Refereeing the Conservatives

What a backwards world we live in. Teachers in Chicago go on strike for the betterment of their students? They get ripped apart. Workers locked out of their factory for years just for trying to keep a living wage? Perfectly acceptable. “Right to Work” legislation passed in dozens of states to undermine unions and keep wages low? That’s OK too.

Conservatives are always quick to side against organized labor, unless of course their lives are personally affected. If a replacement worker in their favorite sport blows a call on the field that allows their team to lose, well then everything must be done to make sure those professional referees return before the next game no matter the cost. If only those teachers in Chicago and Wisconsin were more important than football in the eyes of certain important people.

The NFL referee strike was great at showing the inconsistency of conservative ideology, but there are more lessons to be learned here. Professional American football is filled with things that modern day conservatives can’t stand, including regulations, socialism and labor unions.

Football fan Theodore Roosevelt

Back in 1905, football was an extremely violent game played in colleges across the US; it closely resembled rugby, and had no professional organization. It was so vicious that 18 people died playing that year alone and progressives were calling for an outright ban on the sport. That’s when Republican President and football fan Theodore Roosevelt stepped in with you guessed it; regulations.

Roosevelt invited certain college coaches and football experts to the White House and told them to introduce rules that would make the game safer. The rule changes were massive, but necessary. No more gang tackling, no more rugby-like formations, a neutral zone was set up, first downs were extended from five yards to ten and most importantly; the forward pass was put in place.

Introducing regulations to football not only made the game uniquely American and more exciting, but it made the game significantly safer. A hundred years later, football can still be considered a violent sport, but death on the gridiron is a rarity. Smart government-imposed regulations are essential to our social wellbeing, whether it’s keeping our sports and streets safer, making sure our meat isn’t tainted or keeping corporate greed in check.

The NFL is considered to be the best run sports league in North America. This accomplishment is thanks to a well thought out combination of socialism and capitalism, two words that don’t mix in the conservative’s mind.

The National Football League is almost a ten billion dollar a year business, it’s natural to see capitalism at work. Everyone gets rich, players, broadcast networks, merchandise manufacturers and owners (who get even richer).

What makes the NFL so successful though isn’t just the size of the revenue the league takes in; it’s the income that gets redistributed among all the teams. All profits get put into one big socialist piggy bank; it gets shaken up and redistributed to the 32 NFL teams. This allows places like Green Bay, Wisconsin with a population of only 100,000 to not only stay competitive, but to win (and win often).

Another little socialist trait is the “taxing” of the top teams, a strategy used by all North American sports leagues to try and keep the playing field level. When a team wins the super bowl they automatically pick last in the next player draft and so on down the line. Conservatives in the real world call this “punishing success” (thanks Bill Maher).

The workers of the NFL (players & referees) have their unions to thank for acquiring a larger piece of the corporate pie, just like any other unionized business. Before the NFL referees went on strike they were earning about 30% less than their counterparts in the National Hockey League.

Some might consider this fair given that the NHL plays five times more games, but the NFL brings in three or four times more money. Why shouldn’t the refs of the most popular game be entitled to more pay than the least popular? With no union that doesn’t happen. At Wal-Mart, the most successful retail store on the planet, organized labor there would help up to 80% of their employees at any given store get off of food stamps. With no union that doesn’t happen.

Conservatives and football might go together like peas and carrots, but conservatives and the NFL go together like oil and water. It boggles my mind how much fundamentalists can adore a sport, but refuse to take lessons from how the league manages to be so successful. I guess that’s why they call liberals the ‘intellectuals’.

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