Did the Cleveland Browns Ban the Wrong Fan?

Browns Ban

In the first weekend of the NFL season the Cleveland Browns were demolished by the Tennessee Titans by a score of 43-13 and a fan dumped beer on one of the Titans players during the blowout. They looked into the incident and the Browns ban was announced. Now it appears they may have identified the wrong person and are backtracking on the Browns ban. I find their most recent reply to be lacking in an interesting way. I’ll get into that in a moment but first the incident in question.

There are videos and images of the beer pour and the offending fan is being universally panned. From these pieces of evidence, the Browns thought they had identified the culprit. They called him and informed him that he was banned from the stadium. The fan who was called, Eric Smith, told a Browns executive that he was not at the game but was DJing a public event. The executive insisted they had matched a tattoo although in images of the incident the offending fan appears not to have a tattoo. Both men are bearded to the Brown’s credit.

Here’s where it gets fairly interesting for me. It’s quite possible that Smith owned a ticket in the vicinity of the alleged beer dumping and his beard and general appearance led the team to think they had the right person and implement the Browns ban. That’s all well and good although perhaps they should have been more careful before making the call to Smith. Mistakes do happen. It’s the latest reply from the Browns public relations staff that bothers me. I’ll include it here.

Our investigation of the fan incident on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium remains ongoing. While we are continuing to gather information and have been in contact with multiple people as part of that process, we have not explicitly identified the individual involved or taken any formal action of punishment at this time. We will have no further comment until the investigation is complete.

This is the sort of mealy-mouthed half-truth I abhor. Perhaps the Browns didn’t official name the fan nor officially implement the ban but the pragmatic reality is the fan has been identified and was told of the banning. Why couldn’t the Browns issue a simple explanation? We thought we had the right person but, in our haste, may have made a mistake. We are continuing the investigation. How difficult is that?

We all make mistakes but it is our reluctance to admit them that leads to far more problems than anything else. We need look no further than the current political climate where a simple mistake in regards to what state would be hit by a hurricane has led us down a path of lies, denials, half-truths, and partisan insanity.

Tom Liberman

Antonio Brown and the NFL Helmet Kerfuffle

NFL Helmet Antonio Brown

There’s in an interesting situation in the NFL involving wide receiver Antonio Brown’s desire to wear the NFL Helmet of his choice rather than that mandated by the league. Until this season the players were allowed to wear whatever helmet they wanted but new rules only allow certified NFL helmets to be used. Brown wants to wear the same helmet he’s worn for his entire career but the league prohibits doing so and therefore he is filing legal injunctions against the league.

Certainly, the league has the prerogative to dictate uniform requirements. Their new rules affected a number of players in the league including Tom Brady who has expressed displeasure with the situation but so far complied. To fully understand the situation, we have to delve more deeply into the history of the league and the nature of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and the role concussions play in it.

CTE is a terrible disease which seems to occur largely in athletes who play contact sports like boxing, football, ice hockey, and others. Players suffering from the symptoms of the disease and other difficulties sued the league and have won more than a billion dollars in various settlements to date. The league long denied any connection between brain injury and repeated concussions despite strong evidence suggesting otherwise.

The motivation for the change is clear. The league wants to do everything in their power to defend themselves from future lawsuit but also to protect players by using NFL helmets believed to be best for preventing head injuries.

It seems clear Brown should want to use a better helmet for his own self-interest but it must be remembered hockey players long fought against having to wear helmets and facemasks including even goalies. They didn’t feel comfortable in the new equipment and thought it impaired their ability to perform. People often do things that are largely self-destructive and what is the role of an employer in preventing such behavior? That’s essentially the question with which we are dealing.

I think the NFL helmet rule is perfectly reasonable. They are a private entity making uniform rules for their employees. If the same thing was being forced on the NFL by a government agency, I might well have a different opinion on the subject. In addition, the right to wear whatever NFL helmet you want is not protected by the Constitution of the United States so the league does not fall afoul of that important document.

As a Libertarian I sympathize with Brown. I think it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to wear the helmet of his choice but the reasons his employer are enforcing new rules are more than compelling, even if the new helmets prove ineffective in preventing brain injury.

Tom Liberman

DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship Mayhem

DraftKings

During the recent DraftKings Sports Betting National Championship held in New Jersey an interesting situation involving computer technology is causing a bit of a fuss and I find the whole thing very interesting from a legal, sports, and Libertarian perspective.

Recently the Supreme Court ruled the prohibition against sports betting was unconstitutional and the various states immediately went to work to allow it. I wrote a blog about this not long ago. In any case, New Jersey was early on the bandwagon and DraftKings hosted the event in which the winning prize consisted a cash payment of one million dollars. The entry fee was $10,000 and two-hundred gamblers paid the fee to enter.

The rules of the event are relatively unimportant for consideration here but basically each of the players wagered money on various NFL playoff games that weekend. Whoever accumulated the largest winnings during this time would receive the prize. The problem happened because the morning game ended only fifteen minutes before the afternoon game started. Betting was only allowed before a game began.

Some of the players were able to take their winnings from the early Sunday game and apply them to the bets on the afternoon game. However, because of a computer glitch, others were not able to make wagers on the second game. This severely impacted their ability to win the tournament. One player in particular, Rufus Peabody, would have won the first prize if he had correctly wagered an all or nothing bet on the second game. He was prevented from doing so because his winnings from the first game didn’t register until after the second game began.

This, in my opinion, created an unfair playing field. It will be interesting to see what the courts have to say and I wouldn’t be surprised if DraftKings didn’t offer a refund to those who were locked out of betting.

That’s the important thing. The courts can make a determination. Before the gambling prohibition was lifted such events were run as illegal operations and if anything went wrong there was no lawful recourse. The group running the event could move on their merry way. Now that we have legalized gambling, we also have legal remedies.

This simple fact proves the benefit of allowing adults, of their own volition, to engage in activities that might cause them harm. Laws against gambling didn’t stop people from making wagers or ruining their lives. The gambling went on as before but under the auspices of illegal operators. Because the activity is now legal, we are in a much better situation. Yes, people still ruin their lives gambling but society is better able to address the wrongs associated with the activity.

This is a lesson that should be applied to other areas of our legal code. In trying to prevent people from doing harm to themselves we only make the situation worse.

Tom Liberman

Punishing by Playing Antonio Callaway and Hue Jackson

Antonio CallawayThere’s an interesting story making the rounds about a Cleveland Browns player named Antonio Callaway and his coach, Hue Jackson. Callaway was stopped for a traffic violation and marijuana was found in his car. Jackson decided that Callaway’s punishment should be to play almost every offensive snap in the preseason game against the New York Giants. Many people are questioning this method of punishment.

I won’t keep you in suspense as to my opinion on the subject, it’s Jackson’s team to run as he sees fit. If he thinks it’s an appropriate punishment then it’s his call to make. That won’t stop me from suggesting it seems like a very bad idea from a misguided coach.

Callaway ended up playing 57 of the 63 offensive plays Cleveland ran in the game and was exhausted and asking to be removed at several points. He was refused. This seems to me to put Callaway in physical danger. A player who is tired is not running plays properly which is clearly demonstrated in this age of specialization. Players are rotated in and out at a far greater rate than in previous decades.

It also seems very unusual to punish a rookie player by giving him more repetition at his position. There are certainly other wideouts on the Browns hoping to make the team and each of them was denied chances to impress because Callaway stayed in the game.

All this is certainly true but my original assessment stands. It’s Jackson’s team to run as he sees fit. What’s important to consider is if his methods are working. His record as head coach of the Browns is an astonishing 1-29 over the course of two seasons. He accumulated an 8-8 record in one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders before he was fired there.

Perhaps his methods are wise and will be part of a turnaround for the Browns and they will become a playoff team. Perhaps this punishment is indicative of a coach flailing away for solutions, a coach who doesn’t know what he is doing or why and his abysmal record will continue.

We just don’t know but we’ll certainly find out. I think Jackson was wrong in his methods and so do some other people. It’s quite possible I’ll be incorrect in this judgment, because that’s all it is, an opinion based on the evidence.

I won’t be personally insulted if the Browns start winning games and Jackson turns out to be an excellent head coach. I won’t defend my position to the death. I’ll shrug my shoulders and say I judged the evidence that was available to me and came to a conclusion which turned out to be wrong. Best of luck.

Tom Liberman

Personal Responsibility and Deflategate

deflategateAll right, enough, I’ll blog about it but it’s going to be a short one.

The equipment managers took footballs into the back room after the referees had inspected them and then deflated said footballs. They did this at the behest of Tom Brady.

End of story.

Tom Brady? Fuck you. Robert Kraft? Fuck you. Proof, schmoof. We all know what happened and everything else is just an attempt to confuse the issue along with an utter and complete lack of Personal Responsibility.

End of story.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

 

Character Above all Else in the NFL

Roger GoodellThe National Football League suffered a serious blow to their image over the Ray Rice incident. I wrote about it back in September of 2014. Now the Commissioner of the League, Roger Goodell, has come out with a statement that he hopes will alleviate some of the damage.

It goes on for a bit but the part I want to discuss today goes like this: Character and values sits above everything else

I have a thought about that: A ha ha haha haaaa haaa, a haa haaaaa haaaaaa!!!

I do not laugh because it’s a funny situation. It’s not. Ray Rice knocked out his wife with a single punch. She precipitated the blow by yelling at him, punching him, and spitting on him. The league suspended him for two games initially but months later increased the suspension because people saw the video. The arbitrators between the union of players and league ruled that Goodell had violated the rules and reinstated Rice (something I argued for in my original post). It’s far from funny. It is disturbing in many ways. Today’s blog isn’t about that. It’s about the blatant lie that Goodell just told.

The NFL is about a lot of things but the character of the players does not come before everything else. The league wants to make money. The various teams want to win games and make money. The players want to succeed, win games, and get paid more money. What comes first? Winning and with it money. Now, I fully understand that if the league fails to punish players who do things that society abhors that might cut into their profits. Therefore the behavior of players, management, and owners is of some importance. I don’t dispute that members of the NFL organization would like to eliminate domestic violence completely. They would like to end serious head injuries. But to say character and values sit above everything else is rank hypocrisy. It almost makes my ears bleed.

Almost all athletic endeavors place the ability to play the game well above everything else. Who was chosen first in grade school gym class? The smart kids? Of course not. There are plenty of intelligent and ethical athletes who play football at every level. If a team refused to play anyone with character issues they wouldn’t win a game. You’re good to your wife and kids, you’ve never broken the law, you have an ethical code? Whoop Dee Doo, can you ball?

I love my St. Louis Rams. I truly do. Janoris Jenkins was drafted after having been kicked off his college team for marijuana use. He was a 22 year old kid with multiple children from different women. Don’t be fooled though, he can play. Every year teams draft players who were involved in domestic violence incidents, who failed drug tests, who have a difficult time keeping their pecker in their pocket. But they can ball. And that’s what is most important. It’s not just players. Coaches and owners have broken the law and done unethical things. Can they bring home a winner is the question most asked of such people.

I’m bothered by such blatant falsehoods. It’s as if he thinks he can look us right in the eye and lie knowing we don’t care as long as it’s what we want to hear. It’s as if the truth doesn’t matter.

As Master On says in my novel The Black SphereWhat you wish to be true is irrelevant. Only a child believes what they desire to be real is actually so. 

I have but a single question for Commission Goodell: Do you consider getting up on a podium and telling obvious lies to a national audience be a trait of those with character and value?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Black Sphere
Next Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition

Ray Rice and Double Jeopardy

Ray Rice and WifeThere’s a big controversy going on over Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and I find the situation pretty deplorable for a number of reasons.

For those of you haven’t been following this story it’s pretty grim all the way around. In February of 2014 Rice was accused of punching his fiancé while they were in an elevator at the now closed Revel casino in Atlantic City, NJ. He was arrested and charged with aggravated assault; the result of the case currently pending trial. He has since married the woman.

The NFL has a policy where they will suspend players based on personal conduct even if they are not found guilty in the court of law . Several prominent cases have arisen over the years with the most well known involving Ben Roethlesburger. This policy was implemented for Rice and he was given a two game suspension for the alleged assault. The woman in the case argued for him during the hearing.

Quite a number of people came forward arguing the suspension was far too lenient and that league commissioner Roger Goodell should have imposed a longer penalty.

Months went by. Rice played in his team’s preseason game and was widely cheered during those games.

Then, just a couple of days ago, the video of the incident surface. The league immediately suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens released him from the roster.

I’ve got a problem with both of those actions. Both the league and the team were aware of the nature of the crime and the police report pretty much describes events as they happened in the elevator. The only new evidence is the video.

I’m no Rice fan. I thought he should have faced a longer suspension originally but the reality is the league and the team made their bed and want to go back and remake it because the public has seen the video. Rice has not been convicted of any crime at this stage although certainly the video is damning evidence.

My real problem here is that punishment was meted out for the crime. No new crime has been committed. It’s the same crime but the league can now go back and completely change the penalty which was agreed to by all parties? That just strikes me as wrong. I’m not saying new evidence shouldn’t be able to force a change but I just don’t see any new evidence here. The league knew what he did, his then fiancé asked for leniency against him, and a resolution was settled upon.

Was the league wrong in its original penalty? Certainly one can argue that.

Does Rice deserve the harsher penalty? Not an unreasonable conclusion.

I just don’t like this changing of the rules because of public perception. That’s really what is happening here. The crime is the same, the league the same, Rice the same. What has happened is that people are now visually aware of the brutality and the NFL wants to keep its fans. They should have thought of that in the first place!

Frankly, I’m a little skeptical of these personal conduct penalties in the first place. What if it turned out the video showed that Rice accidently slipped, fell and in flailing about hit his fiancé? What if we didn’t find out until after the suspension? What if it turned out she was lying? That’s why we have criminal and civil courts. Once a person is found guilty of a crime I’m more reasonably disposed to a company firing its employee.

I know it won’t be popular but I don’t think Rice should have faced any additional penalties until after the case was decided. I think the NFL and the Ravens were wrong to change the penalty based on the video when they knew the crime all along. Once the legal case is decided I think they will be well within their rights to impose further penalties.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy with a Libertarian Edge
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Twitter and the Professional Athlete

Chris LongAs anyone who reads my blog regularly knows I’m a huge sports fan and being from St. Louis that means I follow the Cardinals, Rams, and Blues pretty closely. It is a story from the St. Louis Rams that caught my attention today.

Most people are aware that a number of professional athletes use Twitter to Tweet their thoughts. This can be a revealing insight into their lives although I don’t follow any athletes nor do I read many Tweets. Chris Long of the Rams was being interviewed after a practice session during what are called OTA (Organized Team Activities).

In the interview he was asked what it was like to be back on Twitter. Long took a break from using Twitter during the off-season but is now tweeting again. If you watch the interview I linked he is asked the question at about 1:00.

He started to give the boring sort of answer that athletes often give to questions of that nature but then stopped himself, thought for a moment, and gave what I thought was an incredible answer. “It hasn’t felt that great,” he said. “I was actually happier in general when I wasn’t on it.”

What was his reasoning? Happily he went on to explain with a forthright honesty that came out loud and clear to me. “It’s just sobering. Twitter is an awful reminder of what’s out there … it’s bad, it’s bad.”

Chris was talking specifically about the LeBron James situation. James, arguably the best player in the NBA and potentially one of the best in the history of the league, is in the midst of his fourth straight NBA Championship series of which his team has won the last two. The air-conditioning went out early in the game and by the last quarter James began suffering severe cramps. He was unable to finish. A lot of nastiness ensued from Twitter. James is both very popular and much hated. That’s its own story. Let’s get back to Chris Long.

“They probably think the same thing about me, but, oh well,” said Chris with a shrug. I can tell you for a fact that there are quite a lot of people out there saying extremely hateful things about Chris Long. I read comments on stories all the time. Long doesn’t “probably think” people are saying nasty things about him, he knows it. In Long’s return to Twitter he defended LeBron with supportive tweets.

As a professional athlete and as a man who uses Twitter, Long cannot claim immunity from attacks or say that people shouldn’t be cruel. People have the right to say vile and nasty things about Long and James. That being said, I can only imagine the immense self-loathing that must fill a person in order for them to spew such awful things. I know some of my readers will think I’m exaggerating the level of vitriol on Twitter. I’m not. When you read some of the comments it is an “awful reminder of what’s out there.” The hate and the anger that boils just below the calm surface of our everyday lives. In your neighbor perhaps, or the person next to you in line at the grocery store, or a co-worker. It’s sobering to think of someone so close, so filled with anger.

Would that everyone could worry more about themselves and less about others.

And that’s what Long’s little speech reminded me. What is Libertarianism all about?

It’s not getting to do what I want. It’s about having discipline, self-control, and a sense of personal responsibility so that I can do what I want and let you do what you want.

Good for you, Chris Long. A tip of the hat.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Hooray – Super Bowl … 50!

Super Bowl 50I wrote a long post a while ago about why the National Football League should stop using Roman Numerals for the Super Bowl. While my dream hasn’t fully come to fruition the league has decided that Super Bowl 50 will be represented in Arabic Numerals.

It gives me a glimmer of hope that change is on the horizon. I’m probably wrong as they promise to return to the awful Roman Numerals for LI. Blah.

Read my entire blog rant on why I hate the Roman Numerals so much, or more realistically, think the Arabic system is so much better.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

Terry Crews and the NFL Cult

Terry Crews NFLI’m a huge sports fan and have season tickets to the St. Louis Rams so I’ve followed the various lawsuits the players have filed against the NFL with interest. I contribute directly to the NFL and have enjoyed the games for many years so I feel some culpability in the fate that has befallen many of the players.

A former NFL player who had a short and rather inglorious career by the name of Terry Crews, who is now an actor, was interviewed and called the NFL a cult. It’s an interesting analogy. Judging by the tone of the comments beneath the article I think most people largely missed the point that Crews was trying to make. I can see how reading the headline but not his actual words can be misleading.

The obvious conclusion to take when reading the “cult” headline to the article is that Crews believes the NFL seduced the players into playing and that the NFL is blame for all injuries. That’s not his point at all. He is actually laying much of the blame at the feet of the players. He talks about the idea that virtually everyone who plays in the NFL, or any top-level sports league for that matter, has been dreaming of that moment almost their entire life. It is their primary and unshakable goal.

I always played sports and dreamed of being a sports star despite my many obvious physical limitations (small and slow) so I get the idea on at least some level.

I’m a Web Developer and Technical Trainer at my job and I didn’t dream about either of those things growing up. Even then there is a part of my psychological self-worth that is tied up in those jobs. When I do a less than stellar job of teaching or fail to make a website perfect I have a sense of failure.

I can only imagine what that feeling must be like for someone in the NFL. Another element is the nature of the team and letting down your teammates. For those who haven’t played sports it’s hard to express how much you want to be out there helping because you don’t want to disappoint your teammates. The coaches are likewise friends and allies and you want to do your best for them.

When Crews talks about the NFL being a cult he is talking about the mindset of the players. They have worked so hard and for so long that they don’t want to fail. As Crews says, they put their entire trust in the team and when you trust and believe in something that deeply there is going to be disappointment. He doesn’t lay the blame completely on the NFL, nor does he absolve them.

I agree with what I think Crews is saying in that there is blame to go around. The players should accept some blame but if medical personnel and coaches doled out pain masking agents when they knew the player was seriously injured and would further hurt himself by playing; they also must accept some responsibility.

It’s an awful situation for everyone. Sport is always going to be dangerous. Hopefully this new attitude of both providing good entertainment and doing the best we can to prevent catastrophic injuries will be to the benefit of the players, the league, and the fans.

If I thought the league didn’t care about the health of the players I would have to give up my season tickets and perhaps even stop watching the games. I do think the league cares and I do think the players want to play. I hope the end result of all this is a better game for everyone. I think it will be. What do you think?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Broken Throne
Next Release: The Black Sphere

 

Worst Call of the Season – Misleading Headline of the Week

Worst Call of the SeasonIt’s only Sunday and I’ve got an entire week of Motley Fool articles ahead of me, but I got suckered in by a misleading headline just now and I can’t stop myself from reporting its existence to my loyal fans.

Worst Call of the Season – This Horse Collar Call blares the headline on the front page of the Sports Illustrated website. Not only was the call marginal but the writer of the article even admits that on replay it was pretty close!

I’m a football fan and my team is the long down-trodden St. Louis Rams. When you root for a bad team you get used to officials making bad calls against them. I’m not of the opinion it’s a conspiracy, just that referees have an expectation of mistakes when dealing with bad teams and fulfill those prophecies with bad calls. Also, bad teams usually don’t get the best officiating crews and this also leads to mistakes.

I’ve seen some bad ones over the years. A few weeks back, Rams outstanding interior lineman Michael Brockers was called for roughing the passer on this one which I nominate as one of the worst calls of the year!

Don’t put out headlines boldly proclaiming the worst call of the year when I’m on watch!

Shame on you, Sports Illustrated!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Hazing Can Be a Good Thing

Rite of PassageHazing is in the news lately with a plethora of stories about the Miami Dolphins football team and in particular the incidents between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin.

There are a lot of opinions about who is in the wrong in that particular case. What I want to talk about is the real purpose of hazing and how it clearly got out of control with the Dolphins.

One of the major issues is that people confuse the term hazing with the idea of Rite of Passage. Most hazing is really just Rite of Passage ceremonies gone out of control. When hazing is done properly as a Rite of Passage it serves a useful and productive purpose.

When someone joins an organization there are already established veterans of that group in positions of leadership. There is a clear delineation between those who have already worked for an organization and those who are newcomers. This is most clearly seen in groups that are exposed to dangerous situations, particularly the military.

These Rites of Passage tend to be modestly painful and somewhat humiliating but are on the whole affirming in nature. It means that a newcomer to an organization has successfully joined and is welcome as a full-fledged member.

So, where does it all go wrong and become hazing? How does a bully and sadistic person like Incognito get into a position where he can satisfy his sick urges by hurting other people? I’m not here to argue about who is right and who is wrong in the Dolphins situation, there are no winners there. Incognito is a sick man and his history of behavior throughout life shows it. Martin was too timid and let things get out of hand. What I want to talk about is how Incognito and men like him are allowed to live out their violent pseudo-sexual fantasies without being curbed by rational men.

The Rite of Passage is a good thing but it attracts bad people. People who enjoy hurting others. People who enjoy humiliating others. People who get a perverse sexual satisfaction from being in a position of power and abusing those under them. People like Incognito. If you’ve ever seen the movie Dazed and Confused the opening scenes illustrate the difference starkly and the entire movie studies this subject with great clarity.

The sociopath and borderline personalities of the world are attracted to the hazing process; of this there is no question. However, as long as veteran leadership is alert to such individuals and takes active steps to curb them, then the Rite of Passage will remain a positive experience. When leadership fails then disaster follows.

Leadership, or coaches and veterans, on the Dolphins bear the brunt of the responsibility for what happened. They willfully chose to allow it to happen. They can claim ignorance all they want, it’s their job to be leaders. It’s their duty to help the rookies and young players become better men. It’s their responsibility to curb men like Incognito who are what they are and always will be so.

This failure of leadership, this utter abrogation of responsibility, this moral and ethical indifference is what allowed everything else to happen. Good people must always stand up when they see abuses of power. Good soldiers, good police officers, good football players, good college students. When this happens the sick people who relish in pain and abuse cannot succeed. The police officers who abuse suspects, the military officers who torture prisoners, the prison guards who abuse inmates, the teachers who abuse students, and all of their ilk cannot destroy the lives of those under their control.

If you are a leader, be a leader. A lot of people’s lives depend on you.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

I Hate the NFL Blackout Rule – But I hate the FCC More

NFL Blackout RulesI just read an interesting story about how the Federal Communication Commission thinks they need to be involved in deciding when the National Football League broadcasts its games.

The NFL has a series of rules in which if the home team does not sell a certain number of tickets then the game cannot be broadcast in the home team’s market. This blackout includes fans who paid for the NFL Season Package either through their cable provider or internet provider.

I’m of the opinion that the NFL policy is misguided because they should desire to expand their audience, not decrease it. Even when most games were not televised on multiple outlets I think the rule was a mistake. The idea of the blackouts are to promote ticket sales by forcing people to attend the game. In the modern age the NFL is essentially shutting out a large segment of potential viewers when they do this.

The NFL is coming around to my way of thinking and has reduced the sellout rule down to 85% sales of what are called non-premium seats. They also now allow the selling of blocks of tickets at discounted rates to avoid the blackout. These new rules have meant that not a single game in the NFL has been blacked out this season. This is capitalism at work.

So now the government is getting involved. A year ago Senator John McCain of the Grand Canyon state of Arizona originally proposed a bill to force the NFL to televise all games and now the FCC is getting involved. The FCC’s argument is that those who cannot afford tickets should not be punished. What, what, what?

Those who cannot afford tickets don’t attend games, that’s the law of economics. If the NFL wants to prevent people from watching the game on television then that’s their own, misguided, business decision to make.

If a person can’t afford to see a first run movie should the studio be forced to televise it? If I can’t afford to get HBO should the network be forced to show the program over the airwaves? This is government nonsense at its worst.

Don’t mistake me, I think the NFL is better off showcasing its game on as many outlets as possible. I think content providers should release their media as broadly as possible so as to have more people watch it. This builds a loyal fan base who will watch content, buy merchandise, and see advertisements. The only reason I know about Australian Rules Football, Archer, and 20/20 Cricket is because they were released on Hulu and ESPN3.

When content providers practice to limit their audience they hurt only themselves. That being said, it’s not the government’s job to prevent a company from making stupid business decisions. When the AFL pulled their games from ESPN3 they lost me as viewer. Likewise when FX pulled Archer from Hulu. That’s their decision to make.

We Libertarians often get criticized for hating government meanwhile happily enjoying roads, appreciating teachers, police officers, firemen, parks department employees, electricity, plumbing, and many of the other things governments provides.

We don’t hate government, we just want to see it limited to the areas of its purview. When it gets involved in things like this the end result is usually bad for everyone. This NFL Blackout/FCC story isn’t the most egregious of violations but it is typical of an overreaching government that tries to right all wrongs.

Maybe they’ve got better things to do?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

Aaron Hernandez and Urban Meyer

Win at all CostsFor my followers who are not sports fans there is a terrible story making headlines in the National Football League (NFL) these days. A player in the league is accused of premeditated murder. That he killed one of his friends reportedly because that friend was talking to some other people.

The case is in its infancy and guilt or innocence will not be determined for a long time so I’m not going to get into the particulars of the incident. Likewise there is much talk about the violent tendencies of NFL players but statistical analysis seem to indicate that professional athletes, football players included, are no more criminally inclined than the rest of the nation, actually less so.

What I do want to talk about is the culture of winning that pervades college and pro athletics. The responsibility a coach has when one of their players commits crimes, particular violent crimes. In this case the player in question, Aaron Hernandez, was coached at the University of Florida by Urban Meyer. There were apparently a number of incidents at Florida that put a question to Hernandez’s character, and more importantly to the NFL, his potential to be a great player instead of a public relations nightmare.

Meyer told Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots that Hernandez was worth drafting although he was drafted well below his ability level, likely because of his off-field problems. Meyer has said that it is wrong and irresponsible to connect either he or the University of Florida to the misbehavior of Hernandez.

I strongly disagree. I will not lay the blame squarely on Meyer, Belichick, Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft, the University of Florida, the NCAA, or the NFL but there is certainly a connection. People with special ability in the sporting world are given chance after chance that other people do not get. They are entitled, coddled, favored, and allowed to behave badly without consequence again and again.

Here in St. Louis we drafted an extremely talented cornerback named Janoris Jenkins with a troubled past including failed drug tests and an arrest in a nightclub fight.

It angers me when I hear Meyer instantly dismiss any responsibility in the situation. Not only dismiss responsibility but actually attack anyone who dares suggest that he might have done something to prevent the situation. Meyer could have kicked Hernandez off the team, as Meyer’s successor Will Muschamp did to Jenkins almost immediately upon taking over as head coach at Florida.

It can be argued that Jenkins was a far more talented player than Hernandez. That Muschamp’s decision to kick Jenkins off the team was a much more damaging move than would have been removing Hernandez.

So far Jenkins has been a relatively trouble-free in St. Louis. He missed a curfew and Coach Jeff Fisher suspended him for one game. That’s what I’m talking about here today. That’s my point. Muschamp made Jenkins responsible for his actions. Fisher made Jenkins responsible for his actions. Apparently Meyer and Belichick did not do the same for Hernandez.

Who is ultimately responsible for our own actions? We are. Hernandez is. Jenkins is. But so is Meyer. He allowed Hernandez to continue to play and recommended him to the NFL. Personal responsibility doesn’t mean blaming everyone else when you make a mistake in judgment.

Meyer could have said that he understood Hernandez had problems. He tried to help. He wanted the best for the young man and gave him chances with that in mind. Instead he chooses to deny all responsibility. To bury his head in the sand and avoid any consequences to his actions. A terrible role-model, a terrible person.

I’m not blaming Meyer for Hernandez, I’m blaming Meyer for Meyer. Taking responsibility doesn’t always mean taking the credit when things go well. Personal responsibility means accepting consequences, or at least scrutiny, when things go wrong.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for hours of reading pleasure)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

NFL a non-Profit is that a bad thing?

Non-Profit OrganizationCorporate tax status is in the news lately with Apple but I just read another interesting story about the NFL. It turns out that way back in 1966 in a deal negotiated by then commissioner Pete Rozelle the NFL and sports leagues in general were declared non-profit organizations. What this means in practice is that the NFL doesn’t pay taxes. This despite the fact that the NFL earned about $10 billion in revenue last year.

If the comments on the story are to be taken as any indicator then most people are fairly upset by this state of affairs. Just as many people are upset with GE for paying no corporate taxes or by Apple avoiding paying taxes by shipping billions overseas to phony companies in Ireland.

The question I want to pursue today is the effect of the fact that the NFL doesn’t have to pay taxes. That NFL employees don’t pay taxes on hotel rooms when they come to visit your city, but I pay huge tax rates on my hotel room, on my rental car, on my airline tickets. Those are the taxes everyone is for, taxes on visitors to the city.

The result of this tax-free status is that the NFL has more money to spend on salaries. They have more money that they didn’t spend on tax lawyers. They have more money to build their league. The result is the NFL pays great salaries (which are taxable) and puts out a product that people apparently want to see. I do, I have season tickets to the Rams and gladly fork over my money every year. The result of the NFL not paying taxes is good for everyone. Now, could the NFL do things differently, do I quibble with the way they’ve run their long-term disability insurance for former players injured while playing the brutal game? Yes. But, would taxes help? To my way of thinking absolutely not.

Are corporate taxes, as they are structured today, totally counterproductive? In my opinion yes. Basically, the way it works today is that any business large enough to help Congress members get elected gets laws passed that make it relatively easy for them avoid taxes while small businesses, who can’t afford to bribe congress members, bear the brunt of the corporate tax burden. Now we begin to understand the root of the problem.

Congress passes laws not to help businesses in general but to help a particular business. Generally the one that pays for their political campaigns. When Congress passes laws that will supposedly ensure the safety of our food in reality they are passing laws making it impossible for a small cattle rancher to slaughter cows because the owner of the feed lots foots the campaign bills. When Congress passes a law to help the technical industry with overseas business they are actually passing a law that allows Apple to store huge sums of money overseas to avoid paying taxes while a company like Acumen Consulting gets stuck with the real tax bill.

These laws, passed by supposedly pro-business Congress members discourage competition and destroy business. These laws help huge companies like Pfizer and make it an unfair playing field for small companies like Jost Chemical Co.

Congress is currently in the business of deciding which company will succeed and which will fail. This is not capitalism. This is Crony Capitalism.

Detractors will argue that a business that gets to keep all its profit will simply pay the upper management even larger sums and there is that possibility. The pay structure of average employee to CEO is way out of whack but I think part of that is the unfair business model that Congress has created. When the model is biased towards large companies, and it is, then smaller, vigorous companies have a far more difficult time supplanting the behemoths. Not to say it can’t happen, it’s just more difficult. If a huge multinational company pays all its top executive outrageous sums but neglects its best workers then they will quickly lose all their talented people to smaller companies that treat their employees better.

The current system allows huge companies to pay little or no taxes while small businesses pay close to the ridiculous 35% rate. That’s one reason big companies aren’t all that eager to encourage the Obama administration to lower the corporate tax rate. Or at least those businesses that benefit from the current system. Walmart, for example, doesn’t have a huge corporate tax law division and largely pays their taxes. They want to lower the rate. GE, they like things just the way they are.

I’ve gone on a little long here but I want to sum up. The corporate tax rate as it stands today helps only the largest businesses that help fund the election cycles. It doesn’t help small businesses. It doesn’t help employees, it doesn’t help anyone. One look at the tax-exempt status of the NFL proves it. Their league is doing great and generating profit for many people; jersey sales, parking lots, hotels, construction companies (Jerry Jones spent $2 billion out of his own pocket to build a stadium), and many others. It’s a model we should at least consider. Don’t tax business profits at all. Tax salaries, capital improvement projects, purchases, whatever. At least give it a try because the current system is broken.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (Jon Gray v. Eleniak the Golden Flame c’mon, that’s awesome stuff)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Enough is Enough – Say No to Superbowl LIX

Superbowl 48Ok, so it’s a few years from Superbowl LIX but I’m already annoyed. We’re only at Superbowl XLVIII which means we have LIX minus XLVIII divided by L, carry the V and … merciful Flying Spaghetti Monster someone please kill the  roman numerals. I mean really, Superbowl XLVIII?! What sort of madness is this? How did the Roman Republic ever last long enough to become the Roman Empire? Roman frigging numerals?!

Thank you, Khwarizmi, for introducing the west to the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. We’re grateful. Really, really grateful.

Why? Because it works. I admit that binary numbers held a certain charm for me as a not so young computer nerd, can you say Superbowl 110000? Of course there is no substitute for hexadecimal – Superbowl 30 it is.

Why not simply Superbowl 48? Good old Khwarizmi would be proud. If we continue down this path of madness we have Superbowl LI and Superbowl LIV on the horizon. Sure, it was cool back in Superbowl XIX and Superbowl XXI. Roman numerals have a certain romance up to a point.

I wore a toga at a few college parties back in the day and I have a fondness of Julius Caesar (yes I practice a day of mourning on March 15 and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that) that some people don’t understand but even I’ve had enough of this number craziness. How can anyone say Superbowl XLVIII with a straight face? It’s only going to get worse. Someone has to take responsibility and step in before it’s too late.

Stand up! Join me! Say no to Superbowl XLVIII. Shirt printers out there, I beg you to try the number 48. It’s a good number. A sound number. It foreshadows the deliciously round 50. It says I’ve been around a while. Maybe I’m not the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby (who doesn’t like to say Ooooooooooorb). Maybe America’s Pastime has had 109 Fall Classics (go Cardinals!). But 48 isn’t anything to smirk at.

I’ll not besmirch anyone who tries forty-eight. It’s a double-factorial of six (whatever that means). It’s a semiperfect number. Did you know that 48 is the smallest number with exactly ten divisors? I didn’t but now I do. 48 is a Stormer number, it’s a Harshad number, and believe it or not, it’s a Narcissistic Number if subtracted instead of added.

So, join me my loyal followers, find your black sharpies! Where you see the offending XLVIII take to the warpath!

For – tee – Ate!!

For – tee – Ate!!

For – tee – Ate!!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (300+ pages of ripping good fun)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Teaser – Linsanity versus Tebowmania

Jeremy LinTomorrow I’m going to examine the phenomenon of Jeremy Lin’s Linsanity and Tim Tebow’s Tebowmania. The two men have captured the attention of the sporting world in the last few months and one thing that struck me strongly was the passion and anger they engendered. In particular I noted the anger and apparent hate that Tebow has generated and that Lin has largely managed to avoid.

Both men are strongly religious and this is usually a recipe for public adulation in the United States. I’m going to try and examine why there was such a large negative reaction to Tebow, not withstanding his legion of fans.

Stay tuned!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. I got a “Like” from Tristan Nagler and Alternate Economy and his blog is well worth a perusal for those of you who are interested in the well being of the earth and the economic ways we can help. Take a look.