilege of the union leadership.

*er, a lot of them.

So maybe the giant bureaucratic structure is at fault because all it cares about is money. Or maybe the players are at fault because all the union and its members have ever cared about is, uh, money. Or, alternatively, the fans are at fault because they have sat, like frogs in a simmering pot on the stove, while the game they love has progressively contrived to exclude them from actual attendance while they pay more for jerseys, hats, wall posters, and flags than their grandfathers ever paid for seats at the game.

For example. In Philadelphia, fans who can't afford to attend Eagles games are presently paying bond interest for not one but two huge stadiums -- one for Phillies, one for Eagles -- which replaced one economy-priced stadium that was home to both baseball and football, while the original home of the Eagles, Franklin Field. still stands in the city of Philadelphia, boasting almost exactly the same fan capacity, c. 65,000, as the new place. But without slots for kiosks offering $8 beers and $10 dollar crab fries. Clear fan favorites. You see, Franklin Field is old. It didn't suck several hundred million dollars out of city coffers that could have gone to Obama's vaunted infrastructure "investments" because Franklin Field was already paid for.

Are you laughing yet? Let me distill it for you. Owners and governments are ripping off fans, who are so seduced by the bread and circuses offered that they don't even pay attention to their nominal rights as voters or the real levies imposed on them.

I forgot about the media part. They whale on the faults of players and coaches. But only certain players and certain coaches. And never owners. How come? Donovan McNabb never did any wrong. Tim Tebow never did any right. San Francisco, whose fans killed a visitor last year, is terrific. Philadelphia, which once booed a a skinny drunken amateur Santa Claus, is the worst city in the league. Andy Reid just sacrificed a talented player's career in a vain attempt to perpetuate a failed career. Yet he's a great coach who deserves to go out on a grace note of dignity. Meanwhile, all the Raider coaches (and players) cycled like crap through Al Davis's geriatric administration are just fleeting history. And if the Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets were suddenly evaporated from the NFL altogether, ESPN and the NFL Network would have to fill a 40 percent hole in their programming.

Parity. Are you starting to get it?

There is no parity. Only half a dozen teams ever win the Super Bowl. Steelers, Patriots, Giants and a few others. That should tell you something.

There is no intelligence. People care more about their NFL team than they do about the country. Listen to SportsTalk Radio. If you don't give up after that, nothing will ever make you give up.

But maybe that's the answer. Never give up. A dumb country is a healthy country? Really?

uh, whatever.

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