Where Sports and Politics Collide

A guest post from my brother, Jordan (unless at a later point he chooses to blog under a pseudonym, in which case readers are forbidden from pulling an Ed Whelan, apology not withstanding), on the ironies of the NFL versus European soccer and the MLS:

The NFL has the greatest sports economic structure in the world, in my opinion, because of shared revenue and the salary cap (as well as a salary floor) teams from small markets such as Jacksonville or Green Bay can compete with teams in New York and Chicago. In addition, teams can go from absolutely HORRIBLE to a playoff team in as little as one year. I cite the 2007 and 2008 Miami Dolphins (1-15 to 11-5, respectively). This keeps fans interested and something to hope for. No matter how bad your team has been hope is quite literally only a few months away. This in addition to what is known as “strength of schedule” (Where the teams with the best records the previous year will have to play the previous years better teams) and no guaranteed contracts (allowing a team to cut a player past his prime and only have to pay him pre determined “guaranteed” money) allows competitive balance unknown to almost every other sports organization on the planet.
UEFA is…shall we say…slightly different. Its ironic that some people such as former New York Representative and Vice Presidential Candidate Jack Kemp (Rest his soul) spent his career bashing soccer (I refer you to Wikipedia). Because the economic structure is one that a contemporary Conservative Republican should LOVE: ENTIRELY UNREGULATED. A true Free Market where monopolies have formed, the best talent goes to the highest bidder, and the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Consider these two tidbits:
  1. In 1992 English Soccer reorganized itself to form the “FA Premier League” now known as the “Barclays Premier League” (damn corporate sponsorship) and since then, 17 years later, ONLY 4 teams have ever finished first (or at the top of the table as the lingo in soccer goes): Manchester United – 11 times, Blackburn Rovers – 1 time, Arsenal (woo!) – 3 times, and Chelsea – 2 times. During that same 17 year stretch there have been 12 different Super Bowl winners: Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francision 49ers, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and the New York Giants (Note the Cowboys, Steelers, and Patriots are all repeat champions)
  2. Just yesterday the Spanish team Barcelona F.C. Real Madrid* gave Manchester United $131 Million dollars on a transfer fee for Cristiano Ronaldo (the best player in the world) and that does not include the money Barcelona will then have to pay Ronaldo. A few days ago another Spanish team, Real Madrid, gave Italian team A.C. Milan about $83 Million for Kaka (Top 5 player in the world). This is money that perhaps on the Yankees could match…on the entire Planet.
Thus there are only around a half dozen or so Soccer clubs in the world that have the money to truly compete for talents: Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Inter Milan.
The MLS (the United States top level of Soccer) has an extensively regulated economic system. There is a salary cap, guaranteed contracts, and little shared revenue (Not that there is much revenue since according to Forbes Magazine, since its founding in 1994 the league has lost hundreds of millions.
This brings me back to the epiphany that hit me last night:
In Europe, the largest Social Democratic society (as a whole) on the planet has the most conservative economic system for its most cherished sport. Whereas the United States, the country claiming to love the “Free Market” has the most “economically liberal” or…dare I say…socialist…economic system for its most cherished sport (Baseball is our past time but Football is our favorite Sport).
I would also point out that this dovetails in some ways with this post from last fall, where I ruminated on the different things Americans and Europeans were willing to pay piecemeal for.

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