Sunday, July 10, 2011

Football and Baseball

By Bill Kraus

In the latest decision from the U.S. Supreme Court displaying that body’s obsession with free speech and indifference to collateral damage, the chief justice said “politics is not a game.”


That great Wisconsin political sage Charlie Davis introduced me to an adage coined by a long forgotten German philosopher.

Said German said: “Politics is the only game for adults. All other games are for children.”

I agree.

The single biggest source of dysfunction in the political game is that the Supreme Court has come down in favor of funding the political game the way Major League Baseball is funded instead of the way the National Football League is funded.

Major League Baseball favors those teams in the large television markets by letting each team sign its own deal with television broadcasters.

This directly favors the likes of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The Milwaukees, Kansas Citys, etc. television contracts reflect the size and affluence of their audiences.

This tilts the game in favor of the teams in television’s richer markets because their big television contracts give them the money to buy what their owners regard as the better players. Anybody remember CC Sabathia? He made his name as a premier pitcher in Cleveland, solidified his reputation for a year in Milwaukee, and has been in New York ever since.

The National Football League, on the other hand, decided to split all the television revenues by team instead irrespective of any team’s market. This has had the result of making the teams in the league more competitive on the field and in the player marketplace.

The competition in football is determined by the skill of the players and coaches and the wisdom of the general managers.

None of those qualities are irrelevant in baseball, but the extra added benefit for the big market teams is that they have most of the money.

They also win most of the time, except on the northside of Chicago where winning has been more or less unnecessary for 111 years.

What money buys in these games is quality. What putting the baseball model in play in the game of politics has bought is money to buy favors, votes, and, more recently, judicial decisions.

The baseball model still works in baseball, but in politics we are getting gridlock, macho ideological rigidity and a model that is clearly awry.

Somebody should point this out to Chief Justice Roberts.

Follow Bill Kraus on:
twitter / wmkraus

Bill Kraus is the Co-Chair of Common Cause in Wisconsin's State Governing Board

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