02.5.2019 / NEWSLETTER
Why Is Football Popular Only In The US?
I walked into a bar in Mexico City. There were a few people scattered around at the tables, but the bar was empty.
I was thinking about football, now that the season had ended. I’d grown up in New Hampshire and lived in Boston back when the Patriots never won a title. Things had changed!
I ordered a beer.
I glanced at the mirror. A guy stared back at me. He raised his mug. “Here’s to the Super Bowl champions.” He smiled “My name’s Juan.”
“I’m John. Glad to meet you.” I couldn’t help adding, “I’m from New England. We’re happy about the Super Bowl.”
“Yeah. I know. Congratulations. Sixth time, right?” He lowered his mug. “Excuse the abruptness and I hope this isn’t rude, but I got to ask: Why is American football so popular in the US, unlike here in Mexico or anywhere else in the world?”
“I’ve wondered about that, Juan. I think it’s because a football team is a microcosm of the corporation.”
“Oh, you mean, John, that corporations make a lot of money off the business of football – the ads, Coke sales, Viagra, and all that other stuff they sell?”
“That’s true, but not exactly what I had in mind, Juan.”
I watched him in the mirror as he sipped his beer.
“You see,” I said, anticipating his question. “The team has a CEO – the quarterback – who gets lots of information from his advisors on the sidelines, including the coach who is sort of like the chairman of the board. Then the quarterback makes the decisions about what to do next.”
“Doesn’t he make more money than anyone else?”
“Exactly. Like the CEO.”
“And he gets the fame – if the team wins.”
He cocked his head. “I’ve noticed that the quarterback gets to touch the ball every play – and he’s the only one who does, other than an assistant who bends over and hands or throws the ball to the quarterback under his butt and between his legs.” He laughed. “A very strange position, very funny picture indeed!”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Not sure why they do it that way, except the center – the guy who hands the ball back between his legs – is like a bodyguard to the quarterback.” I paused. In the mirror, his eyes held mine. “But there are these other guys – running backs, receivers. . . The quarterback sometimes hands or throws the ball to them. He tells them where they have to go and what they have to do to get the ball, but once they have it, they can make a few decisions – fake right, run left, or fake left, run right, that sort of thing.”
“Like vice presidents.”
“Hmmm. . .” I saw his point. “Nice analogy.”
“And what about all the other players, John? Those guys who bash heads and keep hitting each other.”
“The line.” I motioned for the bartender to bring our bill. There was no one else in the mirror. Just him.
“Yes, the line. They never even touch the football, do they?”
“In general, Juan, they don’t. Although sometimes the CEO or one of those vice presidents drops the ball, and then the men on the line can grab it or fall on it.”
He scratched his head. “No other game like that, is there? In our futbol, what you call soccer – everyone gets the ball and decides what to do with it. Same with basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis, hockey – you name it.” He stared at me through the mirror. “What about girls?”
“You mean. . .”
“Do they play American football?”
“A few do, but not professionally.” I searched my brain. “Not even in high school or college, as far as I know.”
“Wow, John. So, it is a very macho sport? Sexist.”
“I suppose you could say that.”
“Strange, especially at this time with so much talk about gender equality and sexual abuse.” He shook his head at the mirror. “American football is a unique sport.” He lifted his mug. “I think you’re right: A football team is modelled after the corporation.”
“Or perhaps,” I said as I finished my beer. “It’s the other way around.”
He shrugged in the mirror. I reached into my pocket and watched him hand my money to the bartender. We walked away from the bar, through the open doorway, and toward a group of boys and girls who were kicking a soccer ball around in the street outside.
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Mark Zuckerberg has written an op-ed, and I wish he had not.
It was titled “The Facts About Facebook.” I would give that one tweak. I’d call it “Mark’s Facts About Facebook.”
In a piece for The Wall Street Journal timed to the social networking giant’s 15th anniversary, its once-young, now-not-so-young chief executive and founder tried and tried to persuade readers that they shouldn’t be afraid of what he has wrought.
But the post was essentially the greatest hits that we have heard Mr. Zuckerberg sing for a while now. He focused on the enormous advertising system that powers Facebook, while ignoring almost entirely the news from the last disastrous year, including Russian abuse of the platform, sloppy management of data, recent revelations that the company throws some pretty sharp elbows when it needs to, and more. You kind of get why Mr. Zuckerberg would want to forget it all.
Should I be annoyed by this? One person who favors Mr. Zuckerberg told me no, pointing out that the media is irked when he says nothing and even more bothered when he says something, so he cannot win whatever he does.
.. O.K., so instead of just criticizing, I thought I would help him with his piece, given I do this for a living and he does not, by rewriting his work. Here goes:
MARK WROTE: “Facebook turns 15 next month. When I started Facebook, I wasn’t trying to build a global company. I realized you could find almost anything on the internet — music, books, information — except the thing that matters most: people. So I built a service people could use to connect and learn about each other. Over the years, billions have found this useful, and we’ve built more services that people around the world love and use every day. Recently I’ve heard many questions about our business model, so I want to explain the principles of how we operate.”
KARA TRANSLATES: We old now. We big now. It came from my one really good idea: AOL sucked and I could do better and I did. Now the noise has reached me up on Billionaire Mountain, so I am going to have to pretend that I care.
MARK: “I believe everyone should have a voice and be able to connect. If we’re committed to serving everyone, then we need a service that is affordable to everyone. The best way to do that is to offer services for free, which ads enable us to do.”
KARA: No rich person is going to pay too much for this muffler, um, social media service, and poor people aren’t going to pay us at all because they apparently don’t have money. So everyone will have to endure the ads that we shovel out and stop griping, because free ain’t free, people.
Be wary of taking life lessons from chief executives