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NFL football: American socialism in action

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Let me make this perfectly clear. I will waste this Sunday evening watching the game and annoying the rest of my family only because it's American socialism in action. I know this because Bill Maher told me so and Bill Maher is almost always right, which means left. Mr. Maher explained on his TV show that the National Football League operates on socialist principles. All the trillions of dollars the 32 teams earn from TV rights is put into a vast pool and then redistributed throughout the league. That's how a team from a tiny mythical town called Green Bay can put together the kind of roster that can make it all the way to the Big Boring Game.

I confess I am gob smacked by this revelation. One of the lowlights of the last presidential election was when candidate Barack Obama told Joe the Plumber -- whose name wasn't Joe and who wasn't a plumber -- that "when you spread the wealth around it's good for everybody." This impromptu remark almost deep-sixed Mr. Obama's campaign and made a celebrity out of Mr. Wurzelbacher, who kvetched that the Democrat's tax plan would punish his success. Of course Joe had had no success until then but seems to be doing fine now thanks to the President later agreeing to corporate tax cuts for plumbers and celebrities.

Nevertheless, all of America apparently backs socialism for 300-plus-pound football players -- there'll be 26 of these carnivorous alien creatures on the field Sunday -- which is a beginning at least.

Now I know some ideological purists see the NFL as violent, primitive, misogynistic, thuggish, militaristic and chauvinistic. And it's true that every aspect of the Super Bowl is well-calculated to enhance this, not excluding the presence of most of the American armed forces not otherwise occupied in Afghanistan, Pakistan and a thousand military bases around the world. The New Orleans Saints who won last year's Super Bowl XVCILM played as dirty a game as one could hope for. Only the refs failed to observe the little extras -- that extra pile-on of the quarterback, the extra knee in the receiver's back after the play had been ruled dead. Near and far the Saints were embraced as "America's team." Some socialism.

Now have I reported that I actually went to an NFL game once? My old pal James (Jim-Bo) Laxer, public intellectual extraordinaire, and I (then known as Gerry-Bob) decided we needed to see this remarkable phenomenon for ourselves. We wanted to experience Middle America directly, the America of the Tea Cup and Sarah Palin.

Well, sports fans, we did the whole nine yards, from lunch a la tailgate to supper at Buffalo's renowned Anchor Bar, home of "the best chicken wings in the world," in typical Yankee understatement. We even lived to tell the tale -- though it was a close call.

Our fellow Bills-watchers formed a veritable cross-section of American society: 90 per cent male, maybe 97 per cent white. Seventy per cent of the players are black. As it happens, our seats were directly behind a dozen rows containing 60 of New York's finest cops and state troopers, every last one of them white and male.

The fuzz had come by bus from across the whole of western New York. The bus was critical. Since they hadn't driven, it was now okay -- nay, mandatory -- to drink themselves from silly to ugly. You could follow the trajectory of their boozing in their attitude towards the cheerleaders, the beauteous (and overwhelmingly white) Buffalo Jills. For their part, the Jills, like all cheerleaders from time immemorial, were completely dissociated from the game itself. They pranced and cheered throughout the day, enthusiastically oblivious to the action on the field.

During the first quarter, the cops waved to them with genuine friendliness and, perhaps, just a soupcon of flirtatiousness. By the second, they were vigorously encouraging the girls to reveal their bosoms to the appreciative crowd. After half time, as the Wild Turkey continued to flow, the serve-and-protect gang had taken a quantum leap backwards, and it wasn't a stretch to wonder how safe the Jills really were from the long molesting arm of the law.

That's about when Jim-Bo and I and our few Canadian companeros called it a game. We had already missed a 75-yard touchdown run, our view being obscured by a huge cop who'd been hurled by his pals body-first into the row of troopers directly in front of us. But hey, were we about to complain? Not to them, folks. They didn't look like they'd welcome any lessons in public comportment from the likes of us. Anyways, by this time, at least four or five scuffles had broken out in the stands around us and stadium guards were everywhere hauling out over-exuberant and largely plastered fans. Toto, we weren't in Skydome any more.

It was time for prudent Canucks to vamoose, but there was no easy escape from all the good clean American macho fun. On the way out, one of our fleeing group got trapped in the middle of a serious wrestling match between a violently smashed fan and a security guard and got himself good and creamed. So at the end of another afternoon in America, suicidally hot Buffalo wings at the "world-famous" western New York Anchor Bar were accompanied by concern for our comrade, injured in the line of duty.

But we were left with indelible memories. Who can ever forget the banner pulled by an overhead plane throughout the afternoon: "Buffalo Gun Centre -- Go Bills!" Or especially our new cop buddies and the giant nude female dummy floating through the stands that they lusted after so touchingly. And we assume that since the Bills won (those were the days!) the Jills were probably safe from the law for at least another week.

My prediction for Sunday? Whoever God chooses is good enough for me. But let's just hope She has the left team win.

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