Good morning, World Cupheads! The Czar and Ghettoputer are arguing by email whether the Czar’s beloved baseball is the worst sport ever, or if ‘Puter is wrong and soccer is the worstest. We both agree that hockey is about the coolest thing, ever, and so our feud over baseball and soccer shall remain unresolved for another hundred years.
Because of the every-four-year world-feigned interest in today’s casually pitched battle between, say, the island nation of Tanka Kumundi and the landlocked iceberg of Sforzakia, the Czar was thinking a bit about soccer. Specifically, the Czar’s port-hazed mind drifted back to eons ago when his older boy played it for a year. This was back when the kid was young enough that the only investment we needed to make to the team was a five-dollar T-shirt. Like most 6-year-olds, the Цесаревич didn’t figure out he could run up and power-kick the ball and whistle it into the back of the net, straight through the chest of the scrawny punk with the shiny upper lip, and score five goals in a row, until the very last game of the season. The Czar believes his team won that one 156 to nothing.
The Czar isn’t sure of the score, of course, because at that level, they didn’t keep score. They didn’t round-robin the teams to determine which team worked the hardest. Basically, all teams were equal, and at the end of the day of the last game, everyone got an aluminum medal of a soccer ball, with CHAMPION stamped on it.
As you know, these are called participation medals. And this means everyone is the same. The kid on the red-shirt team that could dribble the soccer ball with his knees, shoulders, neck, penis, and toes and kick the ball back into its original packaging box from 58 yards away got the same medal as the peanut on the blue-shirt team that stood in the field and stared at the power outlet on the cinderblock wall for twenty straight minutes, as well as the green-shirt kid who continuously found a way to get drilled in the side of the head by the ball on every play and spent most of the game in tears, as well as the kid on the yellow-shirt team who showed up to every game in a tailored, $600 Italian soccer uniform replete with Etisalat logo who basically ran in circles the whole game avoiding any actual experience. They all got the same medal.
And why shouldn’t they? The fact that some of these kids had real, raw talent and an innate understanding of the game were really no better at soccer than the kid who, today, probably is still staring at a power outlet on a concrete masonry unit wall, only now there’s armed guards outside that door, and barbed wire past them. And his shirt is bright orange. And he’s sharpened his CHAMPION soccer medal into a shiv for tonight.
The Czar, like you, disagrees with that notion, but you have to look at it from the viewpoint of the people who ran that soccer program in 2009. And this has nothing to do with soccer: this can be any sport. You assume all kids are equal, or at least, equally bad. You set it up so that no team can emerge as a good team. You never keep score, and you discourage kids from scoring too many goals, points, or runs by mixing the players up so that no one can dominate in offense. And at the end of the multiweek program, you simply give the same medal to everyone, along with a cup of lukewarm apple juice and a slice of sausage pizza that looks like a rabbit shit on it.
Because if you don’t, here comes little Braden’s mother, attorney in tow, to lecture you on fairness. Yes, it’s true that Braden spent most of the game singing to himself in the boy’s bathroom and gazing into the mirror because he hates the game, but doesn’t he deserve, as an actual team member, the same award? And shouldn’t wee Declan get the same award, even though for three games he announced he was a dog named Hauser, and spent the day on his hands and knees scampering and barking? Declan’s not-so-little attorney certainly thinks so. And as a program director, you should know that your position as a volunteer is at the whim of the board, and one of the moms sits on that board, even though her Melanie endeared herself to the whole program by pooping her shorts on the first day and announcing it repeatedly.
You’re a program director, and you frankly don’t need this crap (especially Melanie’s). So you shut everyone the hell up by just giving them what they want, ahead of time. Doesn’t matter if you play well or badly, or if your team is ultra-cooperative or a lasagna-mess of Italian Sunday-dinner proportions. Everyone loses, because nobody really benefits. Right: because the struggling kids don’t learn anything about the game, and the kids who are really, really good are tied down and squirreled away from what they’re best at. Not punished, exactly—just tucked away. The ones who really benefit are the space cadet kids like Braden, Declan, Melanie, and, yes, Hauser the dog, who think they really played the game when all they did was act like morons when it mattered.
And the Czar acknowledges that this is precisely how socialism works. You start with a competitive system, where we learn who is good at what, and then you begin to soften the rules so that nobody is a winner. Because when someone does excel, here comes the legal challenge from Braden’s mom’s lawyer to make sure he gets his share of someone else’s success. The groups that work efficiently and profitably are broken up, and the people with talent get sent off to waste time and ability. And the space cadets, who couldn’t be bothered to really help out, are quick to line up and claim credit when they ultimately goofed off through college. The politicians give in, and give way, just to avoid the hassle. Everyone loses, because nobody really benefits, but everyone thinks they played the game just fine.
Socialism is a big participation medal, driven by the under-performers who want equal acknowledgment by the program directors. Otherwise, legal challenges ensue until the whole system collapses. Socialism, like the participation medal, is triggered by the same psychologies: whiny brats who don’t earn things as much as receive them from a spoiling parent, and neurotic parents who know, deep down, their kids aren’t going to survive on their own unless you twist the rules into a threat against the organizers.
This isn’t an essay about what we should do, or as a warning about how doomed America is. It’s just an analogy to remind us the same patterns occur throughout society in different ways. For the same reasons. And if some particular trend is bothering you, it’s likely for the same cause.
It’s time to feed Hauser.