C'mon, man! Lessons from the National Football League
As the season hits the home stretch, NFL stadiums are packed once again. As they enjoy the action, fans might find a stark contrast to the games that go on in politics.
Unlike politicians, NFL players cannot simply promise to perform. Before they play a game or even enter the draft, players must prove their worth at a scouting combine. Consider Las Vegas Raiders lineman Kolton Miller.
The UCLA alum stands 6 ft., 8 in. and weighs more than 300 lb., yet Miller ran 40 yards in 4.95 seconds, demonstrated a vertical jump of 31.5 in., a record standing broad jump of 10 ft., 1 in., and bench pressed 225 lb. a full 24 times. An athlete of this caliber could excel at weightlifting, shot-put, discus, or wrestling, yet he chose football.
Tyreek Hill of West Alabama ran the 40 in 4.29 seconds and showed a vertical jump of 40.5 in. Hill could have excelled in track and field and other sports, yet he chose to play football. The Kansas City Chiefs and their fans were happy about that decision. Teams choose the player they want, based on performance, not pedigree.
Christian Okoye, from Enugu, Nigeria, came to Azusa Pacific University on a track and field scholarship and took up football only when Nigeria left him off its 1984 Olympic team. As NFL scouts learned, the 260-pounder ran the 40 in 4.45 seconds. Okoye became a top-drawer running back with the Chiefs and now occupies a place on their ring of honor.
Nobody plays in the NFL because Daddy or Mommy owns the team or serves as a league executive. Nobody plays because of famous relatives, sports figures or otherwise. Nobody plays due to race or national origin. Nobody checks whether any team matches the ethnic proportions of society. It's all about merit, and it's all voluntary.
Minnesota Vikings receiver Adam Thielen wasn't even drafted. He stands in good company with Antonio Gates, Drew Pearson, Donnie Shell, and many others. Once in the league, NFL players strive to get better.
For example, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald would reportedly practice catching footballs while hanging upside down, which made catching balls in a game much easier. It's hard to think of a politician who works hard to make things better for the people by lowering their tax and regulatory burdens and preserving their constitutional rights. More often, politicians of both major parties do the opposite.
Politicians favor back-room deals, but NFL players must perform in public, subject to intense scrutiny. National media examine every aspect of players' performance: tackles, sacks, "pressures," yards gained, completions, incompletions, fumbles, interceptions, and so forth. Some of the worst performances getting pilloried in a pre-game "c'mon man," segment could easily be applied to politicians and bureaucrats.
For example, White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci lied about funding dangerous gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. Fauci also reversed himself on many aspects of the pandemic but now claims, "I represent science." As NFL vets Steve Young and Randy Moss might say, "c'mon, man!"
Some politicians prefer to throw flags over the NFL's "woke" activism. Fair enough, but if they watch the game, they just might learn something about accountability. NFL players and coaches often violate the rules, but the game does not continue until the penalty has been marked off.
Lloyd Billingsley is a policy fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif.
Image: National Football League.
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