Week of July 8, 2016


The NBA Salary Explosion is Bonkers

Let me start by saying: I am absolutely pro-labor in all pro athlete vs. ownership battles. And so I am very happy to see the insane contracts middling players are signing (hey, Evan Turner at 4 years and SEVENTY MILLION), and the even more insane ones that good players are signing (Mike Conley. 5 years. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE MILLION – over $30M per year). The immediate cause is simple: under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are guaranteed around 45% of “Basketball Related Income” (TV money, ticket sales, etc.). This year, the new TV deal kicks in. The new deal jumps from roughly $950 Million per year to roughly $2.3 Billion per year. That means the players are guaranteed an extra $607 Million this season (there will be even more next year, so get ready for another summer of insane contracts). So the cap went from $70 Million to $94 Million.

But as the article notes, the TV money isn’t the only thing distorting contracts for middling players like Evan Turner. The NBA is not a free market, and in addition to the soft salary cap ($94 Million this year) there’s a hard salary floor (teams MUST spend 90% of the cap, or $85 Million next year). And there are max contracts (35, 30, or 25 percent of the salary cap, depending on a player’s tenure). This means that while teams would gladly pay LeBron $50 Million per year, they can only pay him around $30 Million. That means that because many players cannot make as much as they would in a free market, and because teams must spend a lot more this year than last year, mediocre guys like Timofey Mozgov gets 4 years $64 Million and Solomon Hill gets 4 years $48 Million. It’s has to go somewhere. Maybe now Tim can stop doing those awful and hilarious local commercials, but I sure hope not. – TOB

Source: The CBA’s Distorting Effects Caused Today’s NBA Free Agency Bonanza,” Kevin Draper, Deadspin (7/1/16)

PAL: Wouldn’t eliminating max contracts and maintain a salary cap and floor help with this a bit? Allow really great players to earn what they’re worth relative to the the market. LeBron, Steph, Anthony Davis – go north of $40M per year.  I’m assuming ownership wouldn’t jump at this – being pinched with a cap and a floor while players are set free. I mean, by allowing LeBron to make what he’s worth, don’t we also prevent mid-level players from making more than they’re worth? I’m sure it’s more complicated than that, but it seems like a good start…because Matthew Dellavadova and his mouthguard should not be making nearly $40M over 4 years.

TOB: Makes some sense. But who wants it? Not the rank-and-file NBA players who will suddenly make way less. And they are the majority voting bloc for the NBAPA. The owners don’t want it either. They like the max contracts because max contracts save the owners from themselves. If I offer LeBron $60 Million, then I don’t have enough money to put a good roster around him, and then the team isn’t good enough. So, I don’t see it happening.

PAL: Good point – Players unions are chartered to get the most amount of money, benefits, and flexibility for the most amount of players. But wouldn’t it be interesting if the system put it on LeBron and players of his stature? Yep – you can make as much as you want, super duper stars, but capping yourself will give you the best opportunity to actually field a competitive team. I just like that it puts more onus on the players to regulate themselves.

Rio’s Sh#tshow

In one of our first posts we shared a story ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Corruption, mass protests, and security forces handing out pamphlets instructing visitors how to act when robbed. Not a good look. Now the Rio Summer Olympics are fast approaching, and the situation doesn’t sound much better in Brazil. If anything, it sounds worse.

  • Antibiotic super bacteria (not the same as Zika, and has the potential to infect many more people)
  • Zika
  • Rio’s waterways are full of poop. So much poop.
  • Hospitals are running out of meds.
  • The police are disgruntled, underpaid, and telling people “Welcome to hell.”
  • Murder and robbery rates are up 15% and 25% respectively.
  • The occasional human body part washing up on the beach where competitions are being held

Add to all this the dubious notion that short-lived, global events boost the local economy, and I’m even more convinced that in most cases a limited number of host cities with the infrastructure already in place to put on the Olympics might be the best route. Consider this breakdown from Binyamin Applebaum’s 2014 article in The New York Times Magazine:

The idea that big sporting events are good for growth is relatively new. A 1956 article in this newspaper noted the curious hopes of Australian officials who were “somewhat optimistic” that visitors to the Melbourne Olympics might settle in the city, or perhaps do a little business there. “Ordinarily,” it said, “being host for the Olympic Games is unlikely to gain a nation much beyond prestige.” But as the cost of hosting rose inexorably, so did the supposed benefits. The Olympics and the World Cup are now routinely described as economic engines. Four American cities — Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington — recently announced that they were flirting with hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics, and in each case a justification was economic development. In Massachusetts, a state-appointed commission led by a construction executive suggested that a Boston Olympiad could “catalyze and accelerate the economic-development and infrastructure improvements necessary to ensure that Massachusetts can compete globally now and into the future.”

Such claims are based on the idea that the Games can serve as a tourist attraction, a chance to catch the eye of global business leaders and a way to rally political support for valuable infrastructure projects. The lean and profitable 1984 Los Angeles Olympics are often invoked. So are the 1992 Barcelona Games, which amplified that city’s revival.

But there is strikingly little evidence that such events increase tourism or draw new investment. Spending lavishly on a short-lived event is, economically speaking, a dubious long-term strategy. Stadiums, which cost a lot and produce minimal economic benefits, are a particularly lousy line of business. (This is why they are usually built by taxpayers rather than by corporations.) And even though Brazil, like other recent hosts, has sought to make stadium spending more palatable by also building general infrastructure, like highways and airports, the public would derive the same benefit at far less cost if the transportation projects were built and the stadiums were not. The Los Angeles Olympics were successful, after all, because planners avoided building new stadiums. Barcelona, long neglected under the rule of Francisco Franco, was in the midst of a renaissance that would have probably occurred without the Olympics.

While it seems this story is written before every global sporting event (Beijing, Sochi, Qatar), the Rio Olympics are less than 1 month away, and I really don’t see how some of these health and safety issues are fixable in that amount of time. I’m sure the networks will show us the rose-colored version of the event, but this does seem like a recipe for very real disasters. – PAL

Source: All the Reasons the Rio Olympics are F%$#ed”, Ashley Feinberg, Gawker (7/6/16)

TOB: There’s a little boy who cried wolf thing going on for me at this point. I don’t doubt it’s an absolute economic boondoggle. Some people are getting very rich constructing all the new stadiums and infrastructure. But the health stuff? They said before Beijing that the smog would be so bad that people would have trouble breathing. It was fine. They said before Sochi that nothing would be done. And it was. As you note, NBC will show us the rose-colored version and likely ignore the real problems. But absent some real and serious health issues befalling athletes or tourists, I think this will be much ado about nothing, in the end.

How To Join a Pickup Basketball Game

As with the author, I have been joining pickup basketball games for most of my adult life. I have managed to ingratiate myself into long-running games with former college basketball players/athletes, games at Mormon and non-denominational Christian churches. Games with the worst and nicest people you’d ever want to meet. This article has makes a lot of good points: Be normal (so, don’t be this guy. Actually, that’s hilarious. Be that guy), don’t talk trash, ask for the court rules, don’t call too many fouls, and do bust your butt on defense. All very good advice. I’ve got a couple tips to add, though, more related to style of play. Don’t try too hard to make a fancy pass, but if you can show that you know how to find the open man, you will be appreciated quickly. If you’re a pretty good shooter, the first couple times you play in a new game, don’t shoot too much. And if you miss your first couple shots, only shoot when wiiiide open. It might not be your day and no one wants to add a guy to their weekly game who they think can’t shoot well and shoots too much. If you’re tall, crash the boards. Basically, you want to play like Chris Bosh when he played with LeBron and Wade: Hit the open man. Crash the boards. Only shoot when wide open. And keep your mouth shut. You’ll be fine. -TOB

Source: How to Play Pickup Basketball Without Being a Pain in the Ass”, Jay Willis, Deadspin (06/27/2016)

PAL:  I only have one addition – never go full Jordan:

You Can’t Separate Sports and Politics

In a recent email panel, Sports Illustrated asked 7 sports media members their view on whether or not sports and politics mix. More specifically, they are asked whether or not the media members should impart politics into their commentary and social media posts. The extended piece is here. First off, it appears that those questioned have a different definition of politics. While some seem to define the word more narrowly (support or criticism of candidates), others identify issues are at the heart of politics. Most of those questioned come off informed and reasoned (Jemele Hill):

NEWSFLASH: Sports is political. This idea that sports is untouched by politics is bull. In both little and big ways we’re exposing our political views all the time. We just buried arguably the greatest athlete of all time in Muhammad Ali, and the majority of conversations about Ali were about his beliefs and politics. If you express open admiration for Ali because he stood up against the war, or if you’re among those that still consider him to be anti-American, aren’t you exposing a little bit about your politics? When Richard Sherman criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, my co-host Michael Smith and I took him to task, and thus exposed our politics. Congress inserted itself in the performance-enhancing drug and concussion issues. We have billion-dollar stadiums being built on taxpayer money.

Others come off like scared self-promoters without an original thought (Adam Schefter):

It does not impact how we go about our jobs. Sports figures who publicize their political viewpoints only serve to divide the audience. People are drawn to sports as an escape from politics. Even for someone like Andy Katz, who gets President Obama’s NCAA picks, Andy should not have to disclose his political views because he’s doing the interview. The focus of their interaction is basketball, not politics, as it should be. Though also allow me to say that while we’re on the topic of reporting and the White House, no President ever has invited me to make his playoff picks up to and through the Super Bowl. If whichever President is in office will have me down to Washington to do this story in January, I’m all in, Democrat, Republican, independent or any party.

Aside from the fact, as Petchesky points out, politics absolutely impacts how Schefter goes about his job, I love how Schefter uses the forum as a segue to getting a segment with the future POTUS and her NFL Playoff picks. What a turd.

I’ve never understood the notion of sports as an escape. I love watching big sporting events. Joining friends, family, and my community to rally around a playoff run is one of my favorite things to do. It’s a part of my life – not an escape from it. We are intelligent enough to have more than one truth take up real estate in our brains: Sports are enjoyable, sports are big business, and sports – like every other segment of society – struggles with issues. – PAL

Source: I Can’t Believe Adam Schefter Is Really This Naive, Barry Petchesky, Deadspin (6/27/16)

TOB: Very subtle insertion of Phil’s radical politics into that one. Did you catch it? STAY YOUR LANE, PHIL! Nah, I agree. I think there is a fine line here, but no one needs to be Michael Jordan (“Republicans buy sneakers, too”). And…Schefter, such a turd.

PAL’s Song of the Week: Sam Cooke – “Bring It Home To Me”. And check out all of our weekly picks here:

Video of the Week:

That’s right, Bennet Brauer here with another commentary. Didn’t think the suits would have me back perhaps. Thought they’d have my dairy-air replaced by one of tem store mannequin well maybe I’m not “the norm”. I’m not “camera friendly”, I don’t “wear clothes that fit me”, I’m not a “heartbreaker”, I haven’t had “sex with a woman”, I don’t know “how that works”, I don’t “fall in line”, I’m not “hygienic”, I don’t “wipe properly”, I lack “style”, I don’t have “self-esteem”, I have no “charisma”, I don’t “own a toothbrush”, I don’t “let my scabs heal”, I can’t “reach all the parts of my body”, when I sleep I sweat profusely. But I guess the powers that be will keep signing my pay check until Jack and Jane K. Viewer start to go for the remote so they can get back to commentators who don’t “frighten children”, who don’t “eat their own dandruff”, who don’t “pop their whiteheads with a compass they used in high school”. Thank you, Kevin.

– Bennet Brauer

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