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The Burkean Lions

March 24, 2011

Packers beat Lions

The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl this past February, and they can thank Rebecca Solnit. Ok, Solnit probably had about as much influence on their championship as I did, however, her philosophical ideas about community and togetherness could not have been better displayed. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major league professional sports team in the United States. Fans can purchase stock in the team, making it a community team. They stormed their way through the playoffs after sneaking in on the final week of the regular season, showing how truly anyone can win on any given year…except my hometown Detroit Lions.

The Lions are famously owned by William Clay Ford Sr., who has appointed his son, William Clay Ford Jr. as vice chairman of the organization. The Lions are notoriously bad, as just a few years ago they went an entire season without a win. In my lifetime they have one playoff victory, and no super bowl appearances. The history and success of these two franchises sets up a comparison between Burke and Solnit. Burke believes in inheritance, tradition, and conservation, while Solnit supports the civil society, where a community of the masses is capable of governing themselves.

Here we have one organization, where the owner has run the team since 1964, and soon plans to pass it down to his son. On the other side, we have a publically owned franchise. It may or may not be coincidence that the Packers won the Super Bowl this year, however looking at their long history of success, in stark contrast to the Lions lack of any form of success, shows that one of these methods of ownership might be better. This also then speaks about the political theory behind the method. It seems preferable to let a body of people govern themselves, or at least be able to elect their leaders. The day-to-day operations of the Packers are not controlled by the fans and stockholders. Instead, the community decides who it wishes to run all operations, in this case an informed, knowledgeable manager. In the case of the Lions, the same leader has kept them in the bottom of the league standings for decades, and is primed to pass on this tradition to his son.

Burke would be in full favor of the ownership of the Lions. In his mind, the masses are not capable of governing themselves, and instead need leadership by a sometimes unproven leader. Solnit and the Packers disagree with this theory, and have the championship rings to prove it.

  1. Laura Ratner permalink
    March 24, 2011 9:59 PM

    I think your post is very interesting. I never would have thought about relating football management to Solnit and Burke. I believe your argument is correct. It might have been a coincidence that the Packers happened to win the Super Bowl, but the message you are trying to get across is very clear. The conflicting management styles definitely support the opposing views of Solnit and Burke very effectively. The manager of the Lions might want to look at your analysis before handing the team down to his son.

  2. Josh Langer permalink
    March 24, 2011 10:31 PM

    I thought this was a fun post to read, but it is hard to make the claim that one style of managing is better than the other. Besides the Packers, every team in the NFL has an owner, so does that mean that every year a team besides the Packers win Burke is right? Although I love sports comparisons, I do not think that this one works out.

    • Jacob Saslow permalink
      March 24, 2011 11:20 PM

      Josh, I agree with you. However, I was instead trying convey the message of allowing the people the right to elect leaders, instead of merely inheriting them. I agree that 31 of the 32 NFL teams probably know what they are doing, and that the Packers way of management was better. I was pointing out that it has worked better for them than the Lions, two opposite ends of the spectrum. It was merely a very good comparison that allowed me to highlight Burkean and Solnit principles at work today.

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