Sport Economics and Mathematics

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My girlfriend and I share a difference of opinion when it comes to sports salaries. She believes that professional athletes should not make the gigantic salaries that some earn, I believe that if they can find someone to pay the price they ask, God bless. Does it really affect our daily lives? No. Her opinion is on a moral ground (don’t ask me to explain, I can’t), and mine is need vs. availability.

Perhaps the only time that this issue affects our lives is when we purchase tickets to a game. It comes as no surprise that New York is expensive. I’m not suggesting that reasonable bargains cannot be had for our area sports teams, but some of the prices for seats are staggering. (Personally, the only thing that really annoys me is the “ticket fees”.) When I purchase some tickets for a baseball game recently, I got to thinking about how much teams make.

Every team is like a giant industry unto itself. There are players, coaches, managers, public relations officials, media coordinators, hot dog vendors, overseas operations executives, etc… I cannot begin to fathom all the people involved. …but is $400 for a seat reasonable? Is $1000 a seat?

Here are some numbers from the New York Yankees. I know that everyone likes to pick on the Yankess, but sorry, heavy is the head that wears the crown. These are based on the old (2008) stadium.

Total Capacity: 56,936
There are 81 home games each season (not including postseason). If they operated at 70% capacity (39,855) and sold tickets for $20 each, they would make $797,100 per game, totaling $64,565,100 per season. While that is only half of their player payroll for 2008, it is still quite a number. Remember, this does not include concessions or television deals.

The money issue gets very interesting when you discuss college sports. Jim Calhoun recently had a confrontation with a reporter that did not believe that his $1.6 million dollar salary was deserved. Keep in mind, by many account, Calhoun single-handedly built the UConn program into the national powerhouse it is today. The national attention generated by the sports program has translated into increased applications and increased revenue for the school and state. However, some believe that with a state in deficit, an athletic coach should not be the highest paid employee. I thought it was simple math. Without him, the state would gain his salary, but would be without the $12 million he generates. Some disagree.

Sports are funny. Many of us wear our passions on our sleeves (or on our chests with our favorite jerseys). Logic and reason can go out the window when discussing our favorite or least-favorite athletes. We give our love, and occasionally, our begrudging respect. We invest time and emotion. I suppose that is why most cannot stand dispassionate play or players. In the cold mathematics of hard-earned dollars, how hot is your passion? How much do you pay for being a fan?

Dirty Names

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The Jets and Giants recently ceased conversations with Allianz about corporate naming rights for their new stadium.  Naming rights are granted in exchange for large contributions. The practice does comes with some degree of risk. If the corporation takes a turn for the worse (Enron, for example), or if the team does something incredibly embarrassing, one party could be splattered with the muck hurled at the offender. Due to the large cost of building a stadium, teams and event centers are willing to take the risk. Along with the name, a team assumes any baggage a company might carry.

Enter Allianz. This insurance company refused to pay the policies of Jewish holders during the Holocaust. Furthermore, they gave the money to the Nazi party. As far as public image goes, it doesn’t get much worse. They have actively participated in one of the greatest atrocities in modern history. Their willingness to pay restitution to the descendants of the people they wronged is in question, but they have admitted their role in the atrocity.

People in New York were outraged that the Jets and Giants would even consider talking with a foreign company that was involved with Adolf Hitler himself. Due to the public backlash, discussions for naming rights have ended. There will be no Allianz Stadium in New Jersey (at least not for a NFL team).

Is this right? Are people outraged because this is a foreign company? Would we boycott any company with ties to the Nazi party?

Consider the case of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. Ford was the author of a book on anti-Semitism. He benefited from deals with the Germany war machine in WWII. Nevertheless, for eight games a year, the Detroit Lions hit the turf in Ford Field.

Chase Bank had ties to the Nazi party. Like Allianz, they held the assets of Jewish clients after the war and provided banking services to the Nazi party. Some would argue that the Chase logo is a reworked swastika. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks play in Chase Field.

Is the outrage genuine? I am not suggesting that there is not a legitimate gripe, but where is the furor when domestic companies with ties to the Nazi party name stadiums?

Related Links:

New York Times on Allianz
The Konformist on Chase Bank
Six companies sued as benefactors of American slave labor

The Passion of the Knicks (Part 2)

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104-59?
One-hundred and four to fifty-nine?
The Celtics scored one-hundred-four points, and the Knicks only scored fifty-nine?
ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR TO FIFTY NINE?!?!?!?!?

It is truly not the Knicks of the 1990’s. If this had happened in the days of Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley, the score of the game would be secondary. The lead story would be the body count cause by these two basketball men of pride.

I really don’t give a damn that the Knicks beat Milwaukee and Utah. I’m not going to be suckered this year. Every year, there is always a glimmer of hope, some shorter than others, but every year, I get suckered back into watching games only to have my heart shattered.

2005
Larry Brown becomes coach of the Knicks. He won a championship with the Pistons, and took them to the finals the next year as well. He can bring defense back to the New York Knickerbockers. He can utilize Stephon Marbury to his fullest potential. Oh… it will be glorious. Was it? HELL NO!!! For the first time, the Knicks were not just loosing, they were boring as hell to watch. They didn’t care, and don’t anyone out there tell me, “You’ve never played in the NBA. These guys want to win, and they’re giving it their all every night.” BULLSHIT!!!! The fans were asleep in the stands following the lead of the players that were asleep on the floor. You could tell when players would break off scripted plays for hail-Mary like attempts at the basket.

Damn it. Give me something to root for. I can live with an underdog, but not an underachiever. Fine, you’re going to loose to the best, but damn it, look like you’re trying to pull the upset. By “trying”, I don’t mean throwing a God-damned hissy fit like a six-year old that didn’t get the Barbie Doll she wanted. Christ Almighty!!!

2006
Larry Brown is fired. Lord only knows what happened behind the scenes. It must have been something very bad for Larry Brown to leave over $40 million on the table and accept just $18.5 and don’t tell me he just didn’t want to deal. People will deal with a hell of a lot for $20 million. There isn’t much people won’t deal with for $20 million.

Isaiah Thomas takes over as coach of the Knicks. They actually show some signs of life. They’re not great, but they are a team I can root for. I can look at them and say, “They’re trying. They’ve got heart.”

Isaiah gets a contract extension. The Knicks promptly leap into the toilet bowl.

2007
At best, the Knicks have to strive to reach the level of mediocre.

<pause>

I cannot switch allegiances. I’ve always been a Knicks fan, and for better or worse, I always will be. I’ve tried to get behind other teams, to enjoy their winning ways, or at least their valiant attempts. (Don’t you wish the 2005 Pistons were in New York uniforms? Damn… that was a team I could root for.) Nevertheless, the success of any other team only reminds me of the abomination that is the New York Knicks.

The Passion of the Knicks (Part 1)

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“Cause sometimes, we need to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves.”
-Jimmy Fallon in Fever Pitch

I’ve been lucky enough to see most of my favorite sports teams win a championship. I’ve also seen most of them loose.

The ’86 Mets were very special. I was only ten years old at the time, and even then, I knew the Mets were really cool. They got into fights, they did drugs, they smoked in the clubhouse before the game (Keith Hernandez), they had a pitcher called ‘Doc’. They ruled. I’ll never forget Game Six of the 1986 World Series, the infamous Bill Buckner play, with Mookie Wilsons’ routine ground ball going between his legs and under his glove.

In 1997, after years of loosing in the playoffs because they couldn’t get home field advantage, the Green Bay Packers finally won the Super Bowl. (Yeah, I’m a New Yorker that’s a Packers fan. Deal with it.) Watching Desmond Howard return two kickoffs for touchdowns was something special. Brett Farve was in all his glory. Antonion Freeman was doing the Lambeau Leap, Dorsey Levens was running the ball well, and the Rev. Reggie White was holding it down on defense.

Even teams that I casually follow, like the Devils and Rangers have won championships. However, there is one team that continues to break my heart, year after year. That team is the New York Knicks.
If you’re a Knicks fan over the age of 20, I don’t have to remind you about what I guess are the glory days of the early and mid-90′s. Don’t think I’m going to laud over those days too much. We had our share of heartache then as well. Most of that heartache can be directed towards one man: Michael Jordan.

I’m getting angry just typing his name, Michael Jordan. That bastard wearing number 23 in a Bulls uniform. If there is a franchise I hate more than any other, it is the Chicago Bulls. Sure, he is the greatest to every play the game. I cannot deny that, but I still hate the S.O.B. That rat bastard cost the Knicks so many shots at a championship. DAMN IT!!! Patrick Ewing should have a ring. Why the hell doesn’t Patrick have a ring?!? For that matter, why the hell doesn’t Charles Barkley, Sir Charles, the Round Mound of Rebound have a ring?!? I’ll tell you why… because of that punk Jordan and the damn misfits in those ugly ass red and white uniforms. Scottie Pippen with his “I wanna’ be Michael” ass. B.J. Armstrong… yeah… I’ll give you two guesses as to what B.J. stands for, who was later replaced by the Croatian Sensation Tony Kukoc, another rat bastard. Screw Luc Longley, the hell with Dennis Rodman, and straight up motherf*ck Phil Jackson. Greatest coach of all time, kiss my ASS! Give me those teams that he won championship with and I’ll get you some gold. Yeah… I’m sure it was tough to draw up a play. “Michael, draw the double team and then pitch it out to Scottie or B.J. (later Tony). The rest of you, run around and look useful.” Bastard f*ck!

So maybe it wasn’t just Jordan …but I digress.

No team has broken my heart more or caused me more pain than the New York Knicks. The worst part is, unlike Boston Red Sox fans (though they have no reason to be upset recently), I cannot blame many of the losses on mystical unseen forces. No… that would give me some solace. No. Many of the Knicks epic meltdowns are self-inflicted. Oh yes. Let’s recap, shall we?

Pre-1993
The Bulls vs. the Knicks. That was the real championship. The Bulls would take all their home games. The Knicks would take all their home games. The Bulls always had a better record, thus home court advantage, and winning in seven games. Painful, truly painful.

1993
It finally happened! We won Game 2 in Chicago. We took one in their house. We’ve got it. We’re going to take it this year. It’s ours. What happens? We sh(t the bed. Of course, it’s not enough to loose, the Knicks must do it in epic fashion. Game 6. (I should love the sound of the words “Game 6″ as a Met fan, but when it comes up in basketball, I’m ready to kill.) Final seconds, Charles Smith is under the basket and with four shots, can’t get a layup, dunk, or draw a foul, and the Bulls win. His ass was run out of New York so fast it wasn’t even funny.

1994
Jordan’s gone! We beat the Bulls! We’re in the finals!! Yes?!? NO!!!! Game six, Knicks with a 3-2 lead and a chance to close it out. Do we?!? No!!! John Starks has to brick shot after shot, but he still keeps getting the ball. Knicks lose. Game seven. Wait a minute?!? Am I watching Game six again?!? It sure looks like it. There’s John Starks. There’s John Starks shooting. There’s the ball bouncing off the rim, ricocheting off the backboard, missing the basket entirely… WHAT THE F*CK!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

1996
Jordan returns. His first game back, against the Pacers, we got to see something special. He’s missing shots, he’s bouncing them off the rim. He’s a mess. He’s turning the ball over. Michael’s lost something, and he’s going to play the Knicks next. Oh yes… this is going to be beautiful. What happens? He drops 55 on us. FIFTY FIVE!!! DAMN IT!!!!!

I can’t go on… it’s hurting me… more later…

Moments of Clarity

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Sometimes, you need to step away from event to truly understand the gravity of your actions. Sometimes, you need a little time and separation from a situation in order to examine it properly. At times, you could be “caught up in the moment”, and you judgment may be clouded, your reason muddled, and that is why looking back on events, when you are in a better frame of mind is so important. Sometimes when you look back on an event, you might ask yourself, “What the hell was I thinking?”

By now, you might be under the impression that this post is about relationships. Well… at first, when I considered the subject of self-examinations, relationships did immediately come to mind. I thought about one of my personal moments of clarity when I left a particularly poor relationship.

Did Michael Vick have a moment of clarity or did the arms of the law just encircle him? Now, I’m not going to preach on the ills of animal abuse, nor am I going to lambaste black athletes for bad public behavior. You can find plenty of sources out there for each if you want, so there no need for my own personal spin on those themes. What confuses me is why a moment of clarity did not come earlier.

One account, mentioned in the indictment is the construction of a “rape stand”. Since the pit bulls are raised to be as aggressive as possible, female pit bulls will not submit to male attention. Therefore, owners must build a contraption to hold the female in place while the male has his way.

If the words, “Hey fellas, come over here and help me build a rape stand,” ever leave my mouth, I would like to think that I would stop and review what I just said… carefully. If I ever say, “We gotta’ get this dog on the rape stand,” I would like to think that I would consider myself in need of some serious psychiatric attention. At some moments in life, it is important to step outside yourself and to examine a situation, almost like in a movie, with a camera suspended high above, a God’s view, and take stock of what you are doing or saying. You don’t need to be a PETA member to know that there is something tragically wrong with those statements. I don’t give a damn how gully, grimey, or ghetto your upbringing may be, some things are just wrong. It’s not very difficult to understand that building a rape stand, that seeing a need for a rape stand is wrong.

The funniest part of this entire sordid drama, is the fact that the animal abuse charges are not what may land Vick in prison. Consider the Virginia penalties for animal abuse and these other cases of people convicted for animal abuse:

Man sets dog on fire
Dog Shot and Killed
Puppy Beaten during robbery