Is Stephen Curry Really Worth $201 Million? Of Course He Is!

The aftermath of an entertainer, especially an athlete, receiving an enormous contract worth more than average Americans will see in their entire lifetimes often causes some pretty opinionated responses. Thus, it was no surprise that this was the case when Golden State Warrior’s point guard Stephen Curry received a new contract for five years totaling 201 million dollars. This is currently the richest deal in NBA history. To earn this type of payday, Curry has won two MVP’s and two NBA Championships over his past three seasons.

As it turns out, the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler is not so thrilled about Curry’s new deal. A recent article of his is entitled “Is Steph Curry really worth $201 million? Is anybody.” Fowler makes a number of statements in the piece disapproving of the contract. Let’s take a look at these claims in order to debunk the totality of his argument.

Let’s start with this: No human being on the planet needs to be making a guaranteed $201 million over five years, including Steph Curry.

Of course, “needs” is a relative term. If the true necessities of life can be reduced to food, water, clothing and shelter, then anything outside of basic subsistence is something that an individual does not “need.” Although I don’t profess to know how much how much Scott Fowler is paid by the Charlotte Observer for his services, I’m quite certain that he makes enough to afford things that he doesn’t necessarily “need” for his survival. Therefore, someone living an impoverished life in a third world nation would view his comfortable, middle class life in America the same way that he views the life lived by Curry. So if Fowler can legitimately criticize Curry’s contract on the grounds that it enables him to make much more than he “needs,” then it would also be legitimate for a third world resident to criticize the amount that Fowler is paid given that he is comparatively compensated as a sports journalist to a degree that also enables him to live far above an individual living at the subsistence level in an underdeveloped country. Fortunately for Fowler, those who make so much less than he does do not have the means to go online and criticize him for his comparatively lavish salary.

When some public school teachers are fortunate to make $40,000 a year, no athlete needs to average $40 million (which, at that rate, would fund 1,000 school teachers a year).

What Fowler has done here amounts to choosing a popular, presumably underpaid profession that garners sympathy from the public and highlights the massive gap between their salaries and the salary he is demonizing. A closer look at both teachers and star athletes in popular, American sports shows why this gap appropriately exists. After all, the number of people willing to spend money on tickets to watch a teacher perform his/her job would not be enough to fill a sports stadium. In addition, there isn’t a market for televised teaching to the point that advertisers are willing to spend money to put commercials on during a televised teaching session. Since the athletes are the ones that people are paying to see and advertisers are willing to spend money in order to advertise to those who watch via television, it makes sense that those athletes should be compensated for the revenue that they bring in. In fact, due to the NBA “max salary” format and the league’s salary cap, one could argue that the game’s best players are actually underpaid.

This criticism gets even more absurd when considering that the owner of NBA teams (in Curry’s case it’s Joe Lacob) is worth more than any of the team’s players. If NBA stars like Curry weren’t able to make this much money, then their wealthier owners would get to keep more of it. In addition, money isn’t zero-sum. Simply because Curry receives a gargantuan contract for his abilities, that doesn’t mean that teachers or other professions have less as a result. In fact, given the amount of taxes that Curry will pay on his new salary, he will be sending more money to the local educational system (not that there is any connection whatsoever between spending on education and student performance).

Lastly, let’s not succumb to the myth that the state can simply “take” from someone who makes an “unfair” salary and just give it to someone that society feels deserves it. We’ve seen this through anti-poverty programs where it takes the government many times more dollars to actually spend on those programs than what actually reaches the intended target. So it then looks highly unlikely that this same government could seize a huge portion of Curry’s income and seamlessly distribute it among teachers (despite The Ringer’s Michael Baumann claiming that we would be better off if we did this). Sorry, but the track record of the state strongly suggests otherwise.

So don’t be upset at Curry, Lacob, the NBA or anyone else for this situation. NBA players are justly compensated for the audiences they attract and the value that they create. Teachers are not undervalued or underpaid as a result of large athlete contracts. The quicker we realize all of this, the quicker we can stop this misguided blame for society’s ills.

Sports World Silent on Elite Talent Rejecting College

There was little to no surprise in the Major League Baseball Draft last week when high school phenom Hunter Greene was selected second overall by the Cincinnati Reds. Greene is so wildly talented that he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated a couple of months ago despite only being 17 years old. His fastball has been clocked at 102 miles per hour. He is said to have hit balls up to 450 feet in batting practice.

As a result of entering the draft, Greene will not be playing baseball in any capacity at the collegiate level. According to the Sports Illustrated article, he was offered scholarships to both UCLA and USC when he was just 14. Yet he will never play for them or any other college team. Knowing he would be drafted as highly as he was, this decision seems to make sense.

But what has been the reaction from the sports media and sports fans throughout the country as a result of Greene’s opting to forgo college and pursue a professional baseball career? Has there been a national hand wringing and asking of why Greene would choose against college? Is there a lamenting of how college baseball’s quality will suffer as a result of not having someone of Greene’s talent there to make those baseball games better and more entertaining? Is there a clamoring for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred to “do something” with regard to keeping players from going to the professional level too soon and making them more likely to go to college and stay there longer?

Of course, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “no.” Sports fans who know who Greene is are largely not bothered by the fact that he won’t be playing college baseball. There is no effort that I am aware of to raise MLB’s age limit in order to get players of Greene’s caliber to play collegiately. There is virtually no lamenting over how the level of play in college baseball is hurt by Greene (and other high schoolers like him) opting to enter the draft instead.

Contrast this attitude with what we hear about college basketball seemingly every year. Sports fans and talking heads all over the country can’t stop complaining about how the “one and done rule” (the stipulation that basketball players entering the NBA Draft must be one year out of high school and be at least 19 years old) is ruining the college game. Many fans desperately want elite players to stay at their universities longer in order to improve the sport’s quality. There has recently been talk about raising the age limit even higher.

So why is there such a contrast in the desire to see elite athletes to play at the college level in one sport but not another? Well, take a look at the interest level and attention paid to college basketball versus college baseball. March Madness captivates the nation every year for about three weeks to the point that there are even medical procedures scheduled so that people can watch more of it. Whereas college baseball is barely a blip on the radar for most American sports fans. Seriously, how many people even know that the College World Series is currently entering its final two weeks?

If this seems a bit unfair, there’s a good reason. Simply because of people’s personal sports preferences, athletes coming out of high school in baseball and basketball who would easily be signed to a professional contract are treated in vastly different ways. Hopefully one day the sports world can put aside their individual tastes and allow elite basketball players coming out of high school the same freedom to professionally contract that their baseball counterparts of the same age enjoy. Let’s all hope it happens sooner rather than later.

Empowering the State is Not the Solution to Racism

A fan at Boston’s Fenway Park was recently ejected for using a racial slur directed at the Kenyan-born singer of the National Anthem before the game. This incident comes in the aftermath of Baltimore Orioles’ center fielder Adam Jones (who is black) claiming he was the recipient of racist taunts following a game in Boston. New York Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia (also black) seemed to empathize with Jones’ claims saying that he knows to expect racism when his team travels to play the Red Sox. Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox organization has gone into damage control in denouncing the bigoted statements and calling for change.

But what may be cause for concern is that the Boston Police Department said in a statement following the ejection of the fan that “the BPD’s Civil Rights Unit is investigating the allegations and will make a determination as to whether further action is warranted.” It’s hard to imagine what constitutional action law enforcement could take against someone who made an offensive comment (you can read the specifics of the comment here). As appalling as this was, it did not threaten anyone’s well-being or violate anyone’s civil rights. Yes, what was said was certainly hateful. But despite what Howard Dean thinks, hate speech is still protected under the First Amendment. Action taken by government in this instance would be a clear violation of the free speech that the constitution is supposed to protect.

The dangerous area that the state is venturing into with regard to racial issues is to think that furthering its own power and influence is the solution to the region’s racial strife. Bostonians don’t need to look outside of their own city’s history to see the consequences of looking to government to solve issues of race. Although the forced busing programs of the 1970’s failed all over the country, they may have failed in Boston worse than in any other major American city. The subsequent riots and violence that occurred in opposition to this kind of government-mandated integration have had scars that have lasted for decades since and have contributed to much of the city’s racial animosity since then. So what was initially supposed to improve Boston’s race relations (along with the rest of the country) actually ended up making things much worse.

The city of Boston, as well as the state of Massachusetts, is in a situation that brings two bad situations to the forefront. Here we have an area well known for having a racially charged history, but also a tendency for embracing state-centered solutions to virtually all social problems. The result has been enhanced racial turmoil despite and/or because of the government’s best efforts. There is little reason to believe that this won’t continue to be the case if more laws are written and government continues to expand in the name of alleviating the situation.

The true liberty minded solution would be to simply allow the property owners and private organizations to oversee the conduct that takes place within their own facilities. This is presently being done as Major League Baseball, as well as the Red Sox organization, is exercising the right to expel those who violate the rules of conduct that these private entities outline. But sadly, this often isn’t good enough for governments who want to prove that they are “at war” with any remnants of racism that may still exist. Taxpayer money gets wasted and the constitution gets trampled upon all to signal that the state is actively involved in combating the problem despite the wisdom, legality or results of how that state conducts itself. The perception of a proactive effort to combat racism is thought to be more important than what is actually accomplished or what rights are violated in the process.

John Thompson Delivers Best Quote From Latest ’30 for 30′

The latest installment of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary series, One and Not Done, examines the career of current Kentucky Wildcats head basketball coach John Calipari. The title is derived from a certain type of player in college basketball who only plays one year at a school, then goes into the NBA draft. This phenomenon has occurred primarily after the NBA passed a rule in 2005 making it so that drafted players had to be at least one year out of high school. Calipari is largely credited in leading the way in getting elite players only wishing to play one year of college basketball before jumping to the professional level. This has made him a controversial figure in the college basketball world.

Most of the documentary reviews Calipari’s beginnings as a head coach and his rise through the ranks of basketball. The “one and done” phenomenon is only introduced and discussed throughout the two hour film’s last half hour. But in the midst of all of the discussions and opinions about the system Calipari has pioneered, one quote stood out as perhaps the truest and most insightful. That quote was from former Georgetown University head coach John Thompson when discussing the departure of many of these players from the ranks of college basketball. After claiming that he wouldn’t like Calipari if he were currently trying to coach against him, Thompson said:

“this whole religious experience that we have about people leaving school. How many people have you heard of, millionaires and billionaires, that dropped out of school and still were successful in life?”

First of all, Thompson’s equating of college with religion is strikingly accurate. In both the American political and social circle, college is exalted to a near religious status. More money for college (provided by government of course) is always good. More kids going to college is always a sign of societal improvement. More college graduates are nothing but a positive for social advancement. Few American institutions are more sacrosanct than that of higher education.

The second part of his quote displays an overwhelming truth as well. That is the fact that many people aside from college basketball players do not need college to become successful. Remarkably wealthy entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Ralph Lauren and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of college before receiving a degree. But of course, there isn’t the lamenting over the abrupt departure from college when it comes to these individuals. This is because performing the job that gets them this wealth is not a spectator sport at the amateur level like basketball is. No one was gathering around a television to watch Zuckerberg write algorithms in college (or out of college for that matter). But since college basketball is a wildly popular televised event, many people can’t seem to cease all of the lamenting as to why elite basketball players choose to leave school for a big paycheck rather than stay at a level that doesn’t pay them at all.

Not only is Thompson’s quote accurate, but it’s refreshing to hear someone from his generation embrace the market-driven aspect of these players’ decisions. Thompson is 75 years old and had his heyday as Georgetown’s head coach in the 1980’s. Back then, players were much more likely to stay longer at college than they are today. Patrick Ewing, the best player Thompson ever coached, stayed all four years at Georgetown. It would be unthinkable for a player of his talent to stay at a school that long this day in age. Other coaches from Thompson’s era, like Jim Calhoun and Bob Knight, have been quite critical of “one and done” players. It seems these coaches aren’t content with simply preventing players from getting paid for their skills for just one year.

Of course, for those of us who believe in the freedom of contract and self-ownership, the problem with the “one and done” rule is that it requires those who have reached the age of adulthood to spend at least a year not being able to profit off of the talents that they have. Therefore, there should be no age requirement after a player gets out of high school who has the talent to play a professional sport. All college athletes are barred from receiving any financial compensation for the duration of their college careers. So by preventing athletes from entering the draft for any period of time, the freedom of contract is violated.

So Thompson certainly deserves credit for recognizing that times have changed and those elite basketball players who do leave school early are just responding to the economic incentives that can lure people out of college to pursue any other career. Perhaps if the NCAA and NBA came to accept this fact, athletes considered to be adults by law could be allowed to enter the draft and get compensated for their talents. Either that, or allow college athletes to get paid while competing at the school. But the prevention of these things will only cause those athletes to see greener pastures at the professional level and make the decision to get paid what they are worth.

Government Trying to Raise any Group’s Wages is Always a Bad Deal

Among the different discussions following every Super Bowl, a prominent source of debate seems to always be the game’s commercials. This year, in addition to the typical opinions about which ads were good or not, the underlying politics of the companies’ messages became a hotly held conversation. The two spots that seemed to cause the most political intrigue were Budweiser’s brief history of their German-born founder as he immigrated to America and Audi’s pledge to equal pay for women. Both of these advertisements were seen as being controversial by at least some.

It’s not hard to see why these corporations chose to convey these messages in what would assuredly be their most watched commercials. Embracing immigrants (or those different from you) and paying different people the same salary for the same work regardless of gender is usually looked at as a social good to be strived for. Thus, those companies who champion those ideals would be looked at favorably by the public. But are women really paid less for the same work and what parallels can we see by observing the misguided legislation to raise the wages of both women and immigrants in the American workforce?

The gender wage gap, as defined by the left (and almost certainly Audi), is a complete myth. When adjusted for hours worked, type of job and time spent away to have and raise children that pay gap shrinks to virtually nothing. So a woman getting paid less than a man is not about sexism and more about the choices women make during their lives. Valuing things like spending time away from work due to lifestyle differences, women will inevitably be somewhat less valuable as an employee when compared to a male counterpart who can focus more of his time on his job.

So what will happen if “equal pay” legislation is introduced to the American workforce? Well, rather than an employer simply raising the salaries of all of his female employees to the level of males, the options that women have with regard to their jobs will simply cease to exist. For example, a women with small children may choose a lower salary if it means she can work from home. The introduction of a new law forcing her employer to pay her the same as a man who shows up at the office every day (and is thus worth more to the company) will not cause the employer to cave and pay her the new, higher amount. Instead, the option of working from home will now disappear since it will now not be worth it for the company to pay an at-home worker the same salary as an office worker.

Similarly, progressive activists have the same effect on immigrants when advocating for increased wages in the form of minimum wage laws. According to Cato Institute economist Alex Nowrasteh:

“Immigrants are more likely to be lower-skilled workers, exactly the types of workers most likely to be harmed by a higher minimum wage.”

Due to less education, a lack of experience and a more limited grasp of English, the labor of immigrants is often not as valuable as that of than their native-born counterparts. This would certainly account for a lower wage being made by those immigrants who fit any of these descriptions.

Now, if there were a law which increased the amount an employer had to pay an employee, would all of those employers who had hired immigrants all of the sudden pay them as much as the more valuable and more experienced workers? Most likely they would not. Rather, the opportunities for those inexperienced and uneducated immigrants would simply disappear. Raising the minimum wage would eliminate the bottom rung of the ladder that these individuals would often use as a stepping stone to gain the experience which they currently lack.

Fortunately for many immigrants of America’s past that there was no barrier to entry like the minimum wage to keep them out of the workforce and prevent them from making better lives for themselves. Had there been laws like this, many immigrants hired at Budweiser’s St. Louis brewery (and other jobs) would have been unable to have that opportunity. Likewise, preventing women from having the flexibility to choose a lower salary has the same effect. Writing laws to force employers to pay a higher salary to a particular group, whether immigrants or women, destroys the opportunities for both groups by failing to account for the situational differences that result in the difference in pay. Getting rid of both so-called equal pay laws and minimum wage laws is what will actually help the groups that this legislation was intended to benefit.

New Los Angeles Stadium to Attract Big Events and Bigger Cronyism

After more than two decades without a professional football team, the city of Los Angeles is about to land their second NFL franchise in as many seasons. After the Rams relocated from St Louis before this past NFL season (they had played in LA previously from 1946-1994), the San Diego Chargers have followed suit and made the same move for 2017. The big draw for these teams, other than Los Angeles being the second largest city in the nation, is that there is a new stadium being built that both teams will share as their own. That stadium will be located in Inglewood, CA (an LA suburb) and is set to open in 2019. The NFL has also selected the stadium to host the 2021 Super Bowl.

Although developers and city officials claim that the stadium will not rely on public funding (an extreme rarity in the world of sports), it turns out that’s not 100% accurate. The plan would eventually recoup tens of millions from Inglewood taxpayers through reimbursements once it opens. The tax breaks obtained by the developers could also total as much as $100 million after the plan is put into place. So it’s not quite the exclusively private endeavor that the state officials would have the taxpaying public believe.

The claim that sporting events cause a significant increase in economic success to a certain area has been met with high levels of skepticism for quite some time. This is partly because of would-be patrons of local businesses avoiding the large crowds that these types of events bring. But even if the boost in local economic activity is true, the NFL has fewer games to host than any other professional sport. Despite two different teams playing in the new Inglewood stadium, that’s only 16 home games every calendar year (perhaps 1-4 more including playoffs). So how does the stadium generate revenue for the other three hundred forty plus days of the year?

The NFL isn’t the only sport eyeing the brand new LA stadium for future plans. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce in September of this year which city will host the 2024 Summer Games. Los Angeles is one of the five cities currently in the running. The new stadium looks to play a key role with the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as other events that may end up being held there. If LA is selected, the Inglewood stadium may end up being the deciding factor.

The economic increases surrounding a city landing the Olympic Games are arguably even less of a cause for excitement than the NFL. The combination of the IOC taking half of the income generated, the infrastructure spending seemingly always going over budget and the lack of the ability to find a use for the newly built facilities after the Olympics end results in mostly lousy financial returns. Cities often end up buried under a mountain of debt with little to show for it. There is not much reason to believe that Los Angeles would be any different in this regard.

All of this reinforces the San Diego voter’s decision during this past election to reject tax increases in a ballot measure directed at raising funds for a new stadium. While knowing it could spell the end for professional football in their city, the voters still refused to go along with the plan. Considering the lack of evidence for a significant economic benefit from the would-be stadium, it appears as if the San Diego electorate did indeed make a wise decision. Keep all of these things in mind in 2019 when people start praising the wonders of LA’s new stadium complex.

Lebron James and the Safety Pin Opportunity

With Sports Illustrated selecting NBA superstar Lebron James as the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year, an opportunity was seized by the reigning finals MVP to make a social/political statement in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential Election. For the picture taken for the award, James wore a safety pin on the lapel of his jacket.  Wearing a safety pin has become a symbol of solidarity for people who feel disenfranchised by the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency. Those who wear one show that they not only oppose Trump’s entry into the White House, but also that that the wearer of the pin is a “safe” (hence the safety pin) person to be around in an America soon to be led by Trump.

To act like a president who hasn’t even taken office yet is already disenfranchising you seems like a bit of a stretch. But James isn’t the only athlete, or former athlete, who is acting like the not-yet-inaugurated Trump is already having a negative effect of American life. After racist graffiti and the word “Trump” was found at the home of New York Giant fullback Nikita Whitlock, teammate Victor Cruz was quoted as saying, “I think it’s definitely a direct reflection of how this country is being run…the things that are being said by the people at [the] helm of this country and at the helm of our day-to-day lives.” Of course, Barack Obama is still running things until January 20th. NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote an article two days after the election titled What it Means to be Black During a Trump Administration. Apparently he doesn’t want to actually experience an America under Trump before assuming what it will be like.

So one might ask that if Lebron James is a safe person to be around during the all-encompassing awfulness that a Trump Presidency will bring, what kind of actions could we expect from him in order to aid those who feel they have become so threatened by this? Would he give the person a hug? Would he give them a pep talk like the ones he gives to his team before they take the court? Would he give them some of his money (he has a lot)? Would he section off a part of one of his houses as a “safe space” since young millennials who are upset have shown a desire for those?

This phenomenon of wearing a safety pin to convey a political message presents a unique economic opportunity. Since the demand for safety pins has now increased, perhaps it would be a good time to invest in companies which produce and sell them. The Singer Sewing Company has their safety pins sold at Walmart, Target and CVS. The craft store chain Michaels has reported difficulty in keeping safety pins in stock since Trump’s victory.

Safety pin sales haven’t been the only product that has seen a jump in sales as a result of a presidential election. Often when a Democrat is elected president, there is a major uptick in the sale of firearms. But left-wingers might have some reservations about investing in an industry which manufactures something that so many of them dislike so much. In contrast, conservatives should have no problem benefiting as a result of increases in safety pin production since they are not a part of an industry opposed by right-of-center individuals.

The safety pin demonstration is most likely a fad that will dissipate over time. Perhaps it will be after Trump officially takes office and people realize that the conditions of the people he supposedly has it in for act with relative independence of who the president happens to be. But until inauguration day, the flames of fear will likely be stoked to the point that safety pin sales will continue to surge. That’s when investors may be wise to make their move.

Comparing the Two Victories of Trump and the Cubs

When people look back on the month of November in 2016, they will likely cite two momentous events that occurred in American culture. One was the shocking victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States. The other was the victory of the Chicago Cubs in the World Series to end their 108 year title drought. Both of these things happened within a week of one another.

There are several similarities between the victories of both Trump and the Cubs. Both involved a result so astonishing that many people couldn’t believe what had happened. Both took fans of opposing sides through emotional rollercoasters on the way to the final result. Both will no doubt cause people to forever remember where they were when the victor in the two contests ultimately prevailed.

But any time when there are comparative similarities, there will also be inevitable differences. The Cubs’ epic World Series victory is not as parallel to Trump’s upset win as many have thought. This doesn’t mean that we can’t all stand in collective amazement at both. But let’s also understand what makes the two legendary wins so unlike one another.

1. The hate factor.

It’s certainly not accurate to say that no one hates either the Cubs or the Indians. All teams have rivals who despise them. The Cubs have the arch nemesis St. Louis Cardinals and the crosstown White Sox on the South Side. The Indians have their rivals within the American League Central where there is no love lost as well. But considering the length of time since each team’s last championship (1908 for the Cubs, 1948 for the Indians), it’s harder for sports fans in general to summon intense hatred for teams who haven’t won in so long.

Meanwhile, the candidates put forward by the Republican and Democratic parties were statistically the most hated presidential candidates in American history. Usually a president actually has to serve a four year term to be unlikeable with a significant portion of the public. But Clinton and Trump were both more unpopular having never served as president than any previous president at the four year mark. Not the kind of record you want to own.

2. One was an upset, the other was not.

Many have cited how the Cubs were big underdogs after falling down three games to one to the Indians in the World Series. But this only makes the North Siders strongly disfavored if you cite a specific time after a specific game that put them in a 3-1 hole. Aside from this brief time, no one had better odds of winning the 2016 World Series than the Cubs. They were widely considered to be the best team in baseball the entire season and ended the regular season with the game’s best record.

Compare this with The Donald and a stark difference emerges. Trump’s candidacy was largely considered to be a joke in many circles. Political pundits and experts were constantly predicting that he couldn’t sustain the momentum that caused him to surge to frontrunner status. His election astonished people because of how it flew in the face of so many pollsters and political scientists who attempt to forecast electoral outcomes.

3. The Cubs were long suffering, Trump was not.

The reason Chicago’s win was so memorable was because of how long they waited to finally get to the top of the baseball world. They had failed for so many years that it had seemed like the moment would never happen. Donald Trump, however, had no such long term suffering. Although he had entertained the idea of running for president in the past, this election marked the first time he had ever taken the plunge. A sports team equivalent of the Trump’s victory would be something along the lines of the 1997 Marlins, 2000 Ravens or 2001 Diamondbacks all winning championships within the first five seasons of their existences.

So for those reasons (and likely many more), the Trump victory and the Cubs victory are not as similar as some may think. They will, however, be forever linked by the fact that they both happened in relative succession to one another. The high emotions surrounding both events will likely also be prevalent in people’s memories for quite some time. But look closer and the pronounced differences will be there as well.

The Population Shifts That Don’t Favor Baseball

With the Major League Baseball playoffs now underway, some of the discussion that seems to always emerge every year centers on the television ratings for the playoff games and the World Series. Some of the talking heads will lament that the ratings aren’t high enough. This is partly unfair since the baseball playoffs take place during football season and the number of people who watch the NFL dwarfs the number for all other American sports comparatively.  But the concern over baseball’s playoff ratings is not entirely without merit. When looking more closely, substantial problems are revealed.

More than any other sport, baseball is dependent on popular teams (almost always from big markets) to drive ratings. The lone World Series the New York Yankees played in during the past decade (2009) was the highest rated during that span. This was despite that series only going six games when two other series during that time frame (2011, 2014) went seven (game sevens drive up overall ratings for any series in any sport). The most recent World Series to rate higher than 2009 was 2004, when the Boston Red Sox finally vanquished the Curse of the Bambino. This was despite that World Series being over in just four games.

In contrast, the NFL does not need big market teams or historically successful franchises in order to get people to watch their playoffs games or the Super Bowl. American sports fans tend to watch the NFL playoffs and NFL Football in general regardless of who is playing. The Super Bowl is such an enormous event that many people watching aren’t even football fans and watch for other reasons (like the commercials). The market size and overall popularity of the teams involved is largely inconsequential.

The NBA is much more dependent on great players making deep playoff runs rather than teams from large markets. But this usually isn’t a problem when it comes time for the NBA Finals since at least one team playing usually has one of the league’s best players.  For example, the ratings for the 2010 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers (the two most successful franchises in NBA history) were only marginally higher than the ratings for the finals in 2012 featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. This happened despite the fact that the 2010 series went seven games and the 2012 match up was over in five. This was, of course, due to the 2012 Finals being a head-to-head contest between Lebron James and Kevin Durant who were arguably the two best players in the game at the time. But in baseball, would ratings for a World Series between an average size market like Miami and a small market like Oklahoma City ever be close to that of one featuring the Red Sox and the Dodgers? My guess would be no.

So if baseball more so relies on popular teams from big markets in order to drive viewership, it is then fair to look into the migration trends for the areas in which the sport is most beloved. The general trend has been that Americans are mostly moving away from areas in which baseball is most important and toward areas where the game’s interest is considerably depleted. States which contain the three most popular MLB teams, the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs, lost a total of four US Congressional Districts as a result of the 2010 Census (New York lost two, Massachusetts and Illinois both lost one). Other popular teams such as the Cardinals, Phillies, Indians and Tigers are also located in cities/states where people are leaving. This is, of course, consistent with the general migration pattern in the US for at least the past few decades where the northeast and midwest are losing people and the south and west are gaining them.

In contrast to these classic baseball cities that people are fleeing, the southern and western areas they are migrating to typically do not love the sport with the same kind of passion. Although growing states like Florida, Texas, Georgia and Arizona all have baseball teams, those teams all take a back seat to other teams in their respective states (former ESPN writer Rick Reilly assessed which team in a given American sports city was the most important to the fans in that area here). This leads to the observation many have had that there are more Yankees and Red Sox fans at Tampa Bay’s stadium when those teams visit and more Mets and Phillies fans at Marlins home games featuring those match ups then there are fans of those Florida ball clubs. The south in general is statistically less interested in following baseball than those in the rest of the country.

Thanks to modern technology, people in any part of the country can still watch their favorite teams if they are willing to pay for a special TV package. Thanks to the internet, people can get updated scores for any team at any time. But baseball has more of a regional need than most other sports. I’ve heard many times from many people that they don’t like watching baseball on TV, but they do enjoy going to games at the stadium. Thus, people no longer being within close proximity to the stadiums which feature those popular, big market teams presents a bigger problem for baseball than people moving away from their favorite NFL or NBA team. Football and basketball don’t seem to become less watchable without the live stadium experience to the degree that baseball does.

All of this presents a unique set of problems to baseball going forward. The regional population shifts along with the sport’s over-dependence on popular, big market teams comprises a set of bad ingredients for the future of the game. Baseball can certainly survive this type of difficulty. But one can’t help but wonder how this will influence the status of baseball as a major American sport as these trends continue.

 

Diversity Surging in Baseball Despite Lack of Black Americans

In response to the protests of the National Anthem by NFL players like Colin Kaepernick, Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones stated his opinion as to why there aren’t baseball players taking part in similar social activism.

Jones told USA Today, “baseball is a white man’s sport.”

He later told the Baltimore Sun, “Baseball is numbers. It’s 8 percent black. I didn’t make that up. In football, basketball, the numbers are in the 60s and 70s. These aren’t made up numbers. It just is what it is. I’m part of the 8 percent.”

Jones is correct that the number of American blacks playing Major League Baseball is at roughly 8% (but remember that these are American blacks). This percentage has also been declining for most of the past 20 years after being at over 17% in 1994. But do declining numbers of African Americans necessarily mean that the organization as a whole has gotten whiter? Let’s take a look at who the rest of the Major League Baseball players are.

 

Although the percentage of African Americans playing professional baseball has been declining, the percentage of Latino players has been holding steady at above 25% since 2001. Many times these Latin players are just as blackas their African American counterparts having been descended from African slaves brought to the west. Therefore, MLB players like Edwin Encarnacion, David Ortiz and Francisco Lindor would be categorized as Latino despite people likely identifying them as being black based on their appearance. Add these foreign born black players to the number of American born blacks in the league and their percentage would look far less depleted.

 

Asians are another minority group who has seen significant growth in the number of Major League players. As recently as 1993 there were no Asian players competing at the big league level. But their numbers grew steadily throughout the next decade and have been sitting consistently around 1%-2% throughout the 21st century. Obviously this isn’t a huge percentage, but it does show a significant increase.

 

But what about all of those white players? Surely a “white man’s game” like baseball has seen an impervious level of white participation at the highest level, right? Well, not exactly. The percentage of whites in MLB hasn’t been above 70% since 1989 and has been below 65% since 1995. The past two seasons have seen the percentage of white players at just below 60%.

 

So how do these percentages correlate to the racial composition throughout America? As it turns out, non-Hispanic whites comprise about 63% of the American population (according to 2012 numbers). This has been roughly similar to the percentage of that same race in Major League Baseball. Blacks are now underrepresented in the sport as they are about 12.5% of the population and only 8% of professional baseball players. But with the decline of American blacks in MLB, the Hispanic percentage has become overrepresented considering their US population is at around 17% and they comprise over 25% of Major League players. Asian players are underrepresented still, standing at between 1% and 2% of big league ballplayers and being about 5.5% of the American public. But again, that race was nonexistent in the game before the number of American blacks began to decline.

 

What’s interesting about the current racial makeup up Major League Baseball is that it isn’t any “whiter” than the American population in general. If one simply observes it with regard to whites and non-whites, baseball at the professional level doesn’t seem to be quite the “white man’s game” that Jones seems to be insisting that it is. Yes, baseball is certainly whiter than the NFL (about 68% black) and the NBA (about 75% black). As a result, the leagues which have more blacks are more likely to have members speak out against things which negatively affect the black community in America (like police brutality, etc.). But to jump from being considerably more white than two other professional leagues to being a “white man’s game” seems to be a bit of a stretch.

 

What’s more, the American populace in general is often celebrated and championed as a result if its diversity. If you were to ask Americans what their definition of diversity is, many would define it as “looking like America.”  So an entity reflecting the country’s diversity would have many different races and ethnic groups represented in similar fashion to their percentages in American society (even though no entity exists which looks exactly like America percentage wise). The funny thing is, baseball does reflect a white population percentage similar to that of the rest of the country. The non-white portion of the Major Leagues (also a similar percentage to the non-whites in America, naturally) is comprised of American born and foreign born blacks, a growing Hispanic population and a newly established Asian contingent. Sound a whole lot like America to me.

 

So the decline of American blacks playing Major League baseball has resulted not in those blacks being replaced by whites, but by other minorities who are talented enough to play the game. Thus, one could argue that rather than getting less diverse as a result of depleted numbers of African Americans, baseball is actually just as diverse or even more diverse than it has ever been. If people are to take pride in the diversity we have in this country, then baseball should be embraced for exhibiting the percentages which in many ways reflect the different races and ethnicities that the country has. Rather than being the exclusive game of the white man that it used to be many decades ago, baseball has become a game featuring a various array of races, ethnic groups and nationalities of those who are able to play it on its highest level.