One irony I’m struck by in reading Michael Elkon’s post about Roger Goodell’s authoritarianism streak is that while many of the “owners” in college football are in fact state institutions, unlike the NFL, it’s the latter that’s managed – quite successfully – to make itself into something that shies away from free market principles as much as possible. It’s a neat trick.
That’s not to say that college football is pristine. With its tax-exempt status, how could it be? But at least there are elements of competition between the conferences and between the schools on the recruiting trail which tend to make the college game more free wheeling than the pro version.
And Michael’s conclusion numbs my soul:
… The NFL has to be careful with resentment on the part of its fans towards its players. That resentment has elements of race and class (a combination of conservative and liberal themes!) and is stoked by the sports media, which often have little food on their table, but have a lot of forks and knives and have to cut something. (See the comment in King’s piece by a tailgater in Cincinnati.) By becoming the avenging angel for fans, Goodell is responding to taste of the market. Not all bad qualities of the NFL are the result of its suckling at the government teat. Then again, if the point is that the NFL is an emblem of authoritarian, state-aided capitalism, then Sheriff Goodell fits right in.
I’m certainly not a Mark Emmert defender, but at least he doesn’t wield the kind of power over players Goodell does. (God help us if he ever does.)
I don’t doubt that the powers-that-be in college football wish their sport’s structure could emulate the NFL more closely in certain ways (most college presidents would give their left arms for an antitrust exemption, I bet), but as a fan, I’d rather have more competition in how things are run than in having a player penalized for sending a tawdry text message. Jim Delany may be a consummate asshole, but if I were a Big Ten fan, I’d sure appreciate the fact that he loses sleep thinking about how to better Mike Slive.