I had a Political Philosophy exam the other day. And as I crammed for that one hour before the test, I couldn't help but think of how everything I was learning still rings true today in my life. And by "my life" I am of course referring to football.
Jean-Jauques Rousseau, in "The Social Contract", discusses man in his natural state as completely free. He is free both physically, from the constraints of a repressive state or his fellow man, and psychologically, as he is not enslaved to artificial needs. Human society is formed artificially by a social contract. (Brief aside: my first encounter with any sort of social contract came in Yeshiva. One of the reasons discussed why I am not liable if my ox eats someone else's vegetables in a public thoroughfare, "shein b'rishut harabim patur", is because under the social contract it is known that oxen go through that area, and it is known that they eat. Therefore, you should know not to leave your fresh corn laying around. Wow, who would've thought that would come in handy. Rav Mordechai, you may have shaved your mustache, but you still know how to leave lasting impressions.) Under the contract, man agrees to sacrifice the "do what you want" freedom and instead gain the ability to deliberate rationally, restrained only by laws that they themselves make. In the ideal society, individuals will put aside their own personal interests, and vote based on what will best serve the general will.
Football, more than any other sport, requires team work. In basketball, individual efforts can win games. Lebron James single handedly carried the Cavs to the finals last year. In 2004, Brian Ne**** carried the Rambam Redstorm to the Wilner Tournament Championship (Ok, that's not entirely true. But it surely wasn't because of the guy on the bench in the sling and stylish tie. Told you I'd talk fashion.). In football, the blocking needs to provide enough protection so that the QB can throw a perfectly timed pass to his route-running reciever. If the blocking breaks down, the QB is forced to rush his throw, or gets sacked. If the blocking is there, but the QB throws high, the ball will fall incomplete (Welcome to the 2007 Baltimore Ravens...may I take your coat?). The better teams in the league always have players who "buy into the system". Like in Rousseau's ideal society, players are willing to put their own personal interests aside and focus on the general will of the team: winning.
When it came to sports, I was never the most talented. I did win a sportsmanship award or two, but I think that resulted more from my overall huskiness than anything else. Lucky for me, the only real competitive sport I take part in with any regularity requires no physical activity: Fantasy Football.
Fantasy Football is John Locke's response to real football. Locke, in "The Second Treatise of Civil Government" focuses primarily on the concept of property. Ownership of property, on the most basic level, is of one's self. My body is mine, and the land I work become mine, and the product it produces becomes mine. In fantasy football, there is no team work. Fantasy teams, in my case The F***** O*****, gain points based on statistics of individual athletes, independent whether or not the team wins. Much like in Locke's world, the individual is what is important.
There is no question in my mind that in today's America there are more people playing fantasy football than actual football. I am not just saying that because of the excessive obesity, but also because of the "me-first" philosophy that most abide by. The rich vote for tax cuts. The poor vote for social programs. Jews vote for politicians based on their policy towards Israel, or what they will do for day schools. Obviously we can't sacrifice ourselves completely, like Rousseau suggests. I guess Hillel put it best: If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?
In order to sustain the drive that is our society, we can all afford to buy into the system a little more.
And just to clarify, I love fantasy football as much as the next guy. The F***** O***** is currently residing in 5th place, and just one game out of first place. I'm more excited about LT and Favre than Gus Johnson at the end of the Gonzaga-UCLA game. And that's Gus Johnson reference #2.