Saturday, February 1, 2014

Super Bowl reality check

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning talks with reporters during a news conference on 30 January 2014, in Jersey City, NJ. Photograph: AP

And no I'm not bitter - my Baltimore Ravens had their day in the sun and I soaked it up with relish one year ago.  I'm still basking in the glow.

But ... Check out the opening lines from a recent commentary by Joe Ware, posted today at some penetrating insights from across the pond on the paradox of the American Sports scene.  This hits to the heart of the very difficult debate between freedom and responsibility--a debate that's not likely to be resolved any time soon.

If you're intimately familiar with both American 'throw-ball' and the British version of what the rest of the world calls 'Football', you'll really appreciate Joe Ware's commentary.

There's not one word of this that I would object to:

"Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, the day of the year when America unites in front of the TV to eat copious amounts of junk food and watch their fellow countrymen give each other brain damage through the medium of a contact sport. Yet this emblem of the American Dream, which attracts more viewers than attend church services on Christmas, is arguably the most socialist of the major professional events.
"The US is well known for its right-of-centre politics and love of unshackled free market economics. In some quarters the notion abounds that success and wealth is a combination of God's favour and personal effort and that there's no requirement to share this with anyone. Certainly not the pathetic scroungers at the bottom of the pile who are either too lazy or unskilled to have success. Taking money from the rich to support these feckless layabouts in the form of taxation and welfare will only encourage them to be even worse. It will reward their failure. Tough love is what they need, the cut-throat world of natural selection will force the best out of them.
"In the UK, my home country, while those sentiments are increasingly present, there has generally been a more understanding view of social welfare and the benefits system – at least there was until recently. Taxes are higher than across the Atlantic and we have the NHS ensuring medical care for even the poorest. But when one examines the philosophical structures of the countries' two national sports, the situation is reversed.
"Although known as "America's game", the National Football League's success has been built on the model of a socialist state. 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.   ...   "

Highlight: "watch their fellow countrymen give each other brain damage through the medium of a contact sport." Ware left unsaid the American 'Teddy Roosevelt' bull/moose-headed disregard for common-sense and self-restraint. 'Red-neck' stupidity and its glorification are almost exclusively an American male thing.  Ever watch the 'Jackass' movies?

If I could fault Ware at all it would be that he left out one of the great advantages of the English Football League pyramid system:

in which even the lowliest local weekend team, 24 divisions down, can aspire to one day be at the top of the Premier League. And if a team doesn't perform, it can drop down the ladder into obscurity. Consider Leeds United, for example.

In America team franchises are anointed by dictum--entirely based on power, money and influence. And they are shielded from failure by the system. Bottom line: the English football team can aspire to their version of the 'American Dream' of rising from the depths of obscurity to achieve greatness. But the American 'throw-ball' teams don't so much resemble Socialist ideals as they resemble the worst of social elitism.

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