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A little blather about collectivist tendencies in a $3.3 billion industry at 3 AM

I'm putting this in TMR because it's a late-night ramble:

Because the Toronto Star's Damien Cox gets a little esoteric in suggesting that, "Socialism is alive and well among NHL brotherhood," so will I: the Czech Republic has a fine history of protest literature, to the point that one can make valid arguments as to whether Vaclav Havel was a better president or playwright, and he was inspired by the "Prague Spring" movement in 1968 (cue Jaromir Jagr's jersey number) and the failed attempts by Alexander Dubcek to give socialism a "human face."

The old joke--given that the term "socialism" was used interchangeably with Soviet-style totalitarian communism--was that, "Socialism only has one face: the one you wipe your behind with."

In light of the NHL's attempts to "normalize" wages by instituting a salary cap, as well as the fact that so many of the league's brightest talents take less than the per-player cap maximum (20% of the salary cap during a given year)--including Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who signed identical 4-year, $28 million contracts on Friday--the Toronto Star's Cox wonders if the NHL has in fact given birth to a crop of incredibly well-paid socialists:

When there was no cap before 2005, superstar players simply demanded as much as the market would bear. In 2002, Mats Sundin was making $9 million a season for the Leafs. A decade later, only five NHL players (Shea Weber, Crosby, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Eric Staal) are making a higher salary this season than Sundin was making over a decade ago.

That same season, 2002-03, Jaromir Jagr was making $11.4 million. Peter Forsberg was making $9.5 million, set to jump to $11 million the following season. The average NHL payroll that season was about $41 million, but the stars were taking bigger chunks.

None of this is good or bad. The cap system guarantees the players a certain percentage of revenues, and it’s just a question how that amount of money is divvied up among the players. Maybe it will change; certainly you can imagine if the Islanders want to keep Tomas Vanek, they might have to go north of $10 million.

From this perspective, the NHL structure is markedly different than the NBA, which has a “soft” cap. About 20-25 players — including Rudy Gay of the Raptors — take the maximum contract allowable.

That’s very different economic behaviour than the NHL. And a larger percentage of NBA players are then paid much, much less so the big boys can get their money.

So a lot of second- and third-tier NHL players are benefiting because the very best players in the world take less.

Who knew superstar hockey players were socialists at heart?

Continued, and you can take his comments for what you will. It's kind of hard to argue that there's any socialism in a $3.3+ billion industry, but one could very well argue that "guild socialism" may apply to the types of decisions made by players who want to show that they can shape their teams rosters in a positive way while taking more than decent care of their personal bottom lines. There IS some sort of "collectivism" going on, even if it is to better one's competitive bottom line, and that's not political--it's human.

And I suppose this will come my way, so no, I'm not a socialist--I'm the son of a Detroit probation officer who has no party affiliation (I'm actually a registered independent and am something of a non-partisan centrist), but will be voting as usual on Tuesday, even though there's only one candidate for mayor--but I did spend the vast majority of my college career attempting to earn an English Language and Literature degree without having to read "the classics" or books written by dead white Englishmen and Americans, so I read all sorts of neat stuff from around the world instead. I can't quote Proust, and I think that Moby Dick is terrible, but we can chat about Victor Pelevin any time.

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Comments

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It’s not the players that are ‘socialists at heart’, it’s the ‘chattering class’ (media, professors, etc) that are thoroughly indoctrinated in Cultural Marxism. Cox is basically projecting his views onto someone else. If you’re truly interested in this subject, look up:

Frankfort School, Critical Theory, Cultural Marxism.

This is also the reason professors encourage students to hate ‘dead white men’... because some of those dead white men did a darn good job of analyzing why cultural revolutions hurt more people than they help (e.g. Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, 1984 by Orwell, Brave New World by Huxley).

See how those seemingly unassociated thoughts (socialism and reading habits) came flooding out of you when Cox pressed a certain button… it’s Pavlovian Conditioning by the only people who are able to put thoughts in our heads EVERY SINGLE DAY: the mainstream media.

Posted by untvar on 11/02/13 at 05:33 AM ET

Slumpy's avatar

Obviously bettman and his cronies were fans of Reagan and his “trickle down economics.”
That was a joke, since all he cares about is “parity” in the standings which keeps most of the owners happy hence he gets to keep his job til the day he dies.
I hate the salary cap but just imagine if wages were spread out more equally in society like the US. Corp. CEO wouldn’t be making 50M a year and just imagine the middle class not going extinct.
Oh to dream.

I long for the days of sports dynasties because sports may be a business to some but to most it’s entertainment and I could care less how much one player makes over another.
Just win baby as a great man once said.

 

Posted by Slumpy from Detroit on 11/02/13 at 05:38 AM ET

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It’s not the players that are ‘socialists at heart’, it’s the ‘chattering class’ (media, professors, etc) that are thoroughly indoctrinated in Cultural Marxism. Cox is basically projecting his views onto someone else.

Bingo.  Speaking generally, if what untvar just said isn’t already something everybody keeps forefront in their thoughts when they ingest around 90% of what current talking heads disperse, they’re doing it wrong. 

A player cap was a necessary component of a salary cap.  Sans a player cap you’d have upward pressure on elite player salaries beyond what we already see, which would really crush a lot of teams with GMs in fear of losing their jobs who already make shortsighted decisions to avert that fate.

From this perspective, the NHL structure is markedly different than the NBA, which has a “soft” cap. About 20-25 players — including Rudy Gay of the Raptors — take the maximum contract allowable.

Well, sort of. 

1) The NBA may have a soft cap, but it’s a soft cap with razor wire.  The ‘repeat offender’ provision of the cap makes exceeding the cap really, really, really expensive.  IIRC we’re talking 3+ dollars in penalty per every 1.

2) The NBA has player salary caps too, tiered to experience.

3)  More players make the maximum in the NBA because the basic nature of the game makes such a thing more strategically palatable.  A team can pay one single elite player 25 or 30% of their salary cap and play that guy 90% of every game of which he is 17-20% of his teams participation.  In the NHL you can play a forward maybe 30% or a dman 35-40% of the time an perhaps break 8-10% in participation.

So, one guy can make a much more pronounced impact for an NBA team than they could for an NHL team.

4) The NBA has somewhere in the vicinity of 6-10 exception rules that allow teams to pass their cap without financial penalty.

5) NBA teams make so much money that a big part of GMsmanship at that level is shuffling bad (‘expiring’) contracts around as trade assets.  The cap isn’t anything like the profit-loss line like it is in the NHL.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 11/02/13 at 09:26 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

So lemme get the straight. A player taking less money so his team can acquire better talent so they all can win is socialist (which is generally viewed as a bad word, but that’s a different discussion altogether). But if he goes for the best salary the market can handle, then people hate him because he’s a greedy prick right?

Isn’t a team “socialist” by nature, that each member does what they can for the success of the whole? I don’t see why this is a surprise, and most of us consider that a good thing and the way it should be.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 11/02/13 at 11:09 AM ET

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This is also the reason professors encourage students to hate ‘dead white men’... because some of those dead white men did a darn good job of analyzing why cultural revolutions hurt more people than they help (e.g. Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, 1984 by Orwell, Brave New World by Huxley).

None of the books you reference are anti-Marxist or anti-collectivism or relevant to discussion of wealth distribution in sports.

Dickens railed against the middle and upper classes. Orwell was a self-described democratic socialist. Both books condemn particular revolutions because they failed, not because they were inherently wrong. Both are still taught in English programs: Orwell’s essays and Dickens’s short stories, especially.

And, Brave New World is largely a response to industrialization, Fordism, and the further entrenchment of the class system. Huxley was writing about the U.S., not a socialist boogeyman. You’re at least half-correct here in that Huxley could be described as anti-collectivist, even if Brave New World isn’t the best evidence of that.

My point is this: don’t be a nutter on a sports board.

Posted by babcockalypse on 11/02/13 at 03:23 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

My reading choices involved more than a few anti-collectivist and anti-communist/totalitarian works. They just weren’t “classics.”

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/02/13 at 03:33 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

And I know this wasn’t well-received—to the point that I probably should’ve kept my comments to myself—but I didn’t mean to offer a comparative take on socialism vs. totalitarian communism vs. collectivization vs. capitalism. I thought that Cox’s take was intriguing and that it could provoke some discussion.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/02/13 at 03:35 PM ET

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I apologize for the derail, anyway.

I think the concept of socialism in sports in interesting, nonetheless. But, Cox should look at revenue sharing rather than player salary for a better picture, and perhaps the NFL as the “ideal” of sports socialism rather than the NBA.

Posted by babcockalypse on 11/02/13 at 03:38 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

(I’m refraining from engaging because I like to keep politics and hockey separate)

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 11/02/13 at 04:04 PM ET

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“My point is this: don’t be a nutter on a sports board.” -babcockalypse

1. I didn’t included any topics that Malik hadn’t mentioned.

2. Your synopsis of all 3 books is way off, in my opinion. For example the evil government in ‘1984’ is called Ingsoc, for English Socialism. (How is that off topic?) You obviously haven’t read any of those books but went off someone else’s summary.

3. Even if you had read those books, why should the intelligent readers of Malik’s blog take your word for it… when they can go and read those books for themselves.

Posted by untvar on 11/02/13 at 04:22 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

Sports blog, technically raspberry

I don’t mind the criticism. I think this entry was a mistake and I’m sorry to have wasted your time and/or stepped on your nerves. I’m no socialist (I’m a non-partisan believer in my country’s representative republic with its democratic, capitalist and “social conscience” philosophies included) and I didn’t mean to espouse blather and bullshit at 3 AM.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 11/02/13 at 04:41 PM ET

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2. Your synopsis of all 3 books is way off, in my opinion. For example the evil government in ‘1984’ is called Ingsoc, for English Socialism. (How is that off topic?) You obviously haven’t read any of those books but went off someone else’s summary.
.

I’ve read the books. I’ve read George Orwell’s other works on political ideology and language. I’ve read his reflections on 1984. The book represents the corruption of Orwell’s ideal socialism, and the exploitation of socialist rhetoric in a totalitarian regime. Ingsoc is a satirical euphemism in a book full of satirical euphemisms. Orwell has explicitly stated this. Have you read the book?

3. Even if you had read those books, why should the intelligent readers of Malik’s blog take your word for it… when they can go and read those books for themselves.

You instigated this by presenting your authoritative assessment.

Literature doesn’t exist in a vacuum devoid of cultural, historical, or authorial context. Dickens and Orwell both wrote extensively on their own beliefs, and tracking their intentions down isn’t particularly difficult.

Posted by babcockalypse on 11/02/13 at 05:33 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

It’s all good, George. As far as socialism, it’s cool with me. I’m an anarcho-syndicalist.  The post directly above mine is right on.

Have a good day.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 11/02/13 at 06:49 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.