Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Wide World Of Sports, Part I...

Time to take a little break from the world of politics and government stupidity to turn to the greatest national passion of all: sports.

Currently in the United States, the National Football League is having a labor dispute (you can't call it a 'strike' because a) the season hasn't started yet, b) the Player's Union dissolved itself as a tactical ploy, and c) it's not like these guys work -- they get paid to play a game that most men would play for free). At stake, as I understand the whole kerfuffle, are three major issues:

1. The NFL generates about $10 billion dollars in revenue every year. The Players want a bigger slice of the pie, while The Owners of small-market teams complain that they cannot 'compete' in efforts to get the best players because the NFL revenue sharing plan is not fair, and let's face it: the only way you could get most players to sign up for a stint in Cincinnati, Jacksonville or Oakland is to offer a sufficiently-large bribe. It's not as if those cities offer all the amenities or quality-of-life of a New York, Dallas, or Chicago. If those teams cannot attract the top talent, or build high-tech stick-up booths disguised as arenas where you can get a $7.00. hotdog and $10.00 beer to go with your $15.00 parking spot, and $150.00 ticket, they simply will not survive as franchises, despite the raging popularity of the sport.

All of that, if you ask me, is an example of a very poor businessman, and if there's anything we've learned from our recent economic troubles it should be that businesses run by complete boobs should be allowed to fail. I have no sympathy for the Owners in this dispute.

2. The Player's opportunity for an extended career in the NFL is rather limited. It's a violent sport, and one horrendous injury can end your playing days (and thus, opportunity to earn millions of bucks to play a game rather than do something useful for a living). The more money that is available to Players, the higher their average salary, and the better their bottom lines become when (not if) they're finally crippled, or brain damaged for life. The Players want a bigger slice of that $10 billion bucks, too. Then again, the average salary of an NFL player in 2009-2010 was $1.9 million per. That's, on average, 43 times the median national income (about $44,000 a year).

I have no sympathy for the players, either. If you can't live on $1,900,000 bucks a year, can't invest or save any of it properly, then you too, deserve to go bankrupt.

So, like most things in life, this is a simple fight over money. The recent rioting by Public Union employees in Wisconsin was about money. The battles over Continuing Resolutions and Budgets in Washington, D.C. is about (wasting) money. The world revolves around money, and despite the protests of Democrat or Republican, Teacher and State Legislator, or Jerry Jones and Peyton Manning, the NFL fight is about money, too.

Unless you're star fumbler...errr...running back, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Then the fight is about more than money. The whole money idea is a smokescreen which obscures the real issue at the heart of the NFL's labor problems: Slavery.

Because according to Peterson, playing in the NFL is like being a slave.

Now, mind you, Adrian Peterson is slated to make $10 million bucks next year. He makes several million more each year endorsing all sorts of products, lending his name and image to the companies that make sporting apparel, beer, and a whole lot more.

Peterson also received a free college education while playing football at Oklahoma, and to be honest, I'm fairly certain that several other universities were falling all over themselves to offer Peterson exactly the same thing. He had his choice of which college or university got the privilege to short-change a deserving student in order to acquire a football player to raise the University's image, and generate millions in television and merchandising revenue. The question as to whether or not Peterson actually made the best of that educational opportunity is probably answered by his analogy vis-a-vis professional football and slavery.

If anything, Peterson has probably engaged in a little bit of hyperbole (with serious racial undertones) in some misguided attempt to play at public relations -- the players are mainly African-American, the Owners are, to a man, Caucasian -- in an attempt to shame the Owners publicly into giving the Players what they want. It's a terribly bad analogy for the following reasons:

1. Adrian Peterson chose to pursue the career he has right now. He has probably pursued the dream of being a professional football player since boyhood, and everything he's done in his life probably had that possibility as part of it's rationale. Most people who have endured slavery, modern-day or no, usually had no choice whatsoever in the matter.

The same goes for both sides in this dispute; there is no law that say you have the right to play football for a living,just as there is no law that states you have the right to own a football team, let alone a profitable one. This is an argument between two sets of uniquely-privileged people fighting over who deserves an even-greater level of privileges. Paid for by another group, naturally. Both sides do what they do of their own free will, and can walk away from it anytime they wish if the situation is not to their liking.

2. Adrian Peterson has become a wealthy man because of the combination of his talents and the popularity of the sport and league. I just wonder what the real slaves of 200 years ago could have accomplished if they had been a) paid, b) paid out of all proportion to the actual value they brought to any transaction, c) had the option of Free Agency (selling their labor to the highest bidder), d) access to a career path that offered them a choice between an array of institutions of higher learning, and then access to a skewed labor pool which produces nothing of intrinsic worth, but still gets to share a $10 billion pie....for playing a game for 6 just months out of every year.

I would rather like to think that Fredrick Douglas, Dred Scott and Harriet Tubman would probably have done a whole lot better in life if they could only have just run quickly, made $10 million bucks a year, and lived in a culture that celebrated their talents (while overlooking their shortcomings) without regards to their race. Adrian Peterson has no more experience of real slavery than I do.

3) Adrian Peterson has the option to stop playing football any time he wants to do so. I cannot help but notice that while he denounces his $10 million-dollar-a-year indentured servitude, he isn't quite disgusted enough to actually quit. There's nothing worse than a rich man that tells you that he despises the whole sordid routine by which he becomes fabulously wealthy, but then doesn't give the money back. It's like the CEO who made $500 million for driving his company into the ground, and ruining his shareholders, saying that while he takes responsibility for the losses and they make him sad, it's not his fault that 'The Marketplace' sees fit to compensate him so richly for such lackluster performance.

Adrian Peterson could retire tomorrow. He could walk away from the gridiron and The Marketplace which disgusts him so much, but you know he won't. The disputes over money don't affect him so much -- after all, he's got $10 mil coming, and probably another $20 mil by the end of his contract -- as much as it affects the players who don't have his level of skill, i.e. the Average NFL player, who by comparison, only made that paltry $1.9 million last year.

If Peterson did walk away then he would have to work for a living, and when you've been groomed from an early age to be nothing but a professional athlete the idea of going to an office every day, or digging ditches, must be the worst of all possible nightmares. People like Peterson aren't supposed to work, you know, they're only supposed to play, and receive a ton of cash, the public adulation, and a sort of contrived immortality that somehow will require him to wear a horrendous yellow blazer one day.

Besides, you didn't think Adrian Peterson took that free 'education' they were offering at Oklahoma to learn something useful, do you? Adrian Peterson doesn't quit because Adrian Peterson is probably not prepared to do anything else with his life. and probably learned nothing at Oklahoma except that he's mystically entitled to shoot his mouth off about the 'unfairness' of his gilded-entered-of-his-own-free-will bondage, while people who sweep floors, build skyscrapers, put out fires, and drive the trucks are losing their livelihoods. The NCAA can talk itself blue in it's collective face about 'scholar-athletes'. but let's face it; the whole thing is a sham. If Adrian Peterson didn't have speed, power and athletic skills, his career options would probably have ranged somewhere between Car Wash Attendant, a job that required him to ask every customer if they wanted to Super-size their order, or involved an Orange Jumpsuit. The only thing he apparently learned in school was that being a star running back excused you from all the realities, considerations, and consequences of normal life, I guess.

People who don't really work for a living, pretend that working out and their playtime is somehow labor, or who have the good fortune to do what they love and get paid a shitload of money for it, have absolutely no reason to toss around the word 'slavery'. They certainly don't need a UNION. If anything, Adrian Peterson -- and a great many others -- should be on his knees praying to the spirits of the ancestors who suffered ACTUAL SLAVERY so that he could live in a world where he gets paid -- very well -- to drop footballs in playoff games.

1 comment:

Mr. Chap said...

I agree totally. There's one thing I hate more than hearing people bitch about money, and that's rich people bitching about money. These guys are in the wealthiest 1% and they act like their human rights are being violated or something. They need a little wake-up call to help them realize how lucky they really are.