Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Post!

There are so many stereotypes about Green's and one of them is that they probably aren't into sports. Well not this Green, I am excited for today's game because I think it'll be a good one despite the absurd point spread predicted. One of the great things about sports, especially playing them is that they can be very environmentally conscious. Few things are more simple than a open pitch and a ball for a great game of World Football (or what we call Soccer), all human powered.

However there is something else that one can learn from Sports, and actually from all well designed games and that is a sense of fairness aimed to fostering competition and innovation. It's incredibly difficult to create a set of rules that are fair and foster parity over time. This is something that great sports leagues have mastered and the NFL is one of them. The structure salary caps, revenue sharing, the draft with the goal of achieving parity. This allows small market teams like Green Bay (which is owned by the town of Green Bay) to compete with major markets like New York. This means from year to year that all teams are contenders. There are rough years (ok many rough years if you are in San Francisco like I am) but with time and coaching there is potential. Sports and games create a set of rules where one can achieve success, it's not obvious if you look at Billy Beane with the Oakland A's but it's there.

An comprehensive history of the NFL can be found in MIchael MacCambridge's America's Game where compromise over compromise resulted in a competitive league of participation, despite the efforts of some owners. A lot of the credit for this goes to the late Pete Rozelle who steered the league during key times. Navigating conflicting interests in the aims of the better good is a real skill.

Now what do sports and the environment have to do with each other. A lot actually, both are shared stakes kind of games. If one team overly dominates the league, people lose interest in the league and the whole league dies. If one country over consumes, than it does well but eventually the whole planet dies. The challenge of Kyoto is the signing up of countries for limits, the U.S. a wealthy market team refuses to yield, while smaller market teams are desperately trying to catch up. Unlike the NFL, we do not have a revenue sharing plan or alternate draft.

The toughest challenge of legislative bodies is to create rules that engage a populace to better things, however special interests can lead to deadlock or worse. In the New York Times, Ian Kershaw has an excellent piece on the unintended consequences of democracy. We forget that Hitler came to power on democratic coattails. A democracy based on self-interest alone cannot construct rules that benefit the common interest. However, rules that only serve the common interest, result in shadow rules of self interest. Striking that balance is key, but as they say that is easier said than done.

Happy Super Bowling...


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