Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spy Gate

Before you skip past this to what I wrote about Max Starks, I'm not conducting a witch hunt and I'm also not condoning what Bill Belichick did. I'm simply answering a question.

(By the by, my official stance on Spy Gate is that I don't think it really helped the Patriots, but any way that can be found to punish them is okay by me. If they did get a bunch of help by videotaping the Rams walkthrough the Saturday before the Super Bowl, then you've gotta take that out of their trophy case. Not literally, but you have to consider them to be 2-2 in Super Bowls in this decade. That still makes them far better than any other team in the '00s, so they're still the team of the decade, but that makes them about as cool as the '70s Cowboys... which is another team that I like to see suffer. So, the circle is complete.)

I've heard this question a few times since Senator Arlen Specter (take a bow, Pennsylvanians!) started sticking his nose into the Spy Gate incident.

The question is: "What the fuck is Congress doing messing with the NFL? Don't they have more important things to do?"

Well, the answer to the second question is, "Yes. They probably do have more important things to do." The answer to the first question is a little longer.

The NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL are all monopolies. Specifically, the NFL is the only entity that produces a product of its kind: NFL football. However, the NFL is made up of 32 teams. In normal business situations, all 32 teams would negotiate with networks as individuals and TV contracts would vary. In a normal business situation, if all 32 teams decided to negotiate together, TV contracts would be fatter, because there would be no competition. That would be an Anti-Trust issue, which falls under the jurisdiction of Congress. To put it in simpler terms, if Dell, HP, Compaq, and Gateway all got together and said, "As of today, all laptops cost $2,000 and all desktops cost $1,500," no one would be questioning why Congress was getting involved, because that would be a bunch of big companies getting together to form a monopoly and fixing their prices.

(Editor's Note: Toshiba and Sony would have declared that they don't compete on price and would have left themselves out of the above conversation.)

The NFL is allowed to negotiate as one entity without Anti-Trust ramifications because of an agreement they signed with Congress in the 50's. The agreement states that the NFL is exempt from Anti-Trust laws so long as their product is readily available to the masses. The DirecTV Sunday Ticket thing and the black-out date thing are knotty areas in this agreement and Congress is pushing for black-outs to go away and Sunday Ticket to be available to anyone.

One of the implicit parts of that agreement is that the NFL is an entertainment entity that produces professional football games that are fair, played on an even field, and free of cheating. So, Spy Gate makes it seem like that last part isn't true. If that last part isn't true, it's in violation of the Anti-Trust laws, and it's the business of Congress to look into it.

Baseball has the same basic agreement (though it's a little sweeter in some areas), so that's why Congress is talking to Roger Clemens and Mark McGuire.

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