Saturday, February 06, 2010

NFL = socialism

As we all prepare -- well, most of us; well ... a lot of us -- to spend another late-winter Sunday afternoon sharing in a little social networking experiment called the Super Bowl, let's be reminded that the National Football League is not only the most wildly successful but also the most socialistic of all professional sports organizations. Let's count the ways ...

Revenue sharing (all money from the television contracts signed with the networks and cable stations gets split evenly among teams) guarantees that the Pittsburghs and Green Bays can compete with the New Yorks and Chicagos. In comparison, major league baseball owners have long eschewed the revenue-sharing model, enabling teams like the Yankees to earn and spend higher mountains of cash than their relatively poverty-stricken counterparts in Tampa Bay and Seattle.

Name me any other industry in this country where the franchisees share equally in the largest stream of revenue.

The taxpayers in each city subsidize the initial construction cost of the respective team owners' largest manufacturing facility (stadiums). The municipalities share in the expense but not in the income, unless you count tax revenue collected from the restaurants and sports bars near the stadium on game days.

When it comes to selecting the most talented and experienced workers -- the draft --  the worst is always first and the champion last. Even the scheduling takes into effect that the lousiest teams get to play one another the following season, while the best ones get to beat up on each other.

"Parity", and not 'just winning', to paraphrase Oakland-then-Los Angeles-and-back-to-Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, is the name of the NFL game, baby.

And then there's the player salary cap, where each team's payroll is frozen at an equal sum across the league, as well as the fact that the NFL has never had any investment in a minor league farm system like baseball and basketball (the colleges and universities take care of that expense for them).

This quasi-socialist business model has paid off handsomely; billions of dollars (almost $7B in 2008 alone) for its 32 owners, making the NFL far and away one of the most profitable operations ever invented. The brand is so strong that the Houston Texans secured the second largest debt-refinance contract in team sports history (through 2003, that is) and that was before they ever played their first game. Professional football is in fact so lucrative that American multi-millionaires -- and billionaires -- have to make their millions and billions in other industries before they can get accepted into the exclusive private club of NFL ownership.

There's just one place where these titans of commerce show their true colors: like most other capitalist pigs, they blame the "fact" that they still aren't making enough money on their employees.

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