What Super Bowl 2012, the New York Giants, and the NFL Can Tell Us About Capitalism, Democracy


Every Super Bowl, anticipation not only grows over which two teams will play, but also on the marketing surrounding this pinnacle football event. Hearing how much Honda spent on its Ferris Bueller-themed ad attracts viewers more than listening to Tom Brady’s or Eli Manning’s stats on ESPN.

Fascination with Super Bowl marketing brings a sense of American pride already present in football. What's more American than beer companies competing to get their ad to air in the game's first quarter, or letting Tim Tebow exercise his First Amendment rights in a Focus on the Family ad?

Because everything outside the football stadium seems to function capitalistically, it is inferred that everything inside does as well. Critics like Bill Maher argue the NFL operates in a socialist manner that preaches equality and fairness, but capitalism does in fact reign on the gridiron.

In his annual state of the league, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed potentially expanding from 32 franchises to 34. According to Maher, the 32 franchises (or soon 34) equally split the NFL’s revenue, instilling “fairness and opportunity.”

“TV is their biggest source of revenue and they put all of it in a big ‘commi’ pot and split it 32 ways because they don’t want anyone to fall too far behind,” Maher says.

So theoretically, the Jacksonville Jaguars have equal opportunity to make it to the Super Bowl as this year’s NFC winners the New York Giants.  

But the Jacksonville Jaguars have never had a Super Bowl match-up, while the New England Patriots have seven times, and the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, eight. The Jaguars simply don’t have Bill Belichick, Jerry Jones, or Ben Roethlisberger. Just because they get as much as the NFL revenue pie as everyone else doesn’t mean everything is truly equal. Factors like location and management must be accounted for.

Franchises work like American states, with certain rights reserved to themselves. Some states spend the money from the federal government on building bigger highways, while others use it to hire more state government employees.

The NFL also gives general regulations, but franchise managements exert the most amount of power. Obama can’t tell Gov. Rick Perry to not sign HPV shots’ legislation in Texas or expanding highways that are already big. Goodell can’t prohibit Jones from firing whomever he pleases, or tell Indiana Colts’ owner James Irsay and coach Chuck Pagano what to do with Peyton Manning’s contract.

Goodell does not demand that Brady be paid a salary equal to Cleveland Browns’ quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. Not only does Brady make more than Lewis, but also more than his Super Bowl counterpart, Eli Manning. All three play the same position, why then are they not all paid the same? That would truly make it equal and fair. 

Americans take enormous pride in this land being of fair opportunity. In football, having the opportunity is one thing, actually succeeding is another. Social Darwinism still exists in the NFL; otherwise we would not be spending this Sunday watching who will win this year’s survival of the fittest.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons