At our core, we’re torn between being sports socialists and sports capitalists.
Much of our perspective is clouded by whom we back, whom we despise, where we live, how we live and what we someday aspire to become.
At its core, sports used to exist within the realm of this dichotomy: Do we value parity? Do we value ‘win at all costs?’ Do we value players’ rights? Do we value the success and ambitions of owners?
Labor disagreements, TV contracts, wild cards, best-of-fives v. best-of-sevens, rule changes, publicly v. privately funded stadiums. These arguments are all framed by sports socialism v. sports capitalism and in theory a compromise between the two schools of thought is reached.
This is the fundamental crisis of Big Time College Football. It is a capitalist endeavor shrouded and cloaked behind regionalism, education, morality, athletics and civil service. These are the smoke and mirrors that serve as the sleight-of-hand on Saturdays.
College Football’s imperfect BCS acted as a faux-socialist appeasement, a hollow bone thrown at programs, educational institutions, their students, alumni and fanbases for them to gnaw at – a “See, anyone can win as long as the polls and numbers agree” slice of canned hope.
But this week, when the nebulously conspicuous men-behind-the-curtain voted to implement a four-team playoff, a capitalist endeavor became more capitalist, while simultaneously dressing itself up in a sexier, more socialist costume designed to further masque it’s true identity.
Except, it’s not capitalism at all. Capitalism presents itself when a culture, or a system, or an industry accumulates wealth as a means of further driving production or re-investing it’s dividends. Resources (and in College Football’s case, we mean revenue in all it’s various collection methodologies whether TV, endowments, boosters, ticket sales, merchandise) are only capital if they have some utilitarian value. The resources must be the means.
Those with even a modicum of intelligence know full-well the men-behind-the-curtain finally voted in favor of the College Football Playoff because they found a way to make it financially viable. But the greatest trick being played on us, the lie we’re all too willing to believe, is that somehow the rewards reaped from this sure to be revenue-churning roll-out will be distributed, re-invested and driven to improving the quality of the institutions and people that will continue to support the spectacle of college football. That this money will somehow lead to better schools, better facilities, better non-revenue sports, better NCAA oversight, better game-day product, or – and far fewer actually believe this, but it bares mentioning for the sake of highlighting it’s necessity – (gasp!) player compensation.
But College Football, and the College Football value system, and not shockingly, our own value system are not wired that way.
Look at those men in that picture. Look at those obscenely-wealthy, snowy-haired, white men up above. Look at the preservation of that gleefully bourbon-soaked “Good Old Boys” club, in all their preposterous ‘no girls or minorities or new money or common-folk allowed’ circle-jerking glory. They’re not wired that way.
Do you think when any of the men-behind-the-curtain proudly proclaimed, “It’s a great day for college football” and “we’re enhancing our postseason” that they placed value of ‘The Great Game’ over the value of their own net worth?
There is increasing evidence that our society places more value into the printed paper and stockpiled assets than the functions the printed paper and stockpiled assets were created to provide.
We’ve seen it in Washington (fittingly, where this press conference was held), where our elected officials increasingly rate their own and their peers’ merit and competence exclusively within the Cult-of-Personality context of “Get reelected. Get MY bill passed.” They raise campaign war chests so stupifyingly flush that any contradictory or, heaven forbid, reasonable message can be drowned out by turning the cash dial up to 11 and yelling, “What’s that? I can’t hear you over this Hurricane of Legal Tender!”
We’ve seen it in business, where I don’t need to rehash the obscene bonuses being doled out to executives at floundering and occasionally unethical financial institutions, or the jobs and raises promised that withered away in a cloud of dust and heartbreak, or the evergreening, planned obsolesce and designed insolvency of products designed to keep consumers subservient to the Almighty Machine of Commerce, another ignorant mouth in the Ouroboros.
We print money out of thin air, levee the burden of repaying debt on those who can least afford to do so, and watch as endless strings of zeroes whoosh between a cosmically and comically wealthy few, for the sake of compounding interest and generating extra zeroes to pass out to friends like “Hello My Name Is” stickers at the world’s most exclusive key party.
Look at those men in that picture. Look at those obscenely-wealthy, snowy-haired, white men up above. Look at the preservation of that gleefully bourbon-soaked “Good Old Boys” club, in all their preposterous ‘no girls or minorities or new money or common-folk allowed’ circle-jerking glory. These are THOSE men.
These are the men who funnel funds to finance their own golf outings, strip club saunters, luxury cars, and pure, unadulterated, tax-free millions to stuff in their wallets.
Don’t you see? These are the men-behind-the-curtain. Money is an ends. Not a means, except only as a manipulative force to further increase their odds of successfully stockpiling enough “ends” to … well … who knows what?
Schools do get their shiny new facilities (Thanks, Phil Knight and T. Boone Pickens). Schools do get their shiny new buildings and research centers. Schools do get their shiny new play-toys for them to swat around for a while like kittens before they come to their senses too late and realize that plush bird is no bird at all, that it isn’t a living, breathing entity from which they’ll derive satisfaction in the chase.
And they’ll look up and realize the cost of maintenaning and staffing their shiny new play-toy is on them, so they’ll jack up student tuition and keep educators’ salaries low. College Football Players, the world’s most affordable marketing department, will continue to line the pockets of those which don’t need any more lining … for free. Cost-sink sports like fencing, crew, track will continue to be cut. The lifeblood of College Football and of College Athletics and of the Higher Education System, the people who should stand to benefit the most from the certain windfall of TV and advertising money, and money derived from host cities being auctioned off to the highest bidder, will likely see negligible benefit at best.
Forget compensating the players, the players’ families, or the students, or the schools. Forget the windfall’s ability to keep ticket and concession prices low for the fans. Forget it all. This agreement, this arrangement, no no … this is not for you. This is not for us.
But we won’t notice on Saturdays. Not when the pageantry, pigskin, tradition and tailgating commence.
No, we’ll be sitting there in our beer-soaked football half-coma, cheering for laundry all over again, while the fat-cat’s are out there cackling and drawing up a cognac, laughing at the spectacle of all, at how easy it was to dupe an entire nation of media, students, alumni, fans and sponsors that this all changed due to some gold-hearted, epiphanic compromise … all by whispering the magic word, “Playoff.”
You know, there was a time when ruling bodies used to decree “We Will Give You What You Want!” via proclamation, after mysterious closed-door discussions, and the public would outwardly rejoice before realizing the conditions didn’t actually improve, and that the labor force wasn’t all that better off, where wealth was accumulated merely for accumulation’s sake, and corruption ran wild while the powers-that-be turned a deaf ear to the ever-increasingly discontent masses.
And it wasn’t Socialism. It wasn’t Capitalism. It was Feudalism.
Look at those men in that picture. Look at those obscenely-wealthy, snowy-haired, white men up above. Look at the preservation of that gleefully bourbon-soaked “Good Old Boys” club, in all their preposterous ‘no girls or minorities or new money or common-folk allowed’ circle-jerking glory. These are the men-behind-the-curtain who finally, mercifully buried the BCS so that we could rejoice over our Precious College Football Playoff.
These are your Lords. Bow to them.