Politics can learn a thing or two from football

Story by Tim Duffy

No one pays to see the officials officiate. That’s what former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen says in his book, What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sports. Being the son of, NFL coach George Herbert Allen, you can imagine how much Allen grew up surrounded by football. His book applies sports events analogous to Washington and I’d like to share this one analogy with you.

No one pays to see the officials officiate. Allen cites the 2008 Washington Huskies’ second football game versus BYU. The Huskies were trailing by seven points in the fourth quarter, and quarterback Jake Locker, ran a 3-yard touchdown only to toss the ball over his shoulder in celebration with teammates.  This high level of excitement is to be expected in a dramatic point in any sports game. Low and behold, a referee flagged an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for tossing the football after the touchdown (when in fact the rule is primarily intended to prevent delaying the game, throwing the ball into the stands and taunting the opposing team). There was clearly no unsportsmanlike conduct. The 15-yard penalty led to a 35-yard field goal attempt that was blocked; and BYU won by one point all due to “an overzealous, nit-picky official (who) saw an opportunity to blow the whistle,” rather than having the game potentially be fairly determined in overtime or a missed field goal.

No one pays to see the officials officiate. It is important to note that Allen does not, by any means, think that no referees are needed. Without them chaos ensues. However, according to Allen, “officials should not interject themselves into contests in ways that tilt the playing field – or the outcome – unfairly or inappropriately.” Just as this overzealous referee inappropriately interfered in the game, Washington bureaucrats and politicians do the same thing through over-regulation and taxes; therefore hurting the natural competition and spirit of the game.

But what is the natural competition and spirit of the game? It is simply the freedom of society to do as they wish as long as it is legitimate fair play for everyone in the game. Freedom of individuals to determine their own heath care needs. Freedom from an overbearing tax code that hurts the spirit of job creation and opportunity. Freedom from government dictating what the American Dream is. Freedom from over-regulation that disrupts the “creative ‘flow’ of commerce and ingenuity that is the heart of America’s greatness.”

This is what America faces right now, an overbearing government that is asked to do too much with good intentions. A country faced with high unemployment, increasing inequality, and an exponentially increasing national debt. Has anyone stopped to think if our government is the source of these problems? Countless people have contributed to the benefit of society when government has allowed individuals, families and small business owners to determine their own American Dream by calling their own plays on the field.

People create wealth, just as determination, competition, hard work, and passion create the great game of football. Government does not create wealth, just as an overzealous referee does not create good football.

No one pays to see the officials officiate.