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Let's go team!

In honor of the NHL playoffs (S tier), the NBA playoffs (C tier), and the NFL Draft (a solid E tier), let's imagine a world where companies and the workforce operate like some professional sports teams do for no other reason than to think about other styles of enterprise that are not, well, this.

Sports, specially in the United States, is big business: the average NFL team is valued at around $3-4 billion, and, if the NFL were a single company, it would be a Fortune 500 one. Not quite Fortune 100 material, but not too shabby, either. Also, I'm sure more people recognize the name "New England Patriots" than "Saudi Aramco." I digress, though. The point I'm struggling to make here is that it is quite possible to be profitable while recognizing and rewarding the contributions of your employees.

Let's start by acknowledging that this is not a rigorous study, that I am comparing apples to jackfruits, that the overwhelming majority of professional sports players makes nowhere near the figures I'm throwing out there, that for every NHL player there are a trillion other players playing whale shit hockey, and that I am writing this while watching game 5 of the Bruins - Leafs series even though I am not a fan of either of those teams in any sense of the word. Fuck both of them.

But... let's just imagine. Because it's fun. Or depressing. Your call, really. Imagine a multi-billion dollar outfit plucking you straight out of college, and giving you a job. Or, if you're really, really good, like, LeBron good, they won't even wait for you to go to college, and they'll draft you right out of high-school. Just imagine that: you're really good at cybersecurity, companies are keeping tabs on you through a network of scouts, and, when you graduate, fucking Apple or something comes to you with a job offer. What a dream.

It doesn't stop there: as a rookie, you are guaranteed a paycheck that cannot be lower than what's specified in the CBA. What's that, you ask? It's the collective bargaining agreement that the leagues have with the players associations. That's the players union. Take, for example, the NBA and the NBPA. The collective bargaining agreements between the league and the players union stipulates that the minimum salary for a rookie is projected to be around $1,119,563 for the 2023-2024 season. It cannot be lower than that. That's what unions do. Actors have those, too. Fran Drescher is the President of SAG-AFTRA. The fucking Nanny is an union leader. TV and movie writers have their union, too. And editors, producers, plumbers, autoworkers, electricians, and many, many more. We don't.

Now, let's take this nonsensical post to the next level. Let's say your cybersecurity department missed the playoffs OKRs yet again. What's a senior leadership to do? 11 times out of 10, they'll fire the coach, or the general manager, or both. Just fucking imagine that: your team doesn't meet some organizational objective, and management gets the axe? What a concept! Leaders being held accountable for their failures? What??? No way. The alternative would be to execute mass layoffs, but you can't have a team without players now, can you? Also, the CBA. There's no such thing as "at will employment" in this case.

If they really want to get rid of you, they'll have to either buy you out (free money), or they'll have to trade you: "I'm firing you, but I'm immediately finding you another job that pays exactly the same because I can't simply ignore the contract I have with you, and we don't have 'non competes' here because that would be stupid. You'll need to move, but you won't be unemployed. Also, the CBA." Man, what a delight that must be!

Another incredible thing about big league professional sports is the fact that, almost universally, the team owners are despised. Every goddamned owner out there is getting shit from the fanbase. Our side of the house? Everyone fucking idolizes owners, founders, and CEOs. They are the embodiment of success. The crème de la crème. People so special that they are the only ones with brains big enough to handle these companies. Turn Meta into a sports team, and you'll see Zuck getting booed relentlessly by the fans every fucking game.

We just recently figured out a way to smell sports teams owners bullshit, but, thankfully, every time a billionaire comes to your town asking for public money to fund their new stadium, we generally know better and tell them to fuck right off (looking at you, McCaskeys). But we let tech billionaires and trillion-dollar companies dodge taxes no problem. Why is that? As Cory Doctorow likes to say, they are too big to care. "But! But! Those companies are the epitome of America's global influence and might!", you say. Get bent. I am 1000% sure you'll see more Chicago Bulls jerseys and New York Yankees caps worldwide than Instagram hoodies and Google pants. Michael Jordan has done more to promote American exceptionalism than Bill Gates ever will, and he's an asshole. Which one? Yes.

So, it is kind of amazing that, at least in the world of professional sports in the US and Canada, everyone knows that the people who generate value are the workers: you might know the names Mark Cuban and Steve Ballmer, but the Dallas Mavericks and LA Clippers work just fine without either of them. No so much without Kawhi Leonard and Luka Dončić. It's time we realized that "the people who generate value are the workers" is true elsewhere.