Friday, April 15, 2011

The National Socialist Football League

There are many great rivalries in sports from the Cowboys and the Redskins to Auburn-Alabama to Texas and Oklahoma. My favorite is, of course, Missouri and Kansas. Gary Pinkel is the current football coach at Mizzou and commented last fall on the viciousness of the Kansas-Missouri rivalry. He has not been able to understand the intensity of that set of contests. In many ways, it is a continuation of 'Bleeding Kansas', the war between the states that took place before the War Between the States. My objection to Quantrill has to do with the raid on Lawrence: he failed to completely obliterate the snakepit.

The rivalry in football is one thing as Missouri usually fields a mediocre to decent football team that occasionally breaks into the top 25 and even more rarely into the top ten, while Kansas usually plays at a lower level — except for a brief shining moment of national recognition a couple of years ago. The real conflict is on the hardwood where KU is a perennially top-ranked program, and MU has frequently done quite well. The long-time coach of the Tigers, Norm Stewart, was always a potential Jayhawk nemesis whether playing in the regular season or in the Big 8/Big 12 Tournament. Stewart always managed to get the best out of his squad whenever KU came to town, or even in enemy territory over at Allen Fieldhouse.

Just imagine, during the best days of the Stewart-Roy Williams era, that KU was having a really good night against Mizzou. Let's say that ten minutes into the first half, nothing was going the Tigers' way. Their shots were clanging off the rim. The ball was getting away from them. They were falling and fouling at a disastrous pace. Meanwhile, the Jayhawk players simply could not miss. They were swishing in shots from near half-court. They were stealing and dealing with grace and ease and were leading already by an insurmountable score of 40 to nothing. At that point in this massacre, the referees call an official time-out and gather in a corner of the floor. They agree that this cannot be allowed to go on, and they agree on a solution. Coming back to the center of the court, the head referee announces to the teams and the crowd that for the remainder of the half, Kansas will be allowed only three men on the court while Missouri will have the full complement of five. Stunned silence is followed by a near-riot as fans, players, and coaches vent their wrath upon this ridiculous decision.

It does not matter much whether this imaginary game is being played in Lawrence or in Columbia. Naturally, the KU players, coaches and fans would be outraged, but so would the Missouri side. As a Mizzou fan and alum, I would be deeply offended. No Missouri player or coach would accept such a handicap being placed on an opposing team. Not only would it be contrary to the rules and the very spirit of fair play and competition, it would be an insult to the team which was supposed to benefit from it. Now I can imagine a gentlemanly coach like Roy or Norm, as the clock ran down, putting in the second-string players, possibly even telling his team to "go a little easier", but that's up to the teams and the coaches. No official has the right or responsibility to do such a thing.

The referee's job is to make sure that the game is played by the rules and played fairly. His job is not to determine the outcome or the final score. He can't call fouls just because one team is much better than the other. In baseball, the umpire cannot make the strike zone larger for one team than the other. Speaking of Missouri sports history, the St. Louis Cardinals won the 6th game of the 1985 World Series against the Royals. I was watching the game and saw the final out — except the first base umpire called the runner safe. It was a completely bogus call that cost the Cards a World Championship, since, if they had been allowed to win the sixth game, there would not have been a seventh game. The umpire later admitted that he made the call knowing it was wrong.

We would not stand for such a thing in sports even if it favored our favorites. For some strange reason, however, it is apparently perfectly acceptable to do the same thing in politics and the economy. Government should function as an umpire or a referee. Government's job is to make sure that people play "by the rules", that they do not take unfair advantage of insider information, that they do not run scams on the uninformed, that people be able to trust the information they do receive, that deception gets punished, and that risky practices be fully disclosed.

Of course life is more important than sports. When we are talking about government action, we are typically dealing with serious issues of health, welfare, and justice. While I am willing to acknowledge that the circumstances and outcomes are much more serious, I question whether we can discard the principles and philosophy of fair play with regard to government.

Like a referee, government should not be beholden to one side or the other. There should be no collusion between referees and players. Yet this is not the case with government. “Players” on Wall Street move from private enterprise to government regulatory positions and back again. There exist quasi-government entities like the Federal Reserve, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation have made their officers and friends wealthy at taxpayer expense.

On the one hand, government favors corporations, big banks and financial institutions, while on the other hand they favor unions. That might seem to balance, but that is not how it works out in reality. Government goes from one side to the other, pandering to voting blocs, buying votes with bloated, high-cost projects or initiatives. Every state should be a right-to-work state.

Government needs to be made honest. The only way to do that is to limit the areas over which government has control. We did this once. They called it the Constitution. The Constitution gives the government very little and very limited power. The Declaration of Independence, the foundation of the Constitution, clearly states that the rights of individuals are not derived from the government but are God-given (or natural, if you prefer).

I have heard people say that the government should guarantee equal opportunity but not equal outcomes. Certainly there should be no guarantee on the part of government for equal outcomes – though the redistribution of wealth is an ongoing attempt to do just that. However, the government cannot even guarantee equal opportunity specifically. That is, government cannot determine that a child be born to caring, decent parents, which is the single most important factor in determining success in life. Give a child a mother and a father who love one another and love their offspring and who stay married and that child can overcome almost any difficulty in life without any help from the government.

Yet government policies to “fight poverty” have served to destabilize families, to encourage promiscuity and out-of-wedlock births. The government has, for many women, become the “daddy” and “liberated” women from the constraints of marriage.

Government attempts to provide better housing for the poor resulted in the destruction of neighborhoods and the uprooting of individuals from functional communities. Urban renewal resulted in the creation of “the projects”. The projects became breeding grounds for crime and drug abuse – which the government then also had to fight.

The thing to do is to reduce the size and scope of government to constitutional limits, to return the government to doing a reasonable job of fairly calling balls and strikes rather than trying to get the game to end in a tie.

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