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The NFL is way better than politics

After Labor Day 2012 (Sept. 3) two big seasons kick off, i.e., the National Football League season and the 2012 election season.

In fact, the NFL and politics are in direct conflict Sept. 5. The second night of the Democratic National Convention is up against the first game of the NFL season between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

Who’s going to win that battle? I’m betting the NFL achieves a ratings victory.

The Democrats understand this. Vice President Joe Biden’s speech was moved from Sept. 5 to Sept. 6. As entertaining as Biden can be — after all, one never knows when the next big gaffe will emanate from his lips — he still can’t hold up against quarterbacks Eli Manning and Tony Romo.

So, former President Bill Clinton is left as the main speaker on Sept. 5 to take on the NFL. He’ll probably get sacked.

Interestingly, early this year, the NFL agreed to move this game back a night, as it was scheduled for the same night as President Barack Obama’s convention acceptance speech. Hmmm, it would have been interesting to see who would have won that match up.

Make no mistake, Americans love football, and the start of the NFL season is something of a TV event. Fans have been starved for a meaningful NFL game since the Super Bowl in early February. That’s seven long months. Meanwhile, as various polls show, Americans still have a fairly healthy skepticism and distrust of the political class.

No doubt, some are downright disgusted by the idea that football should win out over one of the major party political conventions, especially during such a historic election year as this. At first glance, one might understand such frustration. But then again, which is more enjoyable — watching and listening to politicians serving up platitudes and spin, or taking in a long touchdown pass, a bruising running back, and/or some tough defense?

The NFL is simply better than politics. Consider a few reasons why.

First, it must be acknowledged that too many high profile football players are not exactly good role models for the kids. Of course, far too many politicians fail the role model test as well. But ethically challenged football players are just playing a game, while sleazy politicians are making decisions that affect the day-to-day lives of every American.

Second, political junkies, such as myself, are regularly subjected to vacuous, phony calls for bipartisanship. The mantra goes: Can’t we stop being so divisive and come together? This usually is a demand for conservative, free market people to abandon their principles. None of this exists in football. No one ever calls on one team to relinquish yards and points to the other.

Third, other than in the very rare case of a tie, it’s clear who won and who lost a football game. That’s often not so clear in politics. 

It’s not unusual that when a victor is declared in an election, it’s still murky what ideas won out. Politicians can fudge and flip flop. 

Football teams do not. Politics needs to become more like football in recognizing that on many issues, the philosophical differences are so wide that one team must win and the other must lose.

Fourth, it’s worth noting that columnist George Will once declared that football “is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” 

Obviously, Will is no football fan, but that’s a funny line. Of course, the difference between a governmental and a football committee meeting is that on the gridiron, the committee members take action. 

And that action often is exciting and consequential. In politics, however, it’s not unusual for a committee meeting to result in, well, nothing.

As for the violence, which is worse — the violence dished out by players against one another on the field of play, or the violence imposed by politicians on individuals, families and businesses via burdensome taxes and regulations?

Fifth, consider the striking difference in pay among NFL players and the top elected officials in this nation. The U.S. president gets paid

$400,000 annually, plus a $50,000 nontaxable expense account. Last year, members of Congress were paid $174,000, with the speaker of the House earning $223,500, and the Senate majority and minority leaders each garnering salaries of $193,400. Meanwhile, the average NFL salary was $1.9 million.

Is that fair? Of course, it is. Few people have the skills and abilities to quarterback the New York Jets, for example, while no special, extraordinary skills are needed to be a politician. Football is based on merit. That, unfortunately, is far from the typical case in politics and government.

For good measure, people voluntarily hand over their money to watch NFL games and purchase NFL merchandise, which supplies the revenues to pay players. Meanwhile, politicians are the only people in the nation able to set their own salaries, completely separate from any kind of market discipline.

In the end, people love football, while government is a necessary evil. Therefore, it’s easy to see why people will watch the Cowboys- Giants over the Democratic National Convention. In fact, it’s very hard to argue with such a choice. Football simply is better than politics.

— Raymond J. Keating, chief economist, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

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