Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

The NFL House of Cards

By Victor Davis Hanson
National Review

The Corner

The problem with the NFL is not just Donald Trump, but the greater dilemma that the league’s reason to be has become predicated on a labyrinth of lies.

The majority of the viewing audience is not young, hip, and loyal as hyped, but, even if fading, still largely reflects the majorities in red-state America that have no patience with gratuitous insults to the National Anthem and flag. The NFL apparently never grasped the political truism that you never insult your base and core supporters; sympathetic CNN talking heads and the solidarity of progressive political activists will not turn around sagging revenues, but will only contribute to them.

Outside the NFL toady bubble, most of America, to the extent it still watches, now sees Sunday afternoon pop demonstrations as increasingly a farce, played out among players who appear neither exploited nor as exemplary model sportsmen, but rather as overpaid and pampered. Given the NFL’s enormous overhead, even a 10–20 percent reduction in attendance and viewing could send financial tsunamis throughout the league.

Nor do the protesting players come across as informed, brave social-justice warriors on the barricades of dissent, but as mostly unable to explain to their fans precisely why and how they are mistreated or why America is a flawed society that does not deserve momentary iconic respect each week. If players were concerned about violence and injustice, why not collect a voluntary 10 percent contribution from the league’s multimillionaire players and use it to fund programs that address systematic and lethal violence in inner-city communities such as Baltimore or Chicago? And if ethics and values are the players’ issues, why over the last decade has there been an increase in player off-field violence and arrests, often marked by well-publicized violence against women?

The owners, again fairly or not, are not viewed any longer so much as maverick tycoons and eccentric entrepreneurs or philanthropic regional family dynasties of the past, but rather as billionaire corporate magnates who invest their riches in glitzy cultural trophies and expect the state to subsidize their excesses. They are going down the Google/Apple/Facebook grandee path of losing their cultural appeal and, with it, their brand.

Sports analysts are no longer predictably informative and pleasant or at least humble, but often half-educated former jocks or nerds who imagine themselves pop Socratic philosophers as they so often talk edgy and snarky, and often down to their supposedly politically unaware audiences.

As the size and strength of players radically increased, the nature, rules, and culture of the game ossified — as if linemen were still six feet tall and 200 pounds and contact was the stuff of bruises and bumps. And the result is a growing level of brutal violence and brain injury that is analogous to a Roman gladiatorial arena.

The NFL is said to reflect a progressive 21st-century culture. But if so, it is hardly ethnically and racially diverse. Instead, the league is based on old-fashioned meritocratic criteria, and thus participation is based solely on athletic talent and skill-sets. That admirable trait nonetheless ensures that the NFL is antithetical to the entire progressive dogma of proportional representation and disparate impact that demand even quasi-public entities “look like us.”

And thus, despite the absence of racism or deliberate exclusion, elsewhere non-diverse businesses or government subsidized operations still must make the necessary inclusive efforts to diversify. Surely there are skilled Asian-American and Latino athletes who could be mentored and integrated into a lucrative and prestigious league whose players are about 75 percent African American — a participation rate over six times disproportionate in terms of demographical realities. Again, these are left-wing mantras that a left-wing NFL apparently feels do not apply to itself.

The fan and viewer may not express such blanket disdain, but they sense all these contradictions and are well past exasperated.

And Donald Trump?

He no more created these crises in the NFL than he did the North Korean thermonuclear capability. If it is certainly long-term and strategically unwise for a busy chief executive and commander in chief, facing a host of inherited existential crises, to wade into a lose-lose NFL quagmire, he nonetheless may see it for a day or two as short-term and tactically advantageous. And he may be right.

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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