Does Libertarianism Spoil Sports?


I think a dedication to non-aggression is a wonderful thing and the further that dedication goes the better the world will be.

However, it can be distressing at times to learn how things aren’t as pure and innocent as you once thought they were. This can apply to the major professional and college sport leagues.

Benny from The Sandlot

Benny from “The Sandlot”

From an early age, as many young boys (and girls) do, I have had a fascination with sports; most particularly with baseball early on. I could sympathize with Benny from the classic The Sandlot when it was said that to most of the kids, baseball was a game; to Benny, baseball was life. It actually seemed weird to call it a sport, as it would then be in the same category as certain other activities. To me, it was in a category by itself.

In more current days, I have found myself having a preference for basketball, both to play and observe. I think the biggest reason for my preference of play is simply due to the fact that it is much easier to organize an impromptu basketball match than baseball (which leads me to believe that there ought to be more opportunities for adults to enjoy playing baseball without having to resort to that watered down version called “softball”). As well, following baseball is much harder. There are way more players to keep track of with more frequent movement between minor and major leagues. There are almost twice as many games in a Major League Baseball season as there are in an NBA one, which dilutes their importance. But even with twice as many games, teams will play the same five or so teams in their division repeatedly while inter-league play between the American and National Leagues is relatively uncommon. As well, playoff structure has problems. There definitely could be improvements in how the league works.

But I digress. My point is that sports have been an important means of enjoyment and bonding with others. There are friends with whom my biggest connection is our sharing of a love for sports. Thus, I think they have the potential to be a spectacular part of culture.

However, some things aren’t so great.

I recently listened to a podcast where a man named Skip Oliva was interviewed about the NCAA, the NFL, and the government involvement in each. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in college or professional football; it is highly enlightening to the extent that many of the things we dislike about these organizations are due to government involvement. For instance, I know of no one who prefers the NCAA’s orgy of bowl games that don’t matter rather than a playoff system; yet because they are allowed to be a highly bureaucratic guild by government protection, they can do this. In addition, there are problems caused by government involvement: stadiums are often heavily subsidized by the taxpayer (and are therefore located in places due to political reasons rather than what’s best for fans), much of big-time college football is subsidized by the taxpayer, and there is much less innovation due to competition.

All of these things combine to leave a somewhat sour taste regarding pro and college sports (and, indeed, the school leagues that many people play in): does government have its hand in the majority of organized sports leagues as well? Is there no area of life that can be left pure and untouched?

This reminds me of people often using sports as a metaphor for war (or is it war as a metaphor for sports?).

Sports is like war without the killing.

-Ted Turner

I really dislike such comparisons, as they are really quite ridiculous and are an insult to sports. People aren’t drafted involuntarily to play sports; sports don’t cost billions in destruction; sports can actually make a profit in a free market; sports don’t easily give the government the excuse to imprison, torture, or spy; and so on. Their differences far outnumber any similarities.

So, to conclude, I will say that sometimes having a recognition of the evils of the State will make us mindful of unpleasant things that we wouldn’t otherwise notice (please see my post on “Libertarian Angst“). I think this is preferable to blissful ignorance, at least in most cases. But we shouldn’t let the iniquities of governments destroy something beautiful or lead us to enjoy it less. Don’t let government spoil sports. Take them back and make them our own once again.


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