April 29, 2011
Soccer, the Capitalist Sport
The NFL is worried that the collapse of collective bargaining will, God forbid, result in competition for players who are free to go wherever they want and demand as much pay as the market will bear. The concern, in other words is that the NFL owners will have to forego what Steve Bainbridge calls their “quasi-socialist cartel” and deal with the competition of a free market.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the NFL has embraced a socialist business model. The sport of football (our “football,” not the sport everyone else in the world knows as football) is itself socialist. Soccer (the real “football”) is the real capitalist sport.
American football is as command-and-control as one can get. The football coach acts as General Secretary, assisted by his Central Committee, the assistant coaches. This small group provides detailed instructions to each player for each play. The role of the players, the proletariat, is to blindly follow those instructions; in fact, the success of the entire enterprise depends on their obedience to the coach’s central planning. Some teams (Indianapolis comes to mind) grant discretion to quarterbacks, the factory managers, to deviate from the fearless leader’s instructions, but only to substitute one of the General Secretary’s plays for another. Success depends on synchronization of the entire group, and individual innovation is frowned upon.
Soccer is entrepreneurial. Set plays occur only occasionally. The coach gives the players a general plan, but what actually happens on the field is the result of individual innovation in reaction to play. During play, the coach provides very little input. (Notice how little most soccer coaches even yell to their players from the sidelines.) Just as a capitalist business must adjust to market conditions, the soccer team must adjust instantaneously to what the other team is doing.
The ultimate irony is that soccer is relatively unsuccessful in capitalist America but extremely successful in socialist countries.
April 29, 2011 | Permalink
The NFL, like every other professional sports league, is a form of joint venture. Teams don't profit at the expense of each other by competing on the field. When the Giants beat the Patriots, that doesn't mean that the Giants make more money than the Patriots. On the contrary, they both benefit by staging sporting events for the entertainment of their fans. Their competitors are not each other but rather other forms of entertainment - other sporting leagues, movies, etc. Indeed, a sports league could be owned by one owner - as the WNBA was for a while owned by the NBA - and still function as a league with teams competing against each other on the field. That is a less efficient form of ownership, however, and so it doesn't occur very often. In this light, it seems ridiculous to apply the antitrust laws to the efforts of the joint venturers to coordinate their purchase of inputs as they combine to provide a service for sale to the public. How is the public harmed by their joint purchase of labor inputs?
Posted by: DBL2 | May 2, 2011 5:43:12 AM