Gridiron’s Slave-Drivers of Collectivism

I often miss George Will’s columns, so it’s no surprise I initially missed his bizarre rant the other day attacking college football as a devious manifestation of political progressivism.

This is actually an old meme for Will, who thinks baseball is the only appropriate sport for Americans. But this column carries his argument into the depths of the fever swaps.

I don’t know if he picked up his “aha” tidbit about Woodrow Wilson being the student manager for one of the earliest college teams from Glenn Beck, or from the Middle Tennessee State University professor who seems to provide inspiration for Will’s latest outburst of pigskin hate. But I’m reasonably sure we can blame howlers like this on the Great American Tory himself:

Football taught the progressive virtue of subordinating the individual to the collectivity. Inevitably, this led to the cult of one individual, the coach. Today, in almost every state, at least one public university football coach is paid more than the governor.

Yeah, it should have been pretty obvious that once the New Deal and Great Society legislation placed Americans in chains, they’d soon look up from their bondage in search of their very own Stalin, and find one on the sidelines.

Now much as I suspect that Nick Saban may have taken a page or two from the Stalinist leadership handbook, this idea of college football as tutelage for leftist totalitarianism is, in a word, crazy. As Jon Chait pointed out, hotbeds of college football mania do not much overlap with progressive political strongholds. Those highly paid coaches are much more often than not very conservative folk, often outspoken Republicans who spend much of their offseason time with big Republican donors to their programs.

Chait suggests that Will should spend some time touring the Deep South this autumn instructing college football fans that they are being duped by the Left. It creates a truly hilarious image: the bow-tied elitist roaming around the RV lots of a Saturday morning tailgate in Auburn or Tuscaloosa or Athens or Clemson or Knoxville, railing against the Collectivist Game. I’m pretty sure he’d get his butt kicked.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.