“Soccer and Schizophrenia” in The Point Magazine

Writer Ben Jeffery has a fascinating look at English soccer and capitalism in The Point Mag, published by grad students I may or may not have partied with at UChicago:

A socialist sport under a capitalist ethos—it’s a fair summary of football in England today: a hugely prosperous, confused and misshapen business if ever there was one. I wonder, though, whether the Premiership and its discontent isn’t in fact just a particularly vivid example of a much more general principle, namely that money and sports are never quite in sync with one another. True, top modern athletes can reap massive financial rewards for their success, and money will buy the best coaching staff and equipment—all the material stuff that makes winning that much easier. Nevertheless, the fact remains that sport is one of the few areas in popular culture where a clear distinction between financial success and vocational success can be drawn. Winning and getting rich are not the same things, although they might often coincide. The commercialization of football has yielded immense benefits for fans, in terms of infrastructure, quality of play and global coverage. Yet for all that it remains the case that football (like any sport) is not, essentially, about money. People love sports—which is what makes them so profitable. But people don’t love sports because they’re profitable. The truth is that capitalism is parasitic at its very core; it always survives off the energies of other things. In sports, these other things are passion and the deeper attachments passion builds. And the reason people get jittery about business meddling with their teams is nothing more complicated than fear that their attachments will be adulterated, exploited, perhaps taken away from them (Seattle basketball fans will know what I’m talking about).