Football, Baseball, and War
This last week I gave a presentation at St. Norbert’s College, where the Green Bay Packers practice in the Spring since 1958. The occasion was there annual “Sport and Society” conference. My Tuesday May 24, 2016 presentation was called “Football, Baseball, and Empire.” The conference opened with the amazing career story of Mark Murphy, President of the Green Bay Packers, who had the game saving interception for the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl as a player and vice president of the player’s union.
Sports and especially favorite sports are an expression of who we are as a society. We all have needs for Power and needs for Achievement. The high military spending empire has a stronger need for power and therefore a lower need for Achievement. The low military spending emerging power has a high need for achievement and a lower need for power. Resources are split between the manufacturing sector and the military sector according to a society’s preferences. In the case of Japan and the United States in the middle twentieth century changes occurred reflecting these values and the changing cultural values of those respective societies around the two sports of Football and Baseball. There is very little in baseball about war and militarism, so baseball is a sport of achievement. There is a whole lot about war and militarism in football, so football is a sport of power. After World War II, Japan and the United States switched number one sports. The number one sport of low military high achieving America was baseball.
But World War II changed everything. Japan was forced to demilitarize, adopting a constitution against war. They adopted baseball as their number one sport. In 2015 on our trip to Japan that year, we saw from the train numerous fields of baseball players practicing all over Japan. In the sixties, with glorification of World War II everywhere in the culture, America began to prefer football over baseball as the new number one sport. Now, traveling in America, kids practicing football can be seen all over.
Seventy years after the hegemonic war, America is going deeper and deeper in to the economics, politics, and social structure of empire. The military sector overpays by about one third (white collar, blue collar, and engineering) and draws capital and research to it at the expense of our civilian manufacturing sector and the other goods producing industries like construction, mining, and agriculture. This has produced a half life of thirty years for the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing was 40% of our employment in 1950, 20% in 1980, and 10% in 2010. Wage growth has stagnated for the middle class for forty years and for the bottom 99% for at least thirty or forty years.
Politics have increasingly stagnated as politicians push unconditional surrender type tactics in the political arena. Police forces that in the seventies were closer to social workers are now closer to soldiers, with swat teams, armored vehicles, and tactics used in Fallujah, Iraq and Palestine are increasingly used at home. The percentage of college degree holders in our population has not changed in a generation, while many European countries have doubled, going from far below our level to far above our level. Europe, once known as a class based society, has switched roles with America, as the United States has become class based with social mobility stagnant at home and high in Europe.
10 Ways NFL Football Mimics War
#1. Only 10% of Roman Gladiators died in the coliseum. NFL Football players have longevity 25% less than average, thereby losing twice as much life as the gladiators did.
#2. Most football players step out of bed painfully on Monday mornings and many experience multiple brain concussions. War veterans have PTSD and multiple concussions.
#3. Both teams put most of there men on the imaginary line between the teams, the so-called “front lines”, and call play in this area “no man’s land” or “in the trenches” unlike most other sports; hockey and soccer come close, but much less frequently than the every down football standard formation.
#4. When a team wants to put pressure on the quarterback, they resort to a tactic called blitzing, very reminiscent of the German “blitzkrieg” attack plans of the Second World War. In both cases men are sent through the front lines attempting to get beyond the normal front line men in order to cause havoc.
#5. Both soldiers and football players wear helmets as standard equipment, as well as other kinds of shielding and protective gear.
#6. Both soldiers and football players try to hit the other guy as hard and fast as they can.
#7. Knocking the other guy’s leading person out of the game is often a goal of both soldiers and football players.
#8. Nuclear bombs are considered the ultimate weapon and throwing “the bomb” and scoring a touchdown is considered the ultimate football play.
#9. In the air game receivers and the secondary resemble either aircraft or paratroopers and in the ground game linemen are like infantry blocking for the running backs who are like tanks. Linebackers are like defensive reserve tanks. The quarterback is the “field general” or like the aircraft carrier or base, or a launching pad for missiles.
#10. Until recently, domestic violence was treated by the NFL like collateral damage is treated by the air force and in drone warfare, an indirect result of violent behavior to be safely ignored or whitewashed away.
For my power point about how sports culture has changed in America under empire:
Dr. Robert Reuschlein, Dr. Peace,