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Sunday, February 06, 2011


The Packers are the only professional sports team in America that is owned by the city it represents. There's some socialism for ya.

Go Packers, indeed.

We're all cheeseheads tonight!

Nice takedown of an article that makes lefties look like humorless jagoffs who like pissing in everyone's punchbowl (as well as some of the even-more-tiresome commenters).

You described the complexity of football aptly; it's a sport that entertains children and rewards intelligent adults who know what to look for.

And the teams that played in the Super Bowl - you have the team owned by the same family for 78 years playing the team owned by the citizens of a mid-sized city.

I can take my team losing to the public-owned team much better than losing to the team owned by the Bond villain billionaire who owned the stadium...

And I'm always impressed by the casual genius of the design of so many elements of football

To someone less easily impressed, they seem pretty much to be elements of rugby, swathed in American-requisite body armour and with extra testosterone and commercial time added.

Anyway, I don't watch either; I prefer football, and don't watch much of that, either.

As a baseball fan, I'd be a little insulted if it weren't for the fact that checkers is known for having a lot of complexity that isn't immediately apparent. The guessing game between the pitcher and the batter and the challenge of setting up the defense are both complex and interesting to follow.

1) The Green Bay Packers are NOT owned by the city of Green Bay and as far as I can tell has never been ("in 1923, the Packers were incorporated in Wisconsin as a nonprofit corporation"). It's a publicly owned company with strange rules:

"As of June 8, 2005, 112,015 people (representing 4,750,934 shares) can lay claim to a franchise ownership interest. Shares of stock include voting rights, but the redemption price is minimal, no dividends are ever paid, the stock cannot appreciate in value (though private sales often exceed the face value of the stock), and stock ownership brings no season ticket privileges. No shareholder may own over 200,000 shares, a safeguard to ensure that no individual can assume control of the club. To run the corporation, a board of directors is elected by the stockholders."

In addition, any profits that the organization receives goes to the Green Bay Packers Foundation: "The team created the Green Bay Packers Foundation in December 1986. The foundation assists in a wide variety of activities and programs that benefit education, civic affairs, health services, human services and youth-related programs."

So while it's not a city owned team it is a non-profit publicly traded corporation that attempts (also as required by law) to take any profit motive out of ownership and to prevent any lopsided or concentrated control that uses the profits for charity purposes. I honestly don't know which one was better.

2) There is a lot of debate over what Marx meant by "religion is the opiate of the masses." I'm in favor of the interpretation that he meant that religion, like the opiate, is a medicine that can easily be abused. The medicine can be necessary to help people deal with the harshness of life but if not careful, it can be abused to trap people in an impoverishing and mind-warping situation of dependence. In any case Marx favored the eventual elimination of religion not by eliminating it directly but by eliminating the reasons why religion exists (in his thought). He saw and respected a need for religion as long as it was needed to give comfort to people in a heartless world.

In any case, regardless of what people think about the sport, it is necessary to help lots of people cope with the harshness of their daily lives. I often get into basketball as an escape from life a couple of hours a few to several times a week when I need to. It can be overdone but it is a social necessity. To rail against it isn't to rail against the perceived evils of the sport nor is it to rail against the reasons why it is a social necessity but rather it is to rail against people finding comfort in one of the few places they can. No wonder such talk alienates a lot of people who could use some better understanding of the situation.

2.5) I can see how what I've just said reveals a lot of arrogance and condensation on my part. I should probably fix that. Not in pretending that I'm not arrogant or prone to condensation but by eliminating my arrogance and reasons to be condescending. I am attempting to treat others as I would myself like to be treated but doing so is non-trivial as I don't have a perfectly objective perspective. I honestly try though but this explanation is likely making it worse. In any case this same will apply latter: I'm sure of it.

3) Football is a symptom of a sick society. I think sports do have a place in a healthy society but football and much of the culture around it at present isn't such sport. Football especially as it has a level of damage to the players that other sports don't have. More so then in any other popular sport in this nation, football causes a high level of constant and guaranteed damage to it's participants. The fact that people spend so much money and fame on people (from the high school and pee-wee through professional levels) to put themselves in such a position is a sign that society is sick.

I cannot fault people for doing so in our society. Eliminating football won't eliminate the reasons why people like it so much. Addressing the reasons why people would be so vested in such damage is very difficult to do in so many ways. Until and if that is done well I don't see how any humane person can look down on someone else for liking football. For all the ways people have to satisfy violent urges and other needs, football is perhaps one of the best.

As has been mentioned there are a lot of reasons to criticize football but in the end it's only a symptom and one that isn't too damaging. I'm more concerned the damage done that say eliminating football would do without first eliminating the reasons for it. The language against football can be prone to several adverse effects and those who use such language often show sings of illness in themselves that isn't addressed while picking out illness in others and faulting them for what isn't their fault. It can get disgusting and damaging.

4) I'm one of those who likes football. I don't like a lot of football culture but I like bits of it and I like the sport itself. I do so for a lot of the same sociological reasons others like it. I take offense when I'm called a bad person for liking the sport and for being told that my fandom perpetuates evil. The fact that I (perhaps arrogantly) consider myself doing less evil then several libs who may criticize me, makes that offense worse. I can imagine how someone else who isn't as aware of the situation as I am would react. If anything criticism about football should offer sympathy for the situation its fans are in and not condemnation of the fans. In that way a true bridge can be formed, dialog can be had, and actually substantive issues can be addressed. Of course this would be democracy which is frowned upon in this society.

5) I am more of a fan of basketball then football. Basketball has a lot of tactical depth and more strategic depth then you give it credit for. I am aware of it because I've been watching basketball for 21 years and have learned what to look for. If you haven't that's fine. To someone who doesn't know what he or she is looking at, any of these sports seams supper simplistic. The depth that makes a lot of sport compelling is often very subtle and that includes football. Only by learning the subtleties (which takes time and attention) can one appreciate the depth of almost any sport.

Saying that one doesn't get football and thus isn't interested or saying that one doesn't like basketball because it seams to him or her that it's a tic-tac-toe game isn't a problem. That's just honesty and there's a good thing. I try to never think anyone should like the same sports that I do or like sports in the same way I do. When I'm trying to watch the final four and my step-father won't stop trying to convince me how horrible the sport is or when someone who doesn't understand football derides those of us who do for being simplistic, the problems occur. Recognizing one's own ignorance should be applauded (even if it's done accidentally) but mistaking one's ignorance of inelegance is a problem.

6) As a Green Bay Packers fan for 15 years and as much as I like Brett Favre (and I do like him as a football player and Green Bay vet), I can't help but savor the Packers winning the supper bowl with Arron Rodgers after the seasons Brett Favre has had over the last three years. Just saying...

Nice post but I'd like to hear more about how Football:Chess::Baseball:Checkers. Football requires a lot of strategy but I've always thought of baseball as THE thinking man's sport.

RobK: As a baseball fan, I'd be a little insulted if it weren't for the fact that checkers is known for having a lot of complexity that isn't immediately apparent.

Yep, and I do have that in mind when I say it. But it's still not chess. (And I don't think complexity necessarily makes a game better or worse, by the way...ultimate frisbee is about as simple as it gets but also great fun either to watch or to play.)

Benjamin: I can see how what I've just said reveals a lot of arrogance and condensation on my part.

I like "condensation". But it's the tone that matters, and I wouldn't say your presentation was like Lipsyte's. I do think you might be overgeneralizing, though, insofar as I think I understand where your point lies among the various things you've said.

I wouldn't necessarily agree that football is a symptom of a sick society, but I would say that a lot of the sicknesses of our society are mirrored in the current state of professional football, and I agree with you about football culture. That doesn't mean there's anything pathological about some friends playing a game in the park, though.

Saying that one doesn't get football and thus isn't interested or saying that one doesn't like basketball because it seams to him or her that it's a tic-tac-toe game isn't a problem.

Just to be clear, I didn't mean to imply either of those. And I'd agree that identifying basketball with tic-tac-toe goes a little too far. Maybe Jenga?

pb: I don't think there are enough electrons in this comment section for the full discussion, but just consider the number of different roles a single player might have on any given play, like (say) a flea flicker or a reverse that results in a turnover. Or look at the number of distinct offensive and defensive positions, their capabilities and limitations, the way they're deployed, etc. I think the analogy to chess is actually very close.

Good post...

This has always been one of my pet peeves withe the left....And i agree completely that the left tends to go way overboard when it comes to sports. Just a personal example..I've been a supporter of znet since its inception about 10 years ago...The forums over there use to be very busy not so much now...One huge argument took place about 6/7years ago over sports withe basically me and my friend Mitch Plitnick being the only ones defending those who enjoy watching sports. Michael Albert to his credit agreed with our take on sports and popular culture in general...

Many on the left cant seem to understand that long before any of us were leftists we grew up in the country we did and not all of it is bad...I grew up playing sports-hockey and soccer-and have kept my love of both to this day..I never miss a NY Ranger hockey game and I certainly never miss a Barcelona football/soccer game...The left needs to understand that many people in this country-USA-enjoy sports...If you hope to organize them in some kind of movement for change it is best not to attack them for enjoying sports or tv shows, or even being religious , in my opinion.

Anyway, my two cents...Go Rangers and Barca!!-Tony

One time a couple of presidential runs back, I heard Nader say that a society in whihc people can not only understand but have a strong opinion of football coverage schemes is a society in which people could darn well understand political and economic issues.

In other words, a lot of this stuff requires tactical thinking and the people watching ain't necessarily stupid.

In a society where you only have two political parties

I don't take offense at the suggestion that baseball is more checkers than chess. Those are the only two (American) team sports which interest me, and both have much more going on than a lot of non-sports fans would realize. The fact is that at any given time one batter faces one pitcher at a time, whereas in football you have the coordination of 11 players at a time in a called, designed play in an attempt to take any number of things into account at once... and even at that the defensive team is showing (or bluffing) a response and both teams are adjusting further from that until the snap... even then there are options designed into many plays as to what should happen next.

Add in a very complex set of rules that you almost need to grow up with to fully understand and I can see how football = chess. Baseball is such a numbers and probability game, with some bluffing possibilities... maybe it's some form of card game? Blackjack, or a form of poker..?

Football, and I am old enough to remember this, was a more interesting game to watch before the free substitution rule was adopted. The players were sized according to their roles but no one could weigh above 250 pounds if he were required to play all the snaps in a half of a football game. It all began to deteriorate when place kickers became specialists. The quality of place kicking improved, of course, but that was the thin end of the wedge that has resulted in 375 lb nose guards that trot off on third down and 6 yards to go, etc. Roll Tide.

My only comment about football is: I realized the war between language and acronyms had been lost, when someone informed me that the three-syllable "extra point" had been replaced with the three-syllable "PAT".

Lordy, this critique is way overboard. Apart from the first paragraph - which does, in an elitist way - ridicule football fans, the rest of Lipsyte's piece is aimed overwhelmingly at the owners and managers and appropriately so. Some of it's news to me since I am not aware that football-bashing is so common on the left as to constitute a 'hobby-horse' . It's also news that it's this particular hobby-horse stands between us and the workers.

This: "still bitter all these years later over the 'high school jocks' who 'shouldered him in the hall"' has the unmistakable BO of the ex-or-would-be bully about it and consequently is almost as ugly as anything Lipsyte wrote in his first paragraph.

Your thoughts on how football is the 'thinking person's game' are interesting, putting aside how vain it sounds for any fan to call the thing he likes the 'thinking person's' whatsit and your hyperbolic use of the word 'genius.' It also seems to gloss over the main appeal of football for most fans - including, I reckon, you - which is that it is extremely violent.

This: "still bitter all these years later over the 'high school jocks' who 'shouldered him in the hall"' has the unmistakable BO of the ex-or-would-be bully about it and consequently is almost as ugly as anything Lipsyte wrote in his first paragraph.

That was something Lipsyte wrote in his second paragraph, bonobo. The quotation marks might have tipped you off if you hadn't been in such a mad rush to take a piss here.

Thanks for providing another example of the "condescending dimestore psychologizing" I was talking about, though.

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