When the news broke that three of the National Football League wildcard playoff games last weekend did not sell out, it got me thinking about, of all things, the connection between the NFL and the decline of the Roman Empire. The NFL is to the United States what the gladiatorial contests were to Rome, sans gladiators killing each other (though NFL players certainly seem to be trying hard to mimic them).
But the reality is that professional football is no longer a sport. It’s all about hype, entertainment, and, above all, money. The problem the NFL is having with ticket sales is a result of marketplace forces overriding lies, distortions, and delusions and winning out over the long term. Even the most fanatical fans are fed up with having to pay astronomical prices for football tickets, especially when they have to sit in freezing weather and put up with wind, rain, and/or snow.
While ticket prices continue to skyrocket beyond the means of the average fan, the incomes (in real terms) of the people who are expected to pay the freight and keep professional athletes living like potentates is dropping (down more than $3,500 over the past five years alone) — and will continue to drop, no matter what politicians, government agencies, and news pundits tell us (e.g., tales of the totally fabricated “recovery”).
Virtually everything you hear from these sources is based on purposeful deceit (a.k.a. lying), naïveté, or ignorance. Not that all news commentators are the same, of course. For example, while it’s true that a majority of commentators on the far-left networks rely heavily on lies, I feel obliged to point out that many of the most notorious far-left pundits are simply so wrapped up in their ideology that they suffer not from malevolence but self-delusion.
A Bill O’Reilly, on the other hand, would be someone who would fall into the naïve category. Though I believe he’s a reasonably intelligent and well-meaning guy (his breathtaking rudeness aside), he simply can’t bring himself to believe that any politician would actually want to see America reduced to banana-republic status. You might call it the Kumbaya Mental Disorder — everyone’s motives are pure … we must all love one another … trees are primarily for hugging … yadda-yadda-yadda.
Which brings us to ignorance. Keep in mind that ignorance is not stupidity. Probably a majority of media folks are reasonably smart — some very smart — but, nonetheless, they are ignorant, i.e., they have a knowledge deficit. I never cease to be amazed at the things that come out of the mouths of some of the most highly respected news commentators on radio and television.
The problem is that even when the level of knowledge of high-level media types is substantial, it exists within a mental paradigm that blocks out any information that is “unthinkable” to them — e.g., the stock-market crash of 1929 (as well as 1987), the events of 9/11, and the possibility of New Orleans someday becoming Atlantis II. It’s what is commonly referred to as a normalcy bias.
A normalcy bias is what causes otherwise well-informed individuals to make statements like, “Whether the government likes it or not, Social Security will run out of money by such and such a date.” Their mental paradigm does not allow them to even consider the possibility that all the government needs to do is terminate FICA and raise whatever revenue is needed for Social Security by simply increasing income taxes and printing more paper dollars.
The same is true of healthcare. I often hear statements to the effect of, “Whether or not the government likes it, doctors will simply stop accepting Medicaid patients.” Their mental paradigm does not allow them to even consider the possibility of government using the threat of force to make doctors accept Medicaid patients. “But they’ll quit their practices,” someone imprisoned by a normalcy bias might respond. Answer: not if the government forces them to continue practicing.
Those who have broken through the normalcy bias barrier realize that today we live in the United States of Lawlessness, where government force trumps all. Even after Ruby Ridge, Waco, spying on (and even killing) American citizens without charges being filed against them, most people simply cannot overcome their normalcy biases and accept the fact that we are no longer a nation of laws — that we are ruled by an elite, permanently entrenched political class in Washington.
So, what does all this have to do with NFL games not selling out? A lot. The practical result of an outlaw government is an ever-lower standard of living — even for those who are on the receiving end of bloated government benefits — so fewer and fewer people can afford to go to sporting events.
This is a potential problem for the government because it relies on professional sports (and, to a great extent, big-time college football and basketball programs as well) to distract the public’s attention. Notwithstanding their crocodile tears about income inequality, the political class actually wants professional athletes to continue to make obscene salaries, because they play an integral role in helping to keep the public mesmerized and thus uninformed.
Which means there is a conflict between government’s desire to reduce everyone to poverty (and thereby make them dependent on government benefits) and the fact that impoverished people can’t afford to buy tickets to games. True, the government can make sports somas available to all by seeing to it that everyone has a giant, high-definition TV set, but without the drama and excitement of being surrounded by bare-chested, paint-splattered, screaming fans in drunken stupors, the games just wouldn’t be as much fun.
Long before it becomes a problem, however, the government might very well utilize one of its most common and effective power tools — subsidization. That’s right, just subsidize team owners and players with money from taxpayers, which would be a drop in the bucket compared to having to deal with nonstop irate mobs. (Remember, taxpayers have already paid for most NFL stadiums.)
If all this sounds farfetched, you owe it to yourself to read up on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. In its dying days, the government subsidized farmers while at the same time giving free food to a large chunk of the citizenry. And, of course, the daily “circuses” (i.e., bloodbaths at the Colosseum and other great Roman amphitheatres) were also free. There’s no question that bread and circus is what caused Rome’s demise, not barbarians from afar.
Neither I nor anyone else knows for certain exactly how all this will play out in America, but it’s going to be fascinating to watch. In the meantime, to end on a positive note, it’s good for the spirit to realize that no matter what happens to the American Empire, resourceful people, in all likelihood, will always do well.
Enough said. Now, kick back, relax, and enjoy being mesmerized by the NFL’s gladiatorial contests this weekend. And while you’re at it, think about how the Roman plebs would have loved to have been able to watch the action on flat-screen TVs.