TV Flap: Will The NFL Live Up To Its Socialist Ideals? The NFL has a long-standing agreement that franchises share equally in television revenues. To commentator Frank Deford, that's socialism — and, he says, the league's TV policies are out of step with the times. At issue: blackouts meant to punish fans who are happy to watch the local team's games from home.
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TV Flap: Will The NFL Live Up To Its Socialist Ideals?

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TV Flap: Will The NFL Live Up To Its Socialist Ideals?

TV Flap: Will The NFL Live Up To Its Socialist Ideals?

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Sports can be a pleasant diversion from politics, though sometimes the talk in sports sounds a lot like the talk in politics. Here's our weekly sports commentator Frank Deford.

FRANK DEFORD: I've been rather bemused that this consternation about our country turning into a socialist redoubt has come at the start of the football season, for there's probably no more successful socialistic enterprise in the whole world than the National Football League.

Indeed, the NFL's descent into dreaded socialism began more than 70 years ago, when the league instituted a player draft in order to equalize its society — to remove, shall we say, odious class distinctions.

But the hallmark of NFL collectivism is that franchises share equally in television money. Largely because of that form of socialized medicine, every team has a healthy chance to win.

Meanwhile, in baseball, where TV revenue is terribly unbalanced, a small-market team like Pittsburgh, champion of the NFL, has endured 17 straight losing baseball seasons and must sell its best players to the fat cats just to stay afloat.

But wouldn't you know it? A pesky capitalist has found his way into the NFL owners' consortium. Jerry Jones believes it may be time to revisit the league's socialistic sharing policies and stop subsidizing the weak sisters.

Jones has also just built his Cowboys a new billion-dollar stadium — but what I find so revealing are those monstrous video screens that soar over the Dallas gridiron.

Jerry Jones is a pretty smart cookie, and I'm sure he realizes that, ironically, television - which was so crucial to the league's success - has now become more of a rival.

Because football televises so well, today's spectators are conditioned to need good TV, even when they're incidentally watching the game live. With those large flat TV screens that fans have in their family rooms, why pay to go out to a game when you can see it so perfectly, comfortably at home?

The NFL had better change its outdated TV policy, which has it that if a home team doesn't sell out, the game cannot be televised locally.

That liturgy goes back into antiquity, when only a few sports events were televised. But today, the tube is saturated with football, and so it's dog-in-the-manger for the NFL to deny the product to fans just because not quite enough of them want to spend outrageous prices to sit in bad seats.

In the world today, where everything else is on television, it would be better business for any NFL team to give up a few thousand admissions, so that the hundreds of thousands of its fans could watch the game at home.

And after all, it's only proper socialism to let the masses in on a good thing.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

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