As I mentioned in my point 3 above, you can't have an opponent at a matchup unless you have a player placed at the matchup. You compete at matchups. This is your 'local' opponent. Your 'global' opponent is only for total fans tallied by the end of the four or five rounds. I see what you're saying about the slight imprecision in the use of 'opponent', but I think the overall intent of the rules is quite clear. You are competing for highlights. At a non-tournament highlight, there are only ever two teams maximum.
Forgive me for saying, but it seems that you're getting hung up on the word 'opponent' while forgetting the context entirely. The context is the highlight matchups, and the rules are explicitly clear about who can or cannot play at these matchups.
Any given ruleset is a set of semantics and syntax; language not physics. Generally speaking, they are written for "what a reasonable person would understand the terms to be." Or something along those lines. We may argue at the edges what a reasonable person is or isn't, or what the terms may mean or not, but ultimately I think we have to see each individual tree in terms of the entire forest. Maybe I'm mangling the metaphor, but does that make sense at all?
In other words, I agree with you that Laying the Smackdown is the better and more precisely worded of the two cards, but they have the same effect given the context of the game at large.
When it comes to card games, I have the opposite opinion. The language of the game has to be explicit. Rules need to concisely state what the do, or what they allow to do. The Rulebook sets the main laws in place and the cards either add a new rule, or relax an existing one.
Where I think you're getting hung up is the difference between a rule and a ruling.
For example, let's look at Lessons in Violence from the perspective that the OP asked. At Highlights, it's straight forward, but at a Tournament, how does it work? If four managers are at a Tournament and one manager has more downed players than we do, then there's no confusion. What if two managers have more downed players?
You only gain 1(flag). Reasons why:
- Cards like Offensive Firepower, The Best Players in the League, and Late Game Scoring Streak explicitly state that the ability triggers each time the requirement is satisfied. If Lessons in Violence was meant to provide more than 1(flag) , it would have been written like these cards.
- The the cards mentioned above seem to have been written knowing that the manager would be involved in more then one matchup. Lessons in Violence, while checking for more then one matchup, seems like it was written with the intent that a manager would only be playing against one other manager.
You gain 1(flag) for each manager then has more downed players then you do. Reasons why:
- Cards like Fan Club Enrollment, and Laying the Smackdown state that the ability triggers once as long as the minimum requirement is reached. If Lessons in Violence was meant to only provide 1(flag) total, it would have been written like these cards.
- This game was intended to be played by more than one player (2-player rules are an option at the end of the book) and Tournament cards are a part of the base game, so they would have taking them into consideration when making Lessons in Violence.
Neither argument sound silly, right? Both sound valid, they reference other cards to support their positions, and they both consider context. Whichever way it goes though, the decision would be a ruling, or a card clarification if anything. Until the card receives errata, it would need a special rule on how it's handled. Rulings should only pop up in card combos that people couldn't see without the large group of us playing the game, not because of ambiguous wording.
If we have to argue over how to interpret a card, we're no longer enjoying the game; hashing out how to interpret a card isn't a game mechanic because it doesn't represent two managers arguing over whether a pass was completed or not.
Now concerning my silly argument about Lessons in Violence trying to trigger when you have zero players at a matchup. Card errata would certainly fix this, but I was suggesting a proper definition in order to prevent future situations rather then a 'one and done' approach. The card looks like it's trying to represent beating your opponent to the ground and turning to the crowd for fame, like a gladiator, but that's just flavor. Other than the developers, who's to say it can't also mean the Dwarfs waltzing in and talking trash like professional wrestlers (and if anyone tried using that as a valid argument, I'd leave the table)?
As silly an argument as it is, and I agree it's completely against the spirit of the game and exploitative, where in the rules does it say I'm wrong? Unless you're the tournament judge, or a developer, who are you* to tell me what the spirit of the game is? The spirit of the game is to win and have fun! If you're not having fun, then it's not my fault you're not trying to win.
* - in the case I don't mean Dave specifically, I'm referring to the collective you; if someone was bringing this same argument to me, I wouldn't be able to come back with much more than it seems cheap and only a cheater would take it this way.