Monday, December 1, 2014

The English Football Pyramid And The American Dream

In an unrelated forum that has nothing to do with sports, I was chatting with an American who thought “Soccer” was an un-American and socialist game

However I will state the opposite to be true and in fact the way the English structure the football leagues does more to represent the American dream more than any American sports

The idea that opportunity for prosperity, success and social mobility and the idea that ""life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth." is a fundamental part of how Football is run in England. Football in England is an allegory to free enterprise, individualism and a "can do" spirit.

So how does the pyramidal system of football work in England?

There are 22 levels of football in England that contains 140 leagues and more than 7000 clubs. At the top of the pyramid is the spectacular rich grandeur of the English Premier League (EPL), the richest and most glamorous Football league in Europe. At the bottom of the pyramids are local park amateur teams of essentially bunch of friends getting together of having a game of football on the weekend. Every level of football in this pyramid are connected by promotion and relegation where the team that wins the league (sometimes 2nd and 3rd place team) gets promoted to the next level of the pyramid while the team that finish bottom (sometimes 2nd bottom and 3rd bottom) gets relegated to the level below the pyramid. So essentially the top of the English Premier League is connected via promotion and relegation straight down to the grass roots.

So what's so great about this system and how does it connect to the American Dream?

1. If you work hard, you can make it to the top
By connecting the grassroots with the superstardom of the EPL . Every single club in the pyramid, if they have the ability and work hard enough, they can reach the top. Every single club can dream of playing against Manchester United, Liverpool to win the English Premier League. This is because there is a clear progression from the bottom of the pyramid to the top of the pyramid and has a clear set path of social mobility allowing newly form club opportunity to strike it rich.

This pyramid is clearly a representation of the dream that many American wish for of starting a small business and making it big.

2. The barriers of entry is low
The barrier of entry to the Football pyramid is low. Any person who has access to a park to play football and have a bunch of mates can create a club and join the football league. Of course, the more money and the more fanbase and the better football ground the higher the level they let you join the league and clubs that stat of as amateurs, semi-professional and fully professional joins at different stages. However even a person with modest resources can form a football club and participate in the pyramid. This easily represents the ideal vibrant competitive marketplace where the barrier of entry is low that allows anyone with entrepreneur ambition to easily join.

3. No restriction of ambitions
There is no salary cap there is no wealth distribution and there is no draft. It is merely up to each individual club to sign whatever players and staff they can afford and the sky is the limit and there is only small limitation (due to the recent un-American Financial Fair Play) to what resources clubs are allowed to use. This freedom ensures that football is played to the maximum of their ability and to ensure the "pursuit of excellence" in sports is maximised. If you are successful, you aren't punish for the success by having your wealth redistributed to other teams nor will you lose players that help you succeed by unable to pay them the increase in salary they deserve due to salary cap constraints. Clearly this is reflective of the free enterprise that defined America.

4. No incentives for failure
It is open secret that with leagues where there are drafts that "rewards" teams that fail that tanking is prevalent. NBA in the United States have been bogged by tanking allegations with team deliberately not trying hard to maximises the chance of gaining a good draft pick allocated by the governing body.

Is there anything more un-American than that? This is essentially the equivalent of welfare cheat slacking off to get welfare payments from the government and leeching of the success of other people.

Even for sports where there is no draft. The worst thing that could happen in finishing last is that you get to try again the year later.

However in this football pyramid there is absolutely no incentive to play poorly and the consequences is dire. You finish bottom and you get relegated to the next division where you are exposed to much less revenue. Not only is this entertaining for fans where relegation battles are just as entertaining and tension filled as the battle for first place. The pyramid creates a culture of ruthless competition and accountability. Bad management will not be covered up by wealth redistribution and draft picks. The consequences of failure ensure the highly competitive nature that ensures the high standard of football being played in the country.

5. No regards to class, history, circumstances of birth
Imagine if major sporting clubs with a rich history such as Boston Celtics or the New York Yankees have a poor season due to poor management. Due to that poor season, they get relegated and the NBA and MLB have a season where they aren't present at all as they are stuck playing in lower divisions.

It's unthinkable isn't it but that's the reality that football in England face. Sheffield FC the oldest Football club in the world is playing in the 8th division of the football pyramid. Nottingham Forest the first English club to win back-to-back European cups has been playing in the 2nd and 3rd division in England. Leeds United one of the biggest clubs in England have been playing in the 2nd and 3rd division.  In the past Manchester united was relegated in the 1973/74 seasons.

This is sport at it's purist to adopt the "let the scoreboard decide" mentality that is very much a reflection of "let the market decides' attitude that traditional American culture celebrates.

Of course everything doesn’t last for ever and just as modern American society are lamenting the death of the American dream, there are threats to the English Football pyramid with the un-American “Financial Fair Play” that threatens to limit the ambitions of football clubs in Europe.  Nevertheless Football in England reflects the American dream more than any other sport.

So when you think of what is quintessentially American. Don't think about apple pie, hot dogs, Chevrolet, baseball. Think of Soccer in England

Ethical Analysis Of Star Trek Insurrection

Star Trek Insurrection is one of the rare films where I ended up supporting the villains. For a film that emphasise on the moral message, it's shows  that it failed badly. The  movie clearly try to present that Ba'ku were innocent "good guys" being victimised but what was on screen didn't match that intention and in fact I believe that Admiral Leyton and the Son'a were in the right in this film.

Here are the major issues of how the movie messed up

1) Admiral Leyton stated that the Ba'ku planet was in Federation Space.

In fact that was the reason why Son'a was partnering with the Federation in the first place. Like he said, Son'a had the technology and this was on Federation territory and hence a deal was made. It was also established that the Ba'ku weren't native to the planet and settled there.

So isn't this just a case where the Ba'ku are squatters on Federation property and that the Federation are just evicting them from their own planet that they already own? Therefore this is just the case of eminent domain.

Now clearly this is just a case of bad writing and I don't think the writers intended this to come out this way. What the writers probably intended that the Ba'ku settled the planet first but the Son'a has to cross Federation territory to reach the planet. In fact when point out this fact, people try and defend the movie and say that the time period the Ba'ku settled the planet predated the birth of The Federation. However considering that you have to used Star Trek canon to work that out, for the general audience who are treating this as a film in its own merit the only thing they heard was that this planet was in Federation space and hence Federation property. An average audience would not know whether the Ba'ku settlement predated the Federation. Either way it's just bad writing.

However even if I handwave that line and pretended that line didn't exist and that the Ba'ku do have legitimate claim to the planet this is still problematic because...

2) The Son'a has equal claim to the planet as the Ba'ku
One of the "twist" from the movie was that the Son'a and Ba'ku are the same race. However one side wanted to use technology and the other side wanted to abandon it, the anti-technology side won the conflict (which is actually quite bizarre when you think about it) and then exile them from the planet. However both side has equal territorial claim, it's just Ba'ku won the conflict.

So here is the thing, Son'a and the Ba'ku both have legitimate territorial claims to the planet. One side the Son'a wants to share the planet natural healing properties to the rest of the galaxy. The Ba'ku wants to horde it themselves. How on earth are the Son'a villains in that?

The only time where the Son'a step over the line (considering that they were using non-lethal weapons beforehand which is quite strange for the "villains" of the film) was when they want to destroy the planet with the Ba'ku on it but that wouldn't have happen if Picard didn't interfere and resisted the recolonisation efforts.

The movie wanted this to portray it as a case of colonialism where Federation stealing and exploiting natural resources from the original inhabitants of the planet. However what this really is Federation taking a side in a civil war. Now this definitely breaks the prime directive as Federation is intervening in a "internal conflict" of a civilization but this is certainly not an invasion.

Hell I don't really believe in the prime directive so I don't believe that the fact that Admiral Leyton picking sides in a civil war is a bad thing. However even if you think that breaking the prime directive is a bad thing in of itself, this is not a black and white Federation invading the Ba'ku and stealing their natural resources. The situation is more nuance than what the message of the movie is trying to portray.

3) The Ba'ku were probably the villains in the civil war with the Son'a

Now from my personal views, I would be the person in the pro-technology camp and hence I'm not particularly sympathetic to the Ba'ku ideology but not only that when the Ba'ku won, instead of realising that PLANETS ARE BIG (you know there are 7 billion people living on earth) and have the Son'a lived in the opposite side of the planet in their own separate communities. Instead they wanted to horde the entire planet on their own despite a population of a few hundred people living in a very small community in one small village. They want an entire planet to themselves and couldn't accept that a community with different ideology could share the planet with them. To me it seems like the Ba'ku were being huge dicks in their civil war and being huge dicks when they won the conflict.

My only conclusion is that Admiral Leyton and the Son'a are in the right. The Son'a wants the planet resources that they have as much territorial claim to and share it with the Federation while the Ba'ku wanted it to keep it for themselves.

The thing is this could have easily be solve. Keep the original premise of the of movie. Michael Piller wrote the script and apparently the original draft was that the Federation and Romulans allying themselves to take the natural resources of the Ba'ku who were indigenous to the planet. The idea of this small group of people vs two superpowers. I have no idea why they changed that from the original concept

If the Ba'ku were indigenous to the planet (instead of the stupid this was in Federation space) and the Son'a were removed from the story and replaced with the Romulans and hence we wouldn't have any problems of civil war complicating the issue. This would clearly be a black and white superpowers ganging up on a minor civilization for natural resources that the message of the movie wanted to portray.