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What John Terry, Arsenal, and the English Premier League Can Teach Us About American Politics

It didn’t used to be this way. Saturdays in August and September used to mark the beginning of football. At least, as Americans knew it, it was football -- with brats, tailgates, and beer -- and not football -- with scarves, pubs, and beer.  

Today is the start of the English Premier League, and countless Americans (this one included) are donning their clubs’ kits, hitting the pubs, and screaming at "bloody" referees. If you’re an Arsenal fan, you’ll likely be annoying the rest of the bar with your incessant clapping every time they complete a pass. With this in mind, here are some ways that football (soccer) mirrors American politics, and how we might be able to take a few lessons: 

1. It is really hard for the government to prevent racism, but it’s pretty easy for private organizations to do so: During the summer off-season for the EPL, Chelsea captain John Terry faced a legal trial in the UK for racism. A recorded video of Terry committing “racial abuse” towards Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers led to his criminal prosecution for that very offense. It cost John Terry his captaincy for the English national team, but also highlighted the ridiculousness of the government enforcement of political correctness. John Terry was subsequently acquitted of the charges with the court citing plenty of evidence Terry isn’t a racist. 

Legally, it’s near impossible to criminally prevent racism, sexism, or any other kind of -ism for that matter. However, FIFA, the world’s governing body for club football, puts great pains into encouraging positive play from teams. At the commencement of each and every match, fans and teams are reminded to avoid discriminatory chants or actions. This summer at the 2012 European Championships, UEFA fined national teams (which are private organizations) for the racist chants of fans. For that matter, fans are routinely removed from stadiums and banned for life if such behavior occurs. 

The point of all this being is that clubs, national federations, and private leagues are more than capable of preventing such behavior. The government, after all, just ends up acquitting the racists in the end. 

2. Run your business badly, and you’re finished without a bailout: Portsmouth FC won the F.A. Cup in 2008. Now, the club is on the verge of liquidation as a result of poor financial management. Rangers, one of the most storied clubs in Scotland, recently had to start life anew in the fourth tier of Scottish football as a result of poor fiscal discipline. The clubs are not given a bailout, and they are suffering the consequences as a result. Numerous tales can be recounted of clubs large and small that folded because their business plans were poorly managed. In almost all cases, other teams scoop up the better players and assets are liquidated to appease creditors. 

The United States government spent billions bailing out poor financial decisions of banks that helped create the recessionary prone economy we’re in. Recovery is stagnant, and these banks continue to operate without having to suffer the consequences of their poor business planning.  Additionally, government officials begin to blur the lines between private and public enterprise that puts the taxpayers on the hook as a guarantee against failure. General Motors are the beneficiary of such actions. Worst, our economy has little to show for it. The anemic growth persists with no real end in sight. 

Sometimes, it’s best to let the Citibanks and Portsmouths of the world fail and move on. After all, when they fall down the pecking order, then we get wonderful managers like Ian Holloway that end up promoted within a season or two. 

3. Every competition is fierce, but it’s still nothing that cannot be resolved over a cold brew: Arsenal FC is the worst football club on Earth. A recent meme circulating among Yiddos (supporters of Tottenham Hotspur) correctly states the truth that Gooners (supporters of Arsenal) eat babies. Not seeing any evidence to suggest otherwise, it obviously must be true. At least, that is if you follow the logic of Harry Reid and his claim that Mitt Romney is a criminal tax evader. 

The truth is, whether on the pitch or in the halls of Congress, competition is fierce. It should be.  Intellectual and physical contests where you are striving to best your opponent require nothing short of your best effort and a will to win. We just have to remember that we are not in the throes of a civil war. No matter the naysayers, America always has a chance to resurrect the past glories that typified our astonishing growth. We simply need to remember the principles of individual rights, economic liberty, and the freedom to fail (and learn). It’s no different than competition on the pitch, where your opponents are there to win for their own sake … unless, of course, you’re a Gooner.  Then, you’ve sold your soul to Satan and should be punished accordingly.

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