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Bill Maher writes: "New Rule: With the Super Bowl only a week away, Americans must realize what makes NFL football so great: socialism. That's right, for all the F-15 flyovers and flag waving, football is our most successful sport because the NFL takes money from the rich teams and gives it to the poor teams."

Portrait, Bill Maher, 10/15/09. (photo: HBO)
Portrait, Bill Maher, 10/15/09. (photo: HBO)

What Makes NFL Football So Great: Socialism

By Bill Maher, Reader Supported News

31 January 11


New Rule: Americans must realize what makes NFL Football so great: Socialism

ew Rule: With the Super Bowl only a week away, Americans must realize what makes NFL football so great: socialism. That's right, for all the F-15 flyovers and flag waving, football is our most successful sport because the NFL takes money from the rich teams and gives it to the poor teams ... just like President Obama wants to do with his secret army of ACORN volunteers. Green Bay, Wisconsin has a population of 100,000. Yet this sleepy little town on the banks of the Fuck-if-I-know River has just as much of a chance of making it to the Super Bowl as the New York Jets - who next year need to just shut the hell up and play.

Now, me personally, I haven't watched a Super Bowl since 2004, when Janet Jackson's nipple popped out during half time, and that split-second glimpse of an unrestrained black titty burned my eyes and offended me as a Christian. But I get it - who doesn't love the spectacle of juiced-up millionaires giving each other brain damage on a giant flat-screen TV with a picture so realistic it feels like Ben Roethlisberger is in your living room, grabbing your sister?

It's no surprise that some 100 million Americans will watch the Super Bowl next week - that's 40 million more than go to church on Christmas - suck on that, Jesus! It's also 85 million more than watched the last game of the World Series, and in that is an economic lesson for America. Because football is built on an economic model of fairness and opportunity, and baseball is built on a model where the rich almost always win and the poor usually have no chance. The World Series is like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You have to be a rich bitch just to play. The Super Bowl is like Tila Tequila. Anyone can get in.

Or to put it another way, football is more like the Democratic philosophy. Democrats don't want to eliminate capitalism or competition, but they'd like it if some kids didn't have to go to a crummy school in a rotten neighborhood while others get to go to a great school and their Dad gets them into Harvard. Because when that happens "achieving the American dream" is easy for some, and just a fantasy for others.

That's why the NFL runs itself in a way that would fit nicely on Glenn Beck's chalkboard - they literally share the wealth, through salary caps and revenue sharing - TV is their biggest source of revenue, and they put all of it in a big commie pot and split it 32 ways. Because they don't want anyone to fall too far behind. That's why the team that wins the Super Bowl picks last in the next draft. Or what the Republicans would call "punishing success."

Baseball, on the other hand, is exactly like the Republicans, and I don't just mean it's incredibly boring. I mean their economic theory is every man for himself. The small market Pittsburgh Steelers go to the Super Bowl more than anybody - but the Pittsburgh Pirates? Levi Johnston has sperm that will not grow up and live long enough to see the Pirates in a World Series. Their payroll is about $40 million, and the Yankees is $206 million. They have about as much chance at getting in the playoffs as a poor black teenager from Newark has of becoming the CEO of Halliburton. That's why people stop going to Pirate games in May, because if you're not in the game, you become indifferent to the fate of the game, and maybe even get bitter - that's what's happening to the middle class in America. It's also how Marie Antoinette lost her head.

So, you kind of have to laugh - the same angry white males who hate Obama because he's "redistributing wealth" just love football, a sport that succeeds economically because it does exactly that. To them, the NFL is as American as hot dogs, Chevrolet, apple pie, and a second, giant helping of apple pie. But then again, they think they're macho because their sport is football, when honestly - is there anything gayer than wearing another man's shirt? your social media marketing partner


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+75 # noitall 2011-01-31 12:20
Once in a while Bill nails it. He did so here!
+42 # Peter J. Nickitas 2011-01-31 12:25
Maher, you well-meaning, but ill-informed maven. You need to mention the facts that the Green Bay Packers have won more NFL titles than anyone, that any improvement to Lambeau Field must be approved by voter referendum in Brown County, Wisconsin (on the Fox River), and, best of all, that the fans have owned the team for over 70 years. These facts drive home your point that football is run on a socialist footing.

Go Packers. Death to SI and its cover boy curse!
+32 # Patriot451 2011-01-31 13:39
And the Green Bay Packers are OWNED by the City of Green Bay. How's THAT for socialism>
+13 # AMR71 2011-01-31 15:49
Actually, no they're not. They're owned by their fans -- shareholders from all over the country. I'm one of them, and I live in the Seattle area.
-1 # JamnYmer420 2014-02-04 21:53
In other word's it's Communism, in the literal definition of the word. Makes sense. It is football, after all.
+4 # Red Ed 2011-02-01 17:18
Patriot - The Packers are owned by us STOCK HOLDERS - Thousands of them. And my family has quite a few shares and we NEVER lived in Green Bay. But the NFL won't let any other team be owned by the People. That should tell you something.
+2 # Dan Mitchell 2011-01-31 15:49
This is why we need to support this- NOW!:
+13 # phastphil 2011-02-01 08:22
Also, the Green Bay Packers being owned by the fans is grandfathered into the NFL. No NFL team can do this anew - the billionaire owners have made sure of that.
+1 # jymmmyp1416 2011-02-03 08:17
maybe the billionaires will let us peons build them a stadium ? That 'd be socialism for the rich !
+33 # kevinb 2011-01-31 12:33
Please don't forget Bill, that insurance also involves transfer and sharing of wealth. When insurance - any insurance - functions properly is socialistic. What messes it up is when someone tries to cut corners.
+19 # Skanner 2011-01-31 16:02
Incorrect. Insurance, as orginally formulated, 100's of years ago, WAS a socialist concept. Today, what really "messes it up" is when someone (=insurance corporation) minimizes the beneficiaries share, and claims it as their own.
+24 # Capn Canard 2011-01-31 12:55
Well, Bill Maher has got it right, ABSOLUTELY! The redistribution of wealth is one reason that makes the NFL so damn successful. I mean, I prefer Baseball, but not because it is boring ... but because it is boring. I can take a nap and I don't miss any of the action. Action in the NFL is only marginally better, but that doesn't reduce the number of wannabe participants who score touchdowns vicariously while drinking beer and eating copious amounts of what passes for food. Speaking of sports, I suggest that we import the good ol' game of Rugby for a real man's sport. No pads. No helmets. No teeth. No Nancys. Real barbaric behavior, and NO APOLOGIES. If you're going to act like Vandal, be a VANDAL, or Visigoth, Hun, Mongol, Saxon, Dane, Norsk, Geat or any other Viking. Hmmm, like Futbol but with the Celtic hooligans kicking a ball instead of an innocently unaware rival fan.
+38 # Jonnee Denton 2011-01-31 13:05
As usual, Bill Maher gives us the bitter truth with a chuckle to make it palatable. Way to go, Bill.
+46 # frank 2011-01-31 13:10
The NFL is also highly regulated and works much better because of regulation. Imagine if there were few rules, especially about safety. Examples: no roughing the passer, no clipping, etc. Players would be carried off the field every 5 minutes if the game was not regulated. We would lose all the top quarterbacks by the end of the season.
The same is true throughout society if the field was open to unbridled greed, cheating, etc.
+19 # DaveW. 2011-01-31 13:15
Honestly delivered sarcastically. What else to expect from Bill Maher. I agree with the analysis, I still like baseball however, but must point out the mega salaries these "Socialist" NFLer's are making and the outrageous prices paid to go watch them run around in short pants. What NFLer's are, is essentially Socialist royalty. Duma's in Puma's, members of the Punting Politburo who wear a lot of bling, electrocute dogs, drive uber tricked out SUV's and rape girls with the assistance of the local authorities. Why the hell do we keep watching? Hey, this is America, baby!
+15 # Jonnee Denton 2011-01-31 13:22
As usual, Bill Maher gives us the truth and a chuckle. Way to go, Bill.
+13 # KC Economist 2011-01-31 13:44
Wonderful! I laughed, I cried .... I can't help but laugh when pundits and politicians on the right refer to Obama as a Socialist. President Obama has redistributed wealth to protect the poor in the same way collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) redistributed risk to protect investors from losses. The gap between the poor and the Uber rich has widened, not narrowed, as a consequence of his policies. -S.Kelton
-35 # Popescu 2011-01-31 13:52
So in footsball you establish a more or less even level such that teams compete equally and you get good hard-fought games but you really don't ever get anything like something that rises to the heights of achievement and memorableness.W hich say a season of no hitters or whatever can achieve. Footsball steady even matches; baseball the greatest heights imaginable. Footsball is commissars; baseball is Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Einstein--at least some of the time, but those are the times that count and make for greatness. No room for greatness in socialism.
+4 # PhilO 2011-01-31 16:27
Quoting Popescu:
So in footsball you establish a more or less even level such that teams compete equally and you get good hard-fought games but you really don't ever get anything like something that rises to the heights of achievement and memorableness. Which say a season of no hitters or whatever can achieve. Footsball steady even matches; baseball the greatest heights imaginable. Footsball is commissars; baseball is Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Einstein--at least some of the time, but those are the times that count and make for greatness. No room for greatness in socialism.

Your comment is filled with so many errors of fact and reason I don't know where to begin!
+3 # genierae 2011-02-01 10:26
Popescu: "All for one, and one for all." What could be greater than that?
+2 # racp 2011-02-01 13:10
Shakespeare??? Oh yes! The line from Hamlet: "That balls outta here!!!"
But I have to give it to you... baseball has given the greatest moment in sports: Abbott and Costello's "who's on first" routine.
+6 # Michael Morgan 2011-01-31 15:04
I hate pro football, can't imagine why anyone would watch baseball (yawn), but I do like the idea of millionaires bashing each others' brains out (I won't watch the Super Bowl, obviously).
+1 # charsjcca 2011-01-31 16:05
What is greater than that. When I last "KNEW" each team benefits from the gigantic television contract equally, whether they win or lose 16 regular season games.
+7 # HERBERT S THOMAS III 2011-01-31 16:12
Replying to Popescu . . . Leaving aside Maher's thesis, with which I agree (Who would the Yankees play if all the other teams went under?), I prefer even competition to such NCAA travesties as Wisconsin beating Austin Peay 70-3. And there have been many memorable players and plays in the NFL. Cy Young? Johnny Unitas. Babe Ruth? Jim Brown. Nolan Ryan? Joe Montana. World series unassisted triple play by Bill Wambsganss (1920)? Franco Harris's 1972 "Immaculate Reception." Cleveland's .714 year in 1954? The 17-0 1972 Dolphins.
+1 # Bobby Vegas 2011-01-31 16:15
FYI. Baseball does share TV revenue. See how much the Yankees gave the Texas Rangers only to loose to them last year. PS. Saw this for the first time Friday nite.
+6 # HowardMH 2011-01-31 16:21
Why can't the US get someone with the brains and common sense that Bill has to run for president? Why -- because he has common sense and brains.
-29 # Ellen N. Duell 2011-01-31 16:40
I'm very bothered by this sexist writing. There is no good purpose served by it; it takes no brains to write like that. I shall not read Bill Maher's writings again. He needs consciousness and conscience raising, not to mention respect for women.
+11 # stonecutter 2011-01-31 20:22
you need a sense of humor.
+7 # Ken Hall 2011-01-31 23:54
I agree about needing a sense of humor, or maybe appreciating hyperbolic satire. Maher gores so many different oxen in this article that any sexism found in it has to be included in his "equal opportunity" style of confrontational essay. Don't take it seriously, it's meant to be amusing and thought provoking.
+2 # Capn Canard 2011-02-01 10:52
Your level of harshness is starling. Be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot.
+7 # Robert James 2011-01-31 17:22
Bill misses some very obvious and salient points: (1) each NFL team only plays 8 home games, so even a tiny market like Green Bay can sell out it stadium for every game, so there is no disparity in gate revenue (and corresponding concession revenue) between the small market teams and the large market teams; and (2) the vast majority of other revenue is generated through the league's lucrative television contracts, and since the teams only play one game per week, every single game is played on network TV. In contrast, baseball teams play 81 home games per season, so large market teams can more easily sell out their stadiums than small market teams, and since the vast majority of baseball games are televised locally and not nationally, every team has its own television contract, and of course the Yankees will make much more money on its TV contract than the small market teams. Finally, the NFL players have a very weak players union (largely due to the short shelf life of most of its players), and they have agreed to a strict salary cap with the owners. The biggest reason for lack of parity in baseball is the obstinance of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the most powerful labor union in the history of the world, which absolutely refuses to agree to a salary cap (which they have to varying degreees in the NFL, NBA and NHL).
+2 # Red Ed 2011-02-01 17:22
Mr James -
Tampa Bay has 5 times the population as does Green Bay and again this year, can't sell out. Same thing for Vikings until Favre signed there. Plus, the Packers have sold out every seat for more years then any other team. Yes, their stadium holds more than half the others.
+2 # DRA 2011-01-31 17:46
Maher offers a very interesting analogy, but let's analyze it a bit further. The NFL negotiates TV contracts nationally and everyone supposedly gets an equal cut of the revenue. That seems a bit like a flat tax, in that individual team characteristics don't affect one's rate, everyone is treated equally. Us progressives generally demand those with greater potential pay more tax. (BTW, the NFL Player's Assn [union] has filed a suit against the NFL's 2011 TV contracts, claiming that the guaranteed revenue clauses are designed to fund a player lockout.) As for the salary cap, it applies to teams, but not individual players. That seems like telling corporations that they can't grow too large and governments that they can't spend more than they take in. And under a salary cap, individual players who win larger contracts reduce the chances of their teammates doing the same. So, I think the NFL model is more complicated than simple socialism, even if it is more socialistic and more successful than baseball.
+3 # walworth 2011-01-31 17:46
Baseball in America is actually regulated by the government using the that All American idea of Too Big To Fail. No matter how lousy the team, it remains in the "Major League". Those Godless Socialist in Europe use the concept of "relegation". The worst teams at the bottom of the standings at season's end are moved down to a lower league. Conversely, the best teams in the lower leagues move up to the Majors; giving small market teams a shot at the big boys and some of that TV cash.
+1 # Tom Lardner 2011-01-31 18:24
absolutely brilliant. Makes me proud that he is (more or less) a New Jersian...
+4 # Cab Driver 2011-01-31 18:30
Ah, the old battle between capitalism and socialism. I think it is more exciting than any ball game. I saw a football game once. Very exciting. Then I saw another football game, and it was exactly the same plot. The only difference I could see was that the performers wore different color costumes. Yawn.
+1 # sinig88 2011-01-31 19:50
I will say it again and again. If Baseball had the same Salary cap as does the NFL, then teams that do badly in one year, will become better teams the following year. Then the Yankees and Red Sox for instance, will not be able to field teams with a 200 million dollar salary, and by doing that, more or less closes out most other teams in the long run. That is exactly why Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, St. Lous Cardinels, etc, constantly make the playoffs. Also, revenue sharing in the NFL keeps teams in small town situation are able to field teams with good players and at a given day, any NFL team can defeat another NFL team. Nothin in tha League is a sure thing. And that is exactly what it should be. Hopefully, one of these days, Baseball will be the same....
+7 # stonecutter 2011-01-31 20:32
Bill is telling the truth as usual, with his usual sarcastic bite. Republicans have been playing "hide the dots" for decades, and the dumb and dumber electorate must crave blissful ignorance, having put these lying scum-suckers back in power after 8 years of Bush. The next 2 years will be one long root canal, without painkillers..
+6 # genierae 2011-02-01 10:44
Let's look at this from a different perspective. The fact that this is a man's world, which has suppressed the female influence for centuries, allows the violent sport of football to continue. Therefore, I have to watch as my grandson, who is five, is prepared by his dad for playing football. My son-in-law is a sports nut who sees nothing wrong in conditioning his son to take part in a violent game that can cause him permanent disability or even death. It is unconscionable that young boys are taught that violence is perfectly okay in sports. Then this harsh conditioning is extended to military basic training, going even further, teaching them to kill their fellow man. I ask every man who reads this to reconsider the value of violent sports to this 21st century society. Isn't it time that we turned away from such harmful, inhumane behavior? Yes, I know. Thumbs-down all around.
+2 # racp 2011-02-01 13:32
You nailed it! Well said! Of the top-4 American sports, basketball is the only one that does not utilize technology as a weapon (helmets, shields, etc.).
Since young age, American are conditioned to such a violent behavior in sports that they need helmets even to play soccer (I've never seen that anywhere else in the world). Even Rugby (everywhere except the US) is less vicious than Football. Without an armour, you are much more careful when in route to a collision with an opponent. Same thing with soccer, where the beauty is found on skills and not on knocking down the opponent. Soccer used to be that way in the 19th century, but it evolved.
Want a sport for your grandson? Volleyball, where respect for the opponent reaches a level that you are not even allowed to make contact with the net (what separates you from them). Cycling, where you quickly learn how important is to collaborate, even with opponents.
0 # stonecutter 2011-02-03 06:35
Madam, it is MONEY that allows football to not only continue, but to grow exponentially in our culture, and there are tens of thousands of WOMEN at NFL games every week, screaming bloody murder for their team along with the guys. Women screamed bloody murder at the gladiators in Roman circuses 2,000 years ago, and they're still doing it at NFL and college football games today.

Yes, men are men, with all the non-lethal aggressive and sometimes violent tendencies that go along with the package, according to the evolutionary biological imperative. Check any hetero porn video on the internet (there are MILLIONS of them for FREE), and unless I'm not seeing what I'm seeing, it's the man powerfully thrusting and the woman receiving, in various receptive positions and countless scenarios, but always the same dynamic between the genders...this is the core essence of the biological imperative, and it hasn't changed--AT ALL--since men and women dropped out of the trees and started walking upright.
0 # genierae 2011-02-03 19:01
stonecutter0602 : What an unenlightened response. The oppression of women for centuries kept most of them from the natural evolution that would lift them above their baser instincts, and the conditioning that most women are subjected to today, keeps them from thinking critically, which would help to raise their consciousness to a higher level. Believe it or not, it is even possible for men to rise above their testosterone-fu eled addiction to violence and mindless sex. Evolution, from the material into the spiritual, is our true purpose in life, and your less than delicate interpretation of the male/female dynamic tells me that you don't know much about it. I don't think that its anything to be proud of, that many men and women are still living in the Stone Age, but it seems that you do. Pity.
+1 # fredboy 2011-02-01 12:41
Oh no!
Now we can expect neo-con hate mongers to surround the super bowl, guns blazing, screaming how un-American it is for the richest teams to help the less fortunate.
It goes against neo-con thinking and proves, once and for all, the neo-con movement is anti-Christian. I'm serious--these nut jobs violate every tenet of the faith.
-8 # madmaxx63 2011-02-01 13:21
Ummm... how about this... to be in the NFL you have to possess a "minimum" talent and if you don't perform, you get traded, you don't work out... traded again or no one picks you up. TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS!

Now let's compare that to the US where we are suppose to be an EOE minded nation. We hire a minority BECAUSE they ARE a minority, s/he doesn't perform, we promote them to get them out of our hair because they can not be fired, they can't perform at their new job, we promote them again. TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS!

Trust me... I work for a federal agency and I see promotion of of incompetant people every day. Someone tell me how a black man can legally go from GS5 to GS13 in 5 years? Go online, do the math and get back to me!

Now let's apply that to welfare... we try to give them a job, (yes-GIVE) to get them off welfare, they earn more money on welfare than they do at this "uneducated position" so they quit or get fired and back on welfare. So what do their kids see... Mom or Dad earns more money on welfare than if they were to work... good enough for M&D... good enough for me. How else do you explain 3rd and 4th gen welfare in this country? TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS!

0 # racp 2011-02-02 10:58
Totally agree with you. BTW, your point about responsibility for your actions works for players, coaches and owners are not measured by the same standards... have you notice that? Coaching in MLB is worse, hiring is not related to performance at all.
Meritocracy is a myth. It's the economics of minority! Legacy, old boys club, alumni, african-america n, hispanic, native-american s. the list keeps growing... and there are efforts to include a new minority: white american. Go figure!
-5 # madmaxx63 2011-02-01 13:28
People in this country are on a kick in blaming the schools and their lack of "production". I blame the parents of the kids that mouth off, don't listen, don't do their homework and expect to pass. Both parents have a job to keep up with the Joneses so Jr still doesn't get any attention toward his/her homework. They have no chores, if they're not texting... they're playing video games. Their kid shoots someone in school... it's the gun manufacturers fault or the school system's. "Junior was getting picked on", blah, blah, blah. TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY!

Lemme tell ya something you bleeding heart liberals... I was picked on as a kid, got my ass beat at home when I was bad, had to feed the animals and take out the trash at 10pm when I didn't do it earlier, born to "poor" parents, graduated mid class from HS, tried a few uneducated late-teen jobs and found guess what? It SUCKS! Went in the Navy, got out, tried a few more uneducated jobs and guess what? It SUCKS! Went to college, worked my ass off and got C's, graduated after 5 years of stumbling and got a job as a scientist that requires street smarts as well as book smarts and guess what... I'm doing GREAT!

I took the responsibility for MY actions, didn't blame others for my circumstances/m istakes and did what I HAD to do to succeed.
-11 # madmaxx63 2011-02-01 13:29
And lastly...

Why do poor people drink and smoke? How much money would they have at the end of the week if they didn't do either???
-1 # racp 2011-02-02 11:07
You are right! Unbelievable! The want health care and try to own houses too! My goodness!!! Here is a tip: If you are poor can't afford health care... do preventive care, buy healthy food at affordable prices at COSTCO or TRADER JOE, get a place to sleep and rest, get a good heating and cooling system to weather the weather. That way you don't get sick. You keep buying overpriced junk food (BTW, no healthy options there) in your local store.
Oh!... I see... they may drink and smoke to forget... oh well...
-2 # fredboy 2011-02-03 10:39
Keep it tight, madmaxx63. Thanks!
+2 # betty 2011-02-04 11:56
Cartel, not socialism

...except for Green Bay. Local cities aren't allowed to own their "home" football teams--NFL rules. GB was grandfathered in. When GB isn't doing well at home, the team can't move. All other teams can pick up and to elsewhere, some in the middle of the night.
CHANGE: All NFL teams MUST be owned by the fans. Now that will be real socialism, and works well for Green Bay.
0 # stuart 2011-02-05 01:36
How Socialist is an organization that is afraid of workers organizing?
+1 # brad 2011-02-07 18:33
Why let facts get in the way of a good argument?
In the last decade, 7 different teams have won the Super Bowl, while 9 different teams have won the World Series. 14 teams went to the SB in that time, while 15 went the WS. It's likely more NFL teams have made the playoffs, but that's a function of there being 12 berths per year in the NFL vs only 8 in MLB.
And btw, baseball also has revenue sharing. The Yankees routinely pay more into it than many teams spend on total payroll. The salary cap in the NFL exists to limit how much of the revenues are given to the players, not to limit salaries or maintain parity. Bill is confusing protecting owners' profits with socialism, sadly, but then the comments here show he's not alone. It seems nice to the fans to keep salaries down, yet they never seem to realize that just means the owners, a much smaller and far, far wealthier group to begin with, are getting more of the pie. Ticket prices are tied to market demand, not payroll, this isn't the NHL we're talking about. Bill's argument is empty rhetoric, devoid of real understanding, sadly.

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