Sorry, Bill Maher, the NFL is not socialist


By: Greg Halvorson

Bill Maher, the Hollywood Jesus-hater who receives talking points from Playboy Bunnies, is at it again.  In a recent article, he claims that the National Football League owes its success to “socialism,” that it thrives, not because of capitalism but due to redistribution of revenue amongst teams.  A critique of his theory – that the sharing of TV revenue between large and small markets is socialistic – however, concludes otherwise.

Socialism, by definition, is the control of industry by government (the State), which in its quest for power, “levels” income privately produced.  Leveling, or “redistribution of wealth,” is done through coercion – via progressive taxation, property seizure, etc., – such that private wealth is “capped” for the “collective good.”

Now it may be news to Bill, but upon last check, the NFL wasn’t being forced to level anything.  Socialism is a political philosophy, and as such requires liberal rants, if they are to avoid sophistry, to assess it in this manner.

Bill, however, is smarter than god (I use the small-case to not offend), so let’s assume that “socialism” is generic, germane to private ventures, and that “revenue sharing” is couched in this light.  We can then look at how NFL owners came to the conclusion that splitting revenue – in effect redistributing it from large to small markets – made sense.  Were they coerced by Roger Goodell, the commish, to help the Packers?  Did a quasi-government panel pass a law to make it so?

Hardly.  The owners voted to share revenue, practicing volitional democracy, quite different than “central planning.”  TV revenue, moreover, isn’t tax money, seized by government to engineer outcomes (state-run health care, statist schools), its money generated by private business (networks) which receives it from other businesses, so that the latter can win customers.  Maher, in his rant, fails this distinction.

He also fails to examine how teams use their “slice.”  The Kansas City Chiefs don’t spend the TV revenue they receive in the same manner as the San Diego Chargers – the marketing and merchandising are different, as are decisions on player personnel – and it’s each team’s management – the owner, the coach, the scouts and front-office – which must use it efficiently.  Were the NFL, as Maher fantasizes, Marxist, the owners would be circumscribed, regulated in their outlays, and hamstrung in their effort to improve the bottom-line.

Indeed, as Maher fails to note, Goodell could fix wages.  Peyton Manning’s talents – his exceptionalism – wouldn’t be marketed throughout America, engendering enterprise and private wealth (think Nike stripes and ESPN), bringing him disproportionate gain, they’d be collectivized, absorbed.  The second-string center would get the same check.  The water-boy, too.

Maher is sufficiently bright to know this, but he instead cherry-picks “shared revenue,” oblivious to other cash-streams – ticket sales and merchandise – beyond the scope of his argument.  Clearly, he wants simple-minded readers (the article appeared at The Huffington Post) to make the leap from “NFL is socialism” to a broad umbrella in which benevolent Statists set bars.

Real socialism – not the fantasy – doesn’t work.  Maher’s model fails (there’s that word again) to examine owner motives.  The Halases and Maras and Rooneys didn’t vote to share revenue in order to please the Princeton faculty, they saw that population variance might produce Super Franchises, and that each team’s ability to sign talent should be preserved.  They understood that in order to produce a product with appeal that revenue generated in New York should help Green Bay.  This revenue is free of the owner’s private ventures, is exclusive to media, and is wholly created by the pursuit of wealth in open markets.

I must also point out that under socialism – the historically miserable kind – labor lacks reward, innovation is rare, and risk is moot.  Under socialism, men who don’t toil, or toil barely, nonetheless receive “benefits” (others’ money), and while Bill may think he’s brilliant, mocking “tea baggers,” he’s vapid.

The warriors of the NFL are the players, and the players strive both for wealth and for rings.  In the NFL, coaches toil, obsessing over details with hyper-intensity.  It may rankle Maher, but a gentleman named Winston Churchill said of socialism, “It is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance.”  And failure engenders fear in the National Football League.

If you fail, you’re cut.  If you fail, you’re fired.

Hey, Bill, what percentage of teachers get fired in New Jersey?  Yeah, the state with 600 school districts, abysmal test-scores, and no parental choice?  A half-percent?  Bill?

The deeper you dig, the more it unravels.  Maher’s grasp of the NFL, and of “socialism,” is so trite that one wonders who’s higher, him or Snoop Dog.

He goes on to slam Major League baseball for not sharing revenue (a false equivalency), failing to point out that market-size and titles share a tenuous correlation.

Still, the Yanks won the Series, Pittsburgh stunk, so Bud Selig and Hugo Chavez should make dinner plans.

Get real.  While it’s true that New York is the wealthiest team, and equally true that they have the most titles, it’s simplistic to pin dominance on F.A. Hayek.  Tell the San Francisco Giants they can’t win.  Tell the Florida Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and Arizona Diamondbacks that all it takes to prevail is sprawl.

Rubbish.  For every Pittsburgh which fails due to many factors, there’s a Minnesota, a Tampa Bay, even a Boston (Fenway is tiny), so Maher’s in left field.  The Yanks went nearly a decade (’00-’09) between titles.  If he’s correct, that only the wealthy win – forget culture, chemistry, and management – explain the Cubs.

They’ve been blanked since ‘08.  Nineteen-o-eight…. Long before Bill started hitting the bong.

Note: Maher is a proponent of pot legalization, sits on the board of the National Organization of Marijuana Reform Laws, and publicly admits that he smokes the drug.

Greg Halvorson is the founder of Soldiers Without Boots, and hosts Freedom Warrior Radio on Blog TalkRadio.

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