Salary Caps Are the Epitome of Capitalism
…Or at least that’s the takeaway I get from this remarkably idiotic attempt by Marc Thiessen to paint soccer as “socialist” because France.* I realize this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but this isn’t even good satire, nothing but a mailed-in rehash of decades-old anti-soccer talking points. Of course, if he actually knew a damn thing about soccer as it’s actually played, he’d have little choice but to conclude that it is the most capitalistic sport known to man, if for some reason you think that sports can actually be classified on the political spectrum, which is itself idiotic.* So let’s look at Thiessen’s tired-ass charges and recast them:
1. “Soccer is the only sport in the world where you cannot use the one tool that distinguishes man from beast: opposable thumbs. “No hands” is a rule only a European statist could love.”
This is, of course, factually wrong – apparently Thiessen has never heard of Takraw. Beyond that, what’s the more socialist sport? The one that has only a handful of easily understood rules and gives no free handouts to make it easier to achieve your goals, or the sport with a mountain of rules and gives you all sorts of free tools to make it easier to score? If “no hands is a rule only a European statist could love,” then I wonder what a statist would think of “no breathing on the quarterback,” “no touching the fragile wide receiver more than five yards from the line of scrimmage,” “no touching the ball at all if you you’re obese unless it’s first touched by a player with a healthy diet,” etc.? Not to mention “no hurting your opponents’ feelings by celebrating when you score”?
2. “Soccer is also the only sport in the world that has “hooligans”—proletarian mobs that trash private property whenever their team loses.”
This kind of overstates things a bit, doesn’t it? While nowhere near the problem it is in soccer, it’s not as if fans of football, baseball, hockey, and basketball are completely averse to violence and destruction of private property. I have a hard time recalling any professional sporting events I’ve attended where there weren’t, at a minimum, some fisticuffs involved at some point. And, of course, our version of hooligans also has a penchant for attacking private property – just whenever their team wins.
3. “Soccer is collectivist. At this year’s World Cup, the French national team actually went on strike in the middle of the tournament on the eve of an elimination match.”
Because if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that France is emblematic of every thing we dislike and is beloved by every unenlightened country in the world. While Thiessen acknowledges that, yes, American sports leagues have seen their share of strikes, I wonder if Thiessen knows the number of strikes that have occurred in the English Premier League (and its predecessor, The Football League) in its 122 year history? (Answer: 0, so far as I can discern). Also….France refused to practice for a day; Major League Baseball cancelled the World Series and the NHL cancelled an entire season.
4. “At the youth level, soccer teams don’t even keep score and everyone gets a participation trophy.”
Dude. Participation trophies aren’t exactly unique to soccer in this country. And, at least around these parts, we start keeping score in soccer at a younger age than we do in baseball. And whatever problems there are with the European “Youth Academy” system, they sure as hell don’t include an overemphasis on “fairness” and “participation trophies.” Our sports have rules that say you can’t sign with a team unless you’ve had at least a year of college; European soccer leagues say you can sign with a team (all of which are privately owned and operated) when you’re 8, maybe even younger.
5. “Capitalist sports are exciting—people often hit each other, sometimes even score. Soccer fans are excited by an egalitarian 0-0 tie. When soccer powerhouses Brazil and Portugal met recently at the World Cup, they played for 90 minutes—and combined got just eight shots on net (and zero goals). Contrast this with the most exciting sports moment last week, which came not at the World Cup, but at Wimbledon, when American John Isner won in a fifth-set victory that went 70-68. Yes, even tennis is more exciting than soccer. Like an overcast day in East Berlin, soccer is … boring.”
Ugh. To quote El Duderino: “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Seriously, though – no one like 0-0 draws with virtually no scoring, and both teams got roundly (and deservedly) attacked for how they approached that game, which was as two teams would approach a truly meaningless game (which it was, since both teams had already secured advancement). Choosing that game is like choosing a Week 17 Colts game as an example of how truly boring American football is. As for John Isner’s victory being the most exciting moment in sports last week, well, it would seem there are a few million Americans who would disagree:
Let me close with these thoughts, though:
- The NFL, NHL, and NBA have salary caps (well maybe not the NFL this year) and baseball has a luxury tax. All of them have a “revenue-sharing” scheme to make sure the less wealthy teams get a cut of the income earned by the wealthiest teams. What could possibly be more socialist than that? European soccer clubs, on the other hand, literally buy, loan, and sell players on the open market for straight up cash, without a salary cap to get in the way. What could possibly be more capitalist than that?
- For all the talk about how soccer strives for “fairness” and “egalitarianism,” it is the American sports that have made it their avowed mission to encourage parity. Meanwhile, only three clubs have won the English Premier League title in the last 15 years and only five have won the La Liga title in the last 20. And let’s not get started on the World Cup, which has only been won by 7 different countries, with two countries (Italy and Brazil) accounting for half of those titles.
- Soccer is harsh in much the way that capitalism is harsh. Goals, more often than not, require an immense amount of trial and error, hard work, skill, and creativity. Even then, a bad bounce or a diving save can keep the ball from going in the net. But you have to immediately pick up the pieces and keep playing, keep pushing for that goal. If you can’t do that, you will lose. Even against a vastly inferior opponent, you can rarely expect that you will be able to get on the scoreboard with a mediocre performance.
*Although, to be fair, Thiessen is responding in part to this remarkably weak Sally Jenkins column bemoaning the lack of outrage in the US over our loss to Ghana. Of course, Thiessen accepts as true every single false assumption Jenkins makes, which doesn’t help matters.
** Seriously – if you don’t like a sport, just don’t watch it. Is it really necessary to turn every single thing in the world into some sort of a political litmus test? And if you really do think a sport is that much of a threat to all that is good in the world, then shouldn’t you at least have the courtesy to learn enough about it to provide an actually cogent criticism?