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Social Homogenization: A Story of the NFL and Society

The case of this year's Tampa Bay Buccaneers finely illustrates the progressive narrowing of the deviation between the teams of the National Football League.

In fact, the conclusion of one particular game specifically typifies this trend: the season finale between the New Orleans Saints and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Entering this game, the Saints bore a record of 11 wins, 4 losses,  compared to the Buccaneers' pitiful 4 wins and 11 losses.

On paper, this game was a sure victory for the Saints, and the oddsmakers in Vegas and experts on popular sports sites nearly unanimously affirmed this by favoring the Saints by at least a touchdown across the board.

However, while the win-loss records of these two teams seem to represent two drastically different tales of two radically different teams, even a stark contrast between a bonafide Super Bowl contender and a bottom-of-the-barrel unmentionable, the truth is revealed by a closer examination of the individual games.

When merely scanning the schedule of the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the observer notices that the Bucs endured a whole seven losses by six or fewer points.

Meanwhile, they played seven teams with nine or more wins this season, as their opponents posted a combined point differential of 307, the seventh highest point differential in the NFL this season.

Ultimately, the old adage has never been more true: any given team can win on any given Sunday.

If this was the desired objective of the NFL during its implementation of the salary cap, the homogenization of this league demonstrates that the league has succeeded handsomely.

Of course, this grossly fails to capture any of the poignant externalities of a league desensitized to market influence, prevented from showcasing the long-run fruits of successful draft selections, efficacious organizational management and bountiful coaching practices.

In the end, the fans of this league irrationally hold onto their teams' respective traditions, which bear relevance merely in name, proximity and by their familiar colors, logos and patterns.

The NFL salary cap has effectively eviscerated the idiosyncratic identities of each team, while demonstrably zeroing out the combined influence of scouting, scheming and player development, as players' tenures are today short-lived in comparison to the pre-free agency era.

This also means reduced revenue exposure for high-profile players whose contributions are largely responsible for the successes of their teams.

Consider this: the salary cap for the 2017 NFL season was set at $167 million, while the minimum annual player salary was raised to $450,000.

Each team carries 53 players, so the greatest possible salary for any individual player is automatically restricted to $143.6 million.

While this figure may justifiably strike the average reader as an unfathomably massive sum, further context may aid improved understanding.

Whereas annual revenues for the Dallas Cowboys hovered around one-quarter of a million dollars for the majority of the first decade of the 21st century, the franchise has since boosted its annual revenue to over $840 million, six times the amount of the highest-possible individual salary.

Of course, the highest-paid player in the NFL is Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who inked a 5-year deal last August.

The contract, worth a total of $135 million, means that Stafford will average $27 million per year for the next 5 years, the highest annual average in NFL history.

Now, the average fan probably faces great difficulty in grasping the enormity of these contracts, while he or she scarcely feels sorrow for the amounts that could have been gained by these players absent the cumbersome salary cap; however, the limits implicitly and explicitly imposed on their teams unambiguously impair their ability to realize the fullest extent of their franchises' investments, time and again leading to a cap on excellence and a series of results which approach perennial homogenization and near-randomness, or luck of the draw, over disciplined program development.

It is for this very reason, and by deliberate design, that football fans have long been deprived of the best football that this planet has to offer, all to mediocritize the field of fiery competition to delude every fan into believing that his or her team remains only inches away from a title.

Meanwhile, each team requisitely resets every year to satisfy the numerical limits decided by administrative busybodies whose paying disciples will continue to worship their entertainment so long as they are donning the same outfits and going by the same names.

In this sense, the National Football League is selling not only an entertainment package, but a tradition connecting generations of fans, fathers and sons, and emotions far superior to the game of football.

And all the while, the unwitting fans unquestioningly accept the packaging without vetting the authenticity of the product, without paying attention to the new game that is being played, the new rules which have been applied and the new era of management overseeing all of it.

Much as the disciples of the American tradition accept or embrace democracy or the role of government, today's NFL fans blindly consume the homogenized and mostly-sterilized product that bears only the same labels as their fathers' celebrated favorites.

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