Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peyton Manning: Hero. (Unless you wanted the Colts to win a Super Bowl this year.)(Or unless you have a soul.)

NOTE: While I'm going to go through the usual motions of ripping on a player who just signed an exorbitant and greedy contract, if you put up with it, you'll get to some really interesting stuff down below about what teams and fans can do to fix this. So maybe read something for a change instead of just skimming through for pictures of scantily-clad cheerleaders. (There's one of those, too, down below, because I know you expect it.)

Peyton Manning just got 90 million cupcakes. That's probably why he looks so smug.

"Cupcakes", for those of you who haven't read everything I've ever written, is the metaphor I use when I talk about free agency and superhigh athlete salaries; I have to say cupcakes because if I say money, then people accuse me of being a communist (which I maybe almost am) and say I'm dumb and how can I limit how much money people can make, and generally make fools of themselves by thinking that dollars are different than cupcakes.

And then I have to point out that they're being stupid, and things devolve from there.

So I just say cupcakes and we're all happy -- all of us, that is, except those people who (like me) think it's ridiculous that anyone makes $18 million per year, especially people who no longer need that money, and except those people (like Colts' fans) who were really hoping their team would win the Super Bowl and now won't get to see that.

Peyton Manning signed a contract which is supposed to pay him $90 million over 5 years, or $18 million a year, or the equivalent of what Tom Brady got; this is actually being spun as a good thing he did, (although, to be fair, that blogger did point out that Manning selfishly kept the "don't pay me" talk to himself through the first four days of the shortened free agency period.)

Let's get a couple of things straight:

1. Yes, I'm going to point out that what Peyton Manning makes is in some way horrible. You'll just have to put up with that, because if you're going to laugh at Peyton Manning commercials, I want you to feel a little uncomfortable that you're helping support a man who's hoarding resources and helping keep poverty alive in America -- using your money.

2. Peyton Manning isn't a hero even to Colts fans because he didn't need the money and he's hurting the team.

All of which is going somewhere, so I'll make it quick.

1. What Manning will make this year is horrible in some way, and that way is this:

Manning's not up on ESPN's salary calculator yet, but Tom Brady is, and Manning heroically (where's that sarcastic-faced emoticon?) let his pay be only equal to Brady's, so I just found out that if I work 187 years, I'll make what Manning will make this year.

Back on June 16, a homeless man named Stephen McGuire was beaten to death by teenagers. That happened in Indianapolis, which isn't that big a city, so let's assume that at some point, as Peyton Manning drove one of his cars - he has three, two Escalades and one Cadillac SLR -- he drove by Stephen McGuire.

If Peyton Manning had used just, say, $100,000 per year, he could have kept Stephen McGuire off the streets for the rest of Stephen McGuire's life -- at a maximum cost of $3,900,000, or less than 1/4 of what Manning will make this year.

And Stephen McGuire's life would have lasted a lot longer than it did.

I picked out that $100,000 figure because, although I can't find the link to it right now, a while back, a city did an experiment in which they stopped arresting chronically homeless people and started housing them -- paying social workers to watch over people and help keep these people off the street and maybe get some of them better. The $100,000 was, as I recall, the figure it was estimated that cost per year per person -- but it was $100,000 that then wasn't spent arresting and jailing the men, and people were safer and felt better about their city, while courts were slightly less congested.

So Manning could have, simply by using 1/4 of the money he'll make this year, saved a man's life.

Keep that in mind when you laugh at those commercials this year. And maybe, when Peyton drives to work this year, he'll watch the people on the street and wonder whose life he's not saving.

2. Peyton is hurting the team: Colts fans, when are you going to stop liking Peyton? This year, maybe? Sure, he's a great football player (or is he? One big game win in 19 years suggests that Manning isn't championship-caliber material and benefited in the Super Bowl he did win by playing against Sexy Rexy's Bears) but he's hurting the team.

Don't take it from me. Take it from Jim Irsay. He's said in the past that he wants to restructure Manning's salary to allow the Colts (who haven't won a big game since they gave Manning a larger contract after the Super Bowl victory over the Bears) to sign free agents -- and who then this year had to sit out the shortened free agent period while negotiating with Manning.


Or Goat?

Free agents in football aren't that big a deal -- they won't turn a losing team into a winning team (right, Daniel Snyder?) but they can turn a good team into a great team: Adding Randy Moss, when he was still good, took the Patriots* to 18-1*. Adding Brett Favre took the Vikings from wild card to overtime in the NFC Championship. Adding Drew Brees to the Saints got them a Super Bowl victory. Doug Flutie, back in the olden days, got the Bills to the playoffs almost singlehandedly.

So you see where I'm going with this: the Colts have a good team... and that's all they'll have, while Manning sucks up salary cap room. (Indy, before Manning's contract, had only about $4.5 million in cap space.)

Manning recognizes that, because he told the Colts he'd take less ($18 million being, somehow, LESS in this country, where people will voluntarily give a man millions to play football but won't allow their taxes to be increased to pay for health care) to allow free agents to be signed -- so even he knows what he's doing, but he doesn't care, because he just took up $18 million in cap space even though he doesn't need the money.

Manning made $27,000,000 last year alone -- about half in endorsements. I don't know what he made in previous years, and I don't care. Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Give a man $27,000,000 and he'll be able to live in style for 108 years without ever worrying about money.

I get that figure by taking dividing Manning's take last year by $250,000. If you make $250,000 (or more) you are in the upper 1/2 of income no matter where you live in the United States. San Francisco. Manhattan. Wherever all those ugly women on reality TV shows about ugly rich women live. Doesn't matter: the median income in every single community in the U.S. is $250,000 or lower.

So Manning's pay last year alone would have let him live in style anywhere in the U.S. for 108 years, even if nobody ever paid him any money ever again.

He doesn't need the money.

But he took it because unlike what the headlines are saying, it's not competition that drives Manning, it's greed; that's the only excuse for continuing to take cupcakes after you have enough to keep you going for 108 years.

I get why I'm mad at Manning; he's greedy and helps contribute to a society where homeless people die in the streets while he drives his Escalade past them.

But why aren't his teammates mad at him?

Here's the larger point of where I'm going with this:

3. Why does the players' union allow this to happen? Aren't they supposed to be looking out for all the players? Not just Brady and Manning and The Anointed One?

Letting one member of a union suck up 20% of the salary space at the shop doesn't seem to me to be in the best interests of other union members, and I don't know why the great majority of players, who don't make $18 million a year, don't get together and demand a stop to it. They're complaining about not making more than $400,000, and putting rookie salary caps on players (not much of a cap, but that's for another day), while not bothering to put a cap on what any individual (non-rookie) player can earn.

Why not put a veteran individual cap on? I could see a couple ways this could work, and help out teams and players, and fans (because they're a part of this, too, as crazy as that might seem to owners and players who obviously never think of the fans.)

First, count endorsement money against the cap. Why exempt money players make from endorsements from the salary cap? It seems to me that's a huge loophole: Want to pay Peyton more money? Give him $18 million a year in "cap" money and then arrange for endorsements from businesses. That kind of thing happens all the time in college football -- boosters arrange to "hire" top players and pay them to do nothing more than play football.

I don't know if it's ever happened in the NFL; so far as I know nobody's ever investigated whether Manning (or anyone) gets endorsements as part of an arrangement between a team and the company. I'm not an investigative journalist, so I won't be, either. But whether or not it's set up that way, endorsement money is money Manning makes for being a Colt, and if you count it against the cap, you'll even out pay structures. (You'd have to exempt endorsement money from the cap-floor, but that's easily enough done.)

Second, impose a single-season pay cap on all players: a rule that says, for example, no player can be paid, in that season, more than 10% of the total cap space for that season would be simple enough to enforce, and would mean that Manning, or Favre, or whoever, would have to be paid a lesser amount, would be beneficial to all players, too. (This year, that would limit players to a maximum income of about $12 million. I'm sure they'll get by.)

Third, impose a lifetime earnings cap on salary from teams -- to avoid simply promising (as the USFL did with Steve Young) to pay the money over 40 years or something; allowing too-high pay keeps ticket prices up and other players' salaries down, regardless of how long you string it out. So limiting NFL teams to paying a player, say, $50 million over their lifetime, would be enforceable and more than reasonable. (I note that many people are going to argue that this is communism or somesuch, and those people should stop to think: do you really want to argue that it's unfair to limit someone to earning "only" fifty million dollars in their lifetime.)(Those people should also keep in mind I'm just saying the team could only pay him that much. I wouldn't include in the lifetime cap endorsement money or other income sources.)

The bottom line is that fans get hurt by megadeals like Mannings -- and society gets hurt.

Fans get hurt because the team won't be as good; they can't afford as many good people to put around Manning, and football isn't a one-man sport, no matter how hard the NFL tries to make it that way. And fans get hurt because keeping superhigh salaries superhigh means that jerseys and tickets and the like have to cost more, and that TV deals have to pay more, so more and more games will be moving to pay cable TV. Already, Monday Night Football is a pay experience; those games were free most of your lifetime, but now you have to pay to see them, and Thursday games, too. I'm guessing we are five years from cable-only playoff games, and don't say I didn't warn you.

Society get hurt worse, because as long as we support the "right" of people like Peyton Manning to get $90 million cupcakes and don't demand some sanity, and responsibility, from people who think that's okay, well, then, that's how long we're going to live in a country where 61-year-old men get beaten to death in the street while millionaires drive by them in Escalades.

Here's a link to Stephen McGuire's obituary, which begins:

With an armful of tattered bags, 61 year old Stephen McGuire settled in for the night in his temporary home. The exhaust vent behind the Downtown Sheraton provided enough warmth, and the loading dock enough privacy, that McGuire was able to sleep hassle-free most nights.

And includes

Police say a video shows a group of five youths- four males and one female - appearing to take part in a fatal attack on McGuire, who was repeatsdly kicked in the head.

In images from four cameras in the alley, one of the males is seen wearing a SpongeBob Square jacket. Another is captured on camera laughing and pointing at McGuire's body, shadow boxing like a fighter who has just scored a knockout.

He was a Marine corps vet who'd been homeless for five years, but who loved being downtown in Indianapolis. The article doesn't say, but I'll bet he was a fan of Peyton Manning's.

Too bad Peyton wasn't a fan of his.

Oh, before I forget, here's your cheerleader:

What would a Doug Flutie shoe sell for, I wonder?

I got a chance one time to tour the locker room of the Buffalo Bills, way back when they were still on the verge of being good (not THIS century.) There was a lot of stuff there -- it looked like this Storage Manchester place I heard about, but more on that in a minute. The players left all kinds of stuff in their locker -- Doug Flutie, for example, had boxes of shoes still in his locker, and this was May.

I thought a couple of things about that.

First, I thought "Wonder if I could swipe a pair?" because, well, Doug Flutie's shoes. (This was before eBay. I just wanted them for me.)

(No, I've never had a psych eval. Why do you ask?)

Then I thought "I wonder why they leave them here?"

Now I know: it's because we don't have anything like the Safestore self-storage they have in places like Safestore storage lockers available in a variety of sizes, for short or long term, all available from a company that also sells packing stuff, too, so that Doug could've set up his shoes in a locker in the offseason, and had them kept warm and dry until he came back the next year.

In fact, the whole Bills organization could've shipped their stuff there - -maybe keeping it safe until they move to Canada - -because Safestore has commercial and consumer facilities. So their locker room didn't have to be all cluttered.

Besides which, had he kept his shoes in a Safestore storage facility, Doug wouldn't have had to risk ME stealing them. Speaking of which, now that there IS eBay... I wonder what the statute of limitations on shoe theft is?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Albert Haynesworth continues to get paid?

This is a shared post between Thinking The Lions and Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! Teamwork!

A Poem For Albert Haynesworth, Composed Solely Of Media Descriptions
Barry Petchesky

Awful Albert, Abysmal Albert: Attitude-afflicted wash-up. Massive and huge and fat and lazy and difficult.

A sadistic sulky mountain, disgruntled.


Pain in the locker room, thorn in the side, waste of roster space.

Discontented malcontent, fickle painful volatile handful. Motivationally-challenged mess. Ten-dollar underachiever.

A controversial character-concern with character issues. So-called troubled, talented and troubled, troubling troublesome trouble.

Horrible aching pain in the gall bladder.


About the Poem: I read this on Deadspin last night; it was apparently written to celebrate the fact that yet another team is going to pay Albert Haynesworth, large man, to sulk his way through another football season.

Haynesworth, keep in mind, is not just a man who doesn't appreciate that he's been given the ability to earn a living playing a game, and not just a living but millions of dollars -- ESPN has a salary calculator that lets you determine how long it takes an NFL player to earn what you make. In Haynesworth's case, he makes my yearly salary every 9/10 of a game. (ESPN also puts it into perspective by pointing out that I will have to work 148+ years to make what Haynesworth makes in a year.

So why does Albert Haynesworth pout? Why did he sulk his way through NFL season after NFL season?

Maybe because he's a horrible human being. Here's one of the things Albert Haynesworth has done:

Do you suppose the NFL owners are paying him in spite of that? Or because of that?

I had a talk the other day with a friend about what it should take to disqualify you from playing in the NFL. If trying to stomp a man's head into pulp doesn't meet that hurdle, what does?

And why does our society continue to pay this man millions of dollars?

About the Actress: Justin Pierce, genius creator of Wonderella, reminded me yesterday that she existed, so here's Danielle Fishel -- just over 30 now, and just qualified for the Friday's Sunday's Poem Hot Actress.


We're all adults here - -so why not have a little adult fun? Get the best adult toys and games, like this Glass Dildo, from Adult Toy Depot. (Go ahead and shop at work -- there's no nudity on the page!)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Can I Get Vince Young To Buffalo?

Time to see how much muscle I, as a full-time lawyer in Wisconsin, and part-time sports (?) blogger (?) can bring to bear on the greatest task I will ever undertake:

Getting Vince Young to the Buffalo Bills.

The Buffalo Bills have not had a great quarterback -- or even a good one -- (sorry, Obi Wan Fitzpatrick!) since Doug Flutie. And, not coincidentally, they haven't made the playoffs since he was with them. They are tied with the lowly Detroit Lions for longest playoff drought -- 11 seasons without a playoff appearance.

But at least the Lions have been trying. The last quarterback of note to start for the Bills was Drew Bledsoe -- in 2004. (The less said about Bledsoe's last game as a Bill, the better -- that's the game where the Bills, with a playoff berth on the line, couldn't manage to beat the Steelers' third string. Pleh.)

I've sat idly by while the Bills have let great QB after great QB go without even trying to bring one in, and all the while watched while they make a laughingstock of themself. But I can't do that any longer.

Buffalo, you've got to start trying. It's bad enough that you hired Chan Gailey, whose last job before coaching (?) the team was 2nd shift manager at Arby's. It's bad enough you let talented players go and draft so poorly it's like you're going through the Bengals' trash bins to come up with your list. I'm reasonably sure you're attempting to drive attendance down so that you can move the team to Canada. But enough's enough.

Get Vince Young. Go get him and prove to your fans that you care, because if you don't, we won't.

You football fans -- and the remaining three other Buffalo Bills fans -- help me out. Post on Twitter, or Facebook if anyone but your aunt is still on Facebook, or on whatever website you can, that The Bills Need Vince!

And, more importantly, email the Bills and tell them The Bills Need Vince!. Click here to email the Bills.. (The email will go to Guest Services, the best email I could find. But I'm pretty sure they'll get it to Chan, once he's done with his shift at the car wash.)

Sometimes you just need a mulligan (Thursday's Sporting List.)

Word surfaced yesterday that Donovan McNabb -- the QB I wish the Buffalo Bills would pick up (no offense, Obi-Wan Fitzpatrick!) -- will likely end up with the Vikings, the team left behind by the other QB I wish the Bills would pick up.

That would be McNabb's third team in the NFL -- so I thought I'd present today's list of

Quarterbacks Who Made It To The Super Bowl Playing For Their Second (Or Later) Team:

1. Jim Kelly: Jim Kelly's Bills made it to four consecutive Super Bowls, making him the Nancy Kerrigan of the NFL (how many other second-place finishers can you name off the top of your head?) But that wasn't the first time Kelly led the league in finishing second: he started his pro career in the USFL, playing for the Houston Gamblers. Why'd he go there? He'd been drafted by the Bills, but opted not to join Buffalo because of lack of fan interest.

2. Kurt Warner: Warner famously once spent time stocking shelves at a Piggly Wiggly store. I tried to find out which one, but couldn't -- because Warner's played in numerous cities. Drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1994, Warner didn't make the team. He then played for the Iowa Barnstormers and Amsterdam Admirals in minor league football before joining the Rams. After winning a few Super Bowls there (remember?) he went on to the Giants before making his final Super Bowl appearance with the Cardinals.

3. Brett Favre: Brett, if you go join Michael Vick, I will stop being your fan forever. Please don't. Check out Buffalo, instead! Favre's big successes in the NFL began with an ignominious, nearly anonymous, year spent on Jerry Glanville's Atlanta Falcons. What'd Glanville think of Favre? Not much: he said it would take a plane crash before Glanville would put him in a game.

4. Drew Brees: Brees began his career at San Diego, which (according to rumor) had signed Doug Flutie to help get the team ready to play for a shorter-than-average, mobile quarterback. Brees was only picked by San Diego in the first place because the Chargers had traded their own #1 pick to Atlanta, which used it to get Michael Vick. So, smart people on both sides of that trade. In 2004, Brees led the Chargers to a 12-4 record and the AFC Championship game, after which he was promptly let go by the Chargers and signed with the Saints.

5. Johnny Unitas: Johnny was a Steeler... for a while. The Steelers drafted him but they had 4 QBs and ended up letting Johnny U. and his haircut you could set a watch to go, letting him join the Colts so he could become the 1970s version of Jim Kelly.

6. Steve Young: Young was Kurt Warner before Kurt Warner was Kurt Warner: he played for the USFL for 2 years, going there not because he hated Buffalo but because they promised to pay him $40 million over 40 years (an annuity deal that he did because he wanted to help the team.) He then was drafted by the Buccaneers, spending two terrible years with them before going to the 49ers, where he proved that persistence, and playing with Jerry Rice, pays off.

7. John Elway/Eli Manning: Lastly but not leastly are these two QBs, technically each winning a Super Bowl on their second teams. Elway played his professional career with the Broncos but was drafted by the then-Baltimore Colts; he only went to Denver because he refused to play for Baltimore. A couple of decades later, Eli would do the same thing, getting drafted by San Diego but refusing to play for them and heading to the Giants, signalling the end of Kurt Warner's time in New York City.

You know, in retrospect, what might be an interesting list? Terrible decisions made by the San Diego Chargers.

By the end of this post, I'll be able to read your mind.

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Net10 for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Autism Works: Hacking Autism

Autism Works is an across-the-board post I'm doing to help keep people informed of recent events affecting those who have autism and their families. The goal of Autism Works is to raise awareness of, and collect information for, people on the autism spectrum by providing news and information about autism-friendly businesses and developments in treatments and identification of this condition.

Michael Offutt, who writes the blog SLC Kismet, pointed out a while back that there are a great many autism-related apps on the iPad, and it looks like there might be more, so I'll take a look at those today:

First, autism apps. I have a Droid smart phone, one I got in part because Mr F's and Mr Bunches' teachers suggested an iPad last year as something to help the boys learn to communicate. Rather than invest $800 plus right off the bat on something that may not work, I went cheap by getting the touch-screen phone and trying that out.

Finding apps hasn't been difficult. Finding apps suited for autistic kids has -- there is, so far as I can tell, no "keyword" or "tag" type of search for the Droid store.

On the one hand, any app that lets the boys use the phone is a good one, and the smart phone (or touch screen pad) works great for that: Mr Bunches, who particularly likes the computer, had a lot of trouble originally learning how to use the mouse and keyboard, and still has trouble clicking, so a touch screen was great in getting them to play games and use the screen.

That let them play games -- they liked Angry Birds, in particular -- and watch videos all by touching, rather than clicking, and Mr Bunches in particular learned to get around Youtube pretty successfully on my phone, which was also portable enough for him to carry around.

Specific games that I found worked particularly well on the small touch screen included Fisher Price's online learning games: they have counting and ABC games that work well on a touch screen, and some "learning about opposites" and "animal sounds" games that even on a 3-by-1 inch screen look good and are easy to work. They're free and easy to access.

Another game Mr Bunches particularly enjoys, and which can be played on a small or large screen for free, is the "Jumping Box" game, where a person has to click-and-drag on a box to make it slide and jump through obstacles. (I like that one, too.)

"Talking Tom" was an app suggested by the teachers -- it's a cat that repeats everything you say in a slightly higher voice, and reacts to certain touches and other input. It's available for free and for $0.99, but don't bother paying; there's no difference between the two.

This site was suggested by the school teachers to find apps for an iPad. I'd give you the name, but it doesn't seem to have one. I haven't checked it out at all yet, but I'll try to download and review some of the apps in the future.

Then there's "Hacking Autism." This is a project I just learned about yesterday, an attempt to help "give people with autism a voice." They're going to have a Hackathon to get volunteer software developers in touch with autism specialists to develop new touch-enabled apps for the autism community.

You don't have to be a programmer or expert to participate: the site is seeking comments on existing ideas, and suggestions for apps to be developed, so if you have autism or are related to someone who does, weigh in and let them know.

You might even get some inspiration from the Hacking Autism's "Stories Of Hope," which includes a touching story written by an autistic boy who had never spoken until he was given a "Lightwriter," after which he was able to have a conversation with his older brother -- a conversation that was so special, they videotaped it for his parents and made it their Christmas present.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman, Rob Corddry, and ME

Martin Pasko, Emmy-award winning writer, recently announced who he thought people should follow on Twitter to get a laugh. Here's what he said:

I am @whyIhatepeople, and Martin can not only write but be right (see what I did there?)

There you have it: Emmy Award Winners rank me and Stephen Colbert in the same sentence.

Follow me on Twitter by clicking here.

And check out these great blogs:

The Best Of Everything: our opinions are righter than yours: the funniest, smartest, rightest look at pop culture you'll ever read.

Thinking The Lions: hilarious essays about my life and the things I do: I Get Paid For Doing This, Awesome Covers of Already Awesome Songs, Cool Stuff I Never Learned In School, and more.

Nonsportsmanlike Conduct! : A sports blog for people who hate sports blogs. One-of-a-kind posts about sports the way you like it: no Xs and Os, but lots of cheerleaders and songs.

Publicus Proventus: Yes, it's about politics -- but it's funny, and smart, like the rest of the stuff I write. In between serious essays on politics, you'll find "Charlie Sheen, or Public Official?" and "Other People's Politics" and "We Have Enough Money" and more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The (Mostly Hypothetical) NFL Preview: The Seattle Seahawks.

The Team: Seattle Seahawks.

Quick Recap: Here is what you need to know about the Seahawks: Their owner, Paul Allen, has a $160,000,000 yacht, a boat he spends $384,000 per week keeping running.

Down the road a bit from Allen lives a man named Brian Donaldson. Donaldson is disabled and had been unemployed for 2 years when he was profiled on NPR's "Hunger In America." To get food he could eat -- because of his illness- Donaldson (who's $1,650 per month income made him ineligible for food stamps) couldn't go to soup kitchens, so he volunteered at a community food bank, working a few hours a week in exchange for the right to pick out foods he can eat.

The cost of living a modest lifestyle in Oakland, where Donaldson lives, is $70,000 per year. Donaldson's disability income gives him $19,800 per year. His wife was taking courses to work as a nurse at the time of the article.

That was in 2005. I wasn't able to find an update on Donaldson, so I don't know what happened to him.

But if Paul Allen had used one week's worth of his yacht money, he could have made up the difference between what Donaldson earned, and what he need to earn to live a modest lifestyle.

That's why I will never, ever, ever, root for the Seattle Seahawks again, or say anything nice about them.


Paul Allen is a horrible human being.
If you're not careful, you might accidentally confuse them with:
I See Hawks in L.A.

Google the phrase "see hawks" and you'll find this band's page, which says that the band began in 1999 "during a philosophical discussion and rock throwing session," which is exactly how John Marshall came up with the idea that the judiciary could invalidate laws as unconstitutional; you'd know more about that, but John Marshall didn't have the foresight to create a band called "Emphatically the province and duty..."

Here's their song "California Country,"

And here's "Raised by Hippies:"

They're amiable enough. I'd rather hang out with them than spit on Paul Allen, for what that's worth. (Actually, I'd rather hang out with them and spit on Paul Allen.)

Which Romantic Comedy Character Are The Seahawks Going To Be Like This Year?

Steff, from Pretty In Pink:

Sleazy, annoying, vaguely creepy, totally unlikeable, and ultimately a forgotten loser. (We can hope.)

Other teams previewed:

Tennessee Titans

Washington Redskins

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Walk Out On Week Three!

Remember to Walk Out On Week Three!

As I mentioned in my (Mostly Hypothetical) Preview of the St. Louis Rams, the NFL pays over two billion dollars in salary to players every year -- money that you and I and everyone else who watches NFL games gave voluntarily.

That level of money is ridiculous in a country where half of all families survive on less than $46,000 per year. And yet, politicians -- mostly Republicans -- continue to insist that we can't raise taxes to do things like provide medical care for treatable conditions. Or pay teachers. Or do anything else that needs doing.

People will voluntarily give over two billion dollars a year to the NFL -- but won't let their taxes go up even 1% to save someone's life? That can't be, America. That. Can't. Be.

I'm asking NFL fans to demonstrate our society's commitment to providing a better life for everyone -- and not just for spoiled millionaires and billionaires who play games this way:

Voluntarily refrain from watching any NFL games in Week 3 of this season: Turn off the TV, and go do something else that week. Don't watch football, don't talk about football, don't watch other people talk about football.

And, that week, take the money you'd have spent on the NFL -- whether it be lunch while you watched the game, a t-shirt, whatever -- and give it to charity.

My charity of choice is Autism Speaks. But you can find your own charity by going to Charity Navigator.

Spread the word and make sure people know about Walk Out On Week Three.

Autism Works: My Autism Team, and "mismatched socks."

Autism Works is an across-the-board post I'm doing to help keep people informed of recent events affecting those who have autism and their families. The goal of Autism Works is to raise awareness of, and collect information for, people on the autism spectrum by providing news and information about autism-friendly businesses and developments in treatments and identification of this condition.

Today's business is My Autism Team, a website that promises to help with what these posts are intended to do, to: help people find autism-friendly businesses and identify service providers and other tips.

Signing up for My Autism Team is simple: a little bit of detail to set up a profile (and a chance to upload a picture) and you're ready to go, with an email verification that was simple. The profile didn't offer me a chance to enter information about more than one child, and the categories of information about the children were pretty limited (just four options about his or her behavior, rather than entering, say, a sentence or two), but it only took about 5 minutes to sign up.

Once signed up and verified, you can enter information in a format similar to Gather or Twitter -- blog posts with a button to click about whether you're having a "good" or "bad" day, and the chance to enter additional information. (I, for example, entered my first post as having a "good" day, and noted in the explanation that it was "like most days.")

That leads to a screen that looks like this:

Elsewhere, you can enter information about service providers and others -- the information is quick to enter and offers suggested tags. I put in Integrated Development Services, the people who provide the therapists for the boys 5 days a week. The information you're allowed to provide is supposed to be limited to 1 sentence about the provider; I question whether that's truly helpful.

I then went looking for other services to see what was there. The boys recently had to stop occupational therapy because we can't afford the co-pay (thanks, Republicans!) each week, so I went to see if there were occupational therapists in our area that I could contact who might have a lower (or no) co-pay.

The search itself is simple: type occupational therapy and your location and get a list of providers listed there -- but the six providers suggested for me had no information about them at all, beyond their office address. There wasn't even a way to click to contact them by email, on or off the site, making it somewhat less than useful.

I also looked for "sports leagues," as I've been trying to find a league that is autism-friendly so I could get the boys involved in soccer (I'm not a big fan of soccer, but it seems like it would be the easiest sport for them to play.) Under sports leagues I got these results within 20 miles of Middleton:

Again, there was almost no useful information under those tabs. I clicked on "Middleton Sport Bowl", which is only a few minutes from our house, because I thought an autism-friendly bowling league might be just as good as soccer, but found only an address and this review, from 18 months ago:

1/31/10 Middleton Sport Bowl is a classic neighborhood bar and bowling alley. They updated the Bowl a few years ago and it's a nice bowling alley. You can always run into a familiar face, having fun, and eating good bar food.

Frankly, that looks like it was posted on the Middleton Sports Bowl fan page, and isn't in any way helpful to someone with autism or a child with autism; what I was looking for was whether they have leagues, or "sensory friendly" days or times that it's less crowded (and therefore less noisy and easier to police children.)

I've only just found the site, so I'll keep checking in -- it's obvious to me that it works better as more people use it and provide information; that's how crowdsourcing helps, after all. But the fact that it's been around for over 18 months and hasn't developed a lot of information isn't encouraging for me.

Also discouraging: why aren't there sports leagues for kids with autism? Or mixed-leagues for spectrum- and non-spectrum kids? I can't do everything, here.

Today's Site is: "The World Of Mismatched Socks." Written by a woman with autism about her and her also-autistic brother's lives, this blog is a fascinating look at what life is like for someone on the spectrum. It's funny, interesting, at times a bit sad, and well-written.

The latest post begins like this:

What come to your mind when you think about Hell?? Most people think of fire, brimstone, gnashing of teeth, A Justin Bieber concert, algebra, etc...

Click here to read more

If you have information you think would be helpful for this feature, please
Click here to Email me;
include "autism works" in the subject line.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tomorrow: NASCAR fans protest that the sun doesn't rise in the East. (Quotent Quotables)

Jimmy johnson up for best athlete???? Um nooo .. Driving a car does not show athleticism

-- Golden Tate, on his Twitter account.

Much as I hate to give any publicity to a team owned by a horrible monster of a person, Golden Tate got it right when he posted that after learning of Jimmie Johnson's ESPY nomination. What is it about (some) nonathletes that makes them insist that what they do is athletic, too? Something can require skill, and dexterity, and intelligence, and not be a sport. Not everything is a sport, and if "sitting in a hot car" is a sport, (as one person argued with Tate), then my kids are athletes on par with Jimmie Johnson.

Tate didn't back down, either...

I've driven a car on unknown roads at night at 90mph no big deal. No sign of athletism

Not right away, anyway:

Apologies for my offensive comment to NASCAR fans. I actually read up on it and NO I couldn't race a car 150 mph

But then went right back to it:

me this from a distance who looks like a better athlete ? Lebron making a sick play or a guy or Jimmie riding on circles?

I guarantee u can train someone to drive a car but could u ever train someone to jump 40 inches, run a 4.5 forty??

Before backing down a little again:

I will say my respect for NASCAR has gone up tremendously yalls fans r hard nose and passionate #respect!

Jimmie Johnson even tweeted to him, inviting him to a race.

Can we get something straight, though? Tate's half-hearted backdown notwithstanding, driving is not athletic.

Not even if you're "trained to an extremely high level of fitness," as Johnson reportedly is. Lots of people are very fit. That doesn't make what they do for a living athletic. A partner at my firm is very fit -- he plays soccer six days a week and runs a 7 minute mile. Is bankruptcy law athletic?

So saying NASCAR racers are athletes for their racing is moronic: It doesn't matter how fit they are; it's what they do that matters, and what they do is drive. Yes, they drive fast, and turn left a lot, really fast, but that alone does not require athleticism, any more than driving a car on a videogame does.

(And, by the way, NASCAR is the only televised "sport" that is identical in real life and in videogames: if the NASCAR drivers all sat around and steered an Xbox, the sport would be identical, and wouldn't burn so much fossil fuel. You can't say that about football, or basketball, or even hockey.)

Tate, and I, are not alone in saying that NASCAR drivers aren't athletes. While NASCAR fans were slamming the doors of their trailers shut and throwing cans of PBR at the 'puter screen and scaring the dog they claim they "own" but which really just followed them home one day, one NASCAR driver was agreeing with Tate:

Carl Edwards, generally acknowledged to be one of NASCAR’s best-conditioned drivers, conceded that a driver doesn’t have to be an athlete to race.

(Source.) Will you be better at racing if you're physically fit? Maybe -- the same way you might be better at golfing if you're physically fit, too, and baseball -- golfing and baseball being two activities which have been played at a high level by fat guys:

There's something about some activities, though, that makes people who do them insist that they must be athletes to do them -- as though saying they're not athletes runs down the skill or intelligence needed to play them. It's not something that's confined just to the burnt-rubber-smelling ranks of race fans, though: chess players, too, insist that they're athletic (that being the only time NASCAR fans will be mentioned in the same sentence as chess players.)

Inevitably, NASCAR fans will take umbrage (that means offense, NASCAR fans; it's too bad Budweiser doesn't include trivia inside its caps the way those tea drinks do) at being told their heroes aren't athletes, and will say (as many said to Tate) that you or he or us can't drive a car at 150 miles per hour. To which I say:

A. I can, but you probably don't want to be in the vicinity when I do, because I will probably still try to check my email on my phone, and

B. I can say that you don't have to be an athlete to play golf (or drive a car at 150 miles per hour) without necessarily meaning that I can do it as well as the next guy; that's obviously not true -- different people don't have the same skill level at the same things, athletic or not, and my saying that guy isn't an athlete doesn't mean I'm saying that guy is just as much of a loser as I am or I can do what he does.

C. I only say that about NFL kickers. When I make fun of them, I mean that: I can do what they do. (I can't, but I still say it.)

So Tate saying that Jimmie Johnson isn't the athlete of the year because NASCAR isn't athletic is not only true, but also not an insult. He shouldn't have backed down, no matter how many NASCARites took to the Twitter to yell at him:

"Hun, you gotta get offa that 'puter and shut off your online restaurant managin' course; some dumb football player is makin' fun of racers, and I'm fixin' to put him in his place."

"You jes sit back, Earl. I ain't doin' that course. I'm lookin' at the pictures of Jeannie's cabbages she's growin, so you can go yell at someone later on. And take the trash out!"

"Billy Ray Cyrus ain't never had to wait to use a computer to set things straight."

"Billy Ray Cyrus got his girl to make them all millionaires. All you got your girl to do was learn how to steal my Marlboros."

Yeah. Something like that.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I, for one, would like a comic book about Elin, instead. (Thursday's Sporting Lists)

Did you hear that there's going to be an unauthorized biography of Tiger Woods, in comic book form? Titled "Fame: Tiger Woods," the bio comes from a company that's already immortalized Michelle Obama and Lady GaGa in 4-color format, and is a must-not-read for anyone who's not dying to see Elin as drawn by comic book nerds.

Having already once pointed out the NFL's ill-advised foray into comic book-dom, I am what you would call an "expert" on comic books/sports crossovers, if by expert you mean "someone who just looked some stuff up when he should have been working." And so here is my

List of Comic Books That Somehow Involved Sports:

1. Pep Morgan: How'd you like to be the guy replaced by Superman? Pep Morgan was a 1930s comic book version of Don Majikowski (you better get that reference!) or Wally Pipp (and that one): A young athlete who starred in his own comic book series, typically about Pep's playing in team sports, until one day they renamed the series Action Comics, which, with Issue 1, saw Pep kicked out of the series in favor of superheroes, and relegated to a series that lasted only 3 more years.

2. Babe Ruth Sports: Beginning in 1949, the year after the Babe died, this series featured real-life sports heroes in both real and fictional situations.

3. Superman v. Muhammad Ali:
The title, like the cake, is a lie*

*Note: I don't know what The cake is a lie means. I just like to say it.
In that the real fight in this 72-page comic released in 1978 isn't between Ali and Superman; the two only fought because Ali is revealed to be opposed to immigrants taking good Americans' jobs, a stance that is revealed when an alien leader threatens to invade Earth unless its greatest champion beats the aliens' champion in a boxing match. Both Superman and Ali volunteer, but Ali objects that Superman is (a) not from Earth, and (b) has super powers. To decide who gets to fight, Ali and Superman face off, but first Superman has to temporarily deprive himself of his powers, and then Ali has to teach Superman how to box. To nobody's surprise, Ali's teaching leaves something to be desired, and he beats Superman, only to then realize that the alien he's facing has super powers.

Along the way, Earth is almost invaded and Ali learns Superman's secret identity. But Ali wins somehow, too. And it's revealed that aliens are super-tricky: Superman, see, had destroyed the alien's real armada, but then, in a double-cross, the aliens decide to invade anyway, using their backup armada -- a ploy no other armada-using race had ever thought up. I'm surprised that history's tactical geniuses never thought to build two armadas and/or to read DC Comic Books instead of Sun Tzu's The Art Of War.

4. Comic Book Heroes:
Technically, not a comic book at all, the band "Comic Book Heroes" song "Move Out Of The Way" was chosen by ESPN as the featured song for their NASCAR coverage for 2010.

The Guardians: Not that long ago, the NHL and Stan Lee's entertainment group came up with an idea: Make a full new group of Superheroes, one for each NHL team, and then, for each superhero, have "a creative concept that organically and authentically incorporates various NHL elements but is not set in the world of hockey."

Which makes you wonder -- if it's not hockey based, why bother tying it into the NHL? What's the comic-book/hockey corporate synergy that spawned this beast?

But then, before you can wonder that long, you go to The Guardian Project home page, where you can find all 30 Guardians and their bios, and you can find, in particular,

The Blue:

In case you can't read that bio without enlarging the picture, let me summarize: The Blue wears a living trenchcoat and plays a telepathic, mind-controlling saxophone.

But there's also

The Duck:

A wet-suit wearing surfing inventor.

But my favorite Guardian, of the three I read about, is

The Maple Leaf:

gentle giant whose main superpower is being immobile, but whose secondary powers are grabbing innocent people and/or shooting sticky sap at them. He's like Lenny from Of Mice And Men, if Lenny were gross.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The (Mostly Hypothetical) NFL Preview: St. Louis Rams (and a call to action.)

The Team: St. Louis Rams.

Quick Recap:
So Sunday, when there was nothing on the radio except ESPN sports talk, and I didn't feel like listening to my old cassette tapes of Vince Guaraldi:

I overheard a snippet of guys talking about how the NFL lockout was supposed to end this week. As a general rule, I almost never listen to ESPN anymore. After giving up on Mike & Mike when they decided actively support a dog killer simply because he was better than Kevin Kolb, it was surprisingly easy to not listen to any ESPN anymore, and you'd be surprised how little you miss the complete lack of analysis, repetition of topics over the course of a day, and would-be catch phrases.

If you ask me, the worst thing ESPN did was popularize the use of jargon, catch phrases and quips in sports "reporting." (I say "reporting" in quotes because it's just sports, guys, and sports is the second-lowest rung of the Entertainment "News" Ladder, "news" in quotes being news we don't really need.)

This is that ladder:

1. Movies starring Helen Mirren.
2. Movies which don't involve "former reality stars."
3. All other movies.
4. Celebrities doing charity work.
5. Celebrities.
6. Celebrity babies.
7. Celebrity marriages/Rebecca Black's Friday (tie)
8. TV shows.
9. TV shows on Fox.
10. Music from bands I like.
11. All other music.
12. Anything Kardashian.
13. Books.
14. Stories about video games.
15. Stories about video games nobody will ever play, like "L.A. Noire."
16. Art.
17. Things that are only art for rich people.
18. Sports.
19. Pete Wentz.

So anyway, I was listening to ESPN because nothing else was on, and hearing a bunch of catch phrases -- honestly, it was nothing but -- and finally the guys on the radio said, with no attribution whatsoever, that the strike would end this week, "probably Thursday," which then caused me to listen more closely to find out whether they had anything to base that on, but 20 minutes of listening later, I had been treated to a "discussion" of Sam Bradford's pay and absolutely no reasons to support the tossed-out conclusion that the strike would end Thursday.

Which: (a) It's not a strike, it's a lockout, and there's a difference, and (b) is there a Mock Lockout Analysis, like the Mock Drafts, in which all the "experts" are simply going to toss out lists of days they think the strike will end? Will Mel Kiper have it ending Thursday, but Friday is moving up the boards quickly?

The discussion of Sam Bradford's pay, too, was remarkable for it's hypothetical quality, as the hosts kept peppering the discussion with assumptions and maybes and the like.

You are sports "reporters." You know you're doing a radio show. You can't spend 2 minutes looking up Bradford on Wikipedia before you go up?

Bradford presumably played into the lockout talks because his contract is the richest ever given to a rookie, at least until Cam Newton gets overpaid by the Carolina Panthers this year. Bradford is guaranteed $50 million by the Rams, and don't $*#&#%($ tell me we don't have enough money to pay for health care reform. 19 of the 32 NFL teams had payrolls over $100 million in 2009-2010. The other 13 were all over $80,000,000 in payroll. That's not salary cap; that's money they paid out.

And all of that money was paid into the NFL voluntarily by fans and advertisers. Voluntarily. All of it. That's a minimum of $2,560,000,000 -- two billion dollars given voluntarily by fans and advertisers to the NFL in 2009-2010, the period of time spanning the worst economy anyone alive can remember. (I used $80,000,000 x 32 to get that figure.)

If we instituted a 1% payroll tax on NFL teams, annually, it would raise $25,600,000. And that cost would be passed on through luxury boxes, season ticket sales, merchandise, and, God Forbid, a modest 1% reduction in the amount of salaries players earn.

Do you think Sam Bradford could live with only having $49,500,000 guaranteed to be paid to him over his lifetime?

So that's your St. Louis Rams: They overpaid a rookie quarterback last year, helping ensure that money would be given to 22-year-olds who can never use that money in their lifetime, and even with that they couldn't beat the Seahawks, whose owner is such a selfish monster that he spends nearly $400,000 a week on his yacht, and while you were watching that game, people like Nikki White died of a treatable disease.

Sorry. I just find it hard to care much about football as I'm watching the country fall apart and selfish people keep getting their way.

If you ask me, fans of the NFL have a moral obligation to do something about it. I suggest that this year, instead of investing in any new NFL gear -- no Madden 2012 for you, no new Buffalo Bills jersey for me, no inflatable Steelers chair for whatever loser would buy that -- the fans take the money they would have spent on the NFL, and instead send it to a charity that will do something beneficial for people who aren't 22-year-olds gifted with the ability to throw a football 70 yards.

I was going to say we could donate it to Sam Bradford's charity, but is a dead link and Google searching for "Sam Bradford's Charity" shows him volunteering for a golf outing but not much else.

Keep in mind that Bradford will be paid $50,000,000 over his lifetime. If he lives 100 more years, he can spent $500,000 per year and not run out of money. If Bradford took 1/2 his money and gave it to charity, he would still have over $10,000 per month to spend every single month of his life for 100 years. Why doesn't he have a charity?

Since my kids have autism, I'm going to suggest that the money you would have spent on the NFL this year be given to Autism Speaks. This group advocates for people with autism and helps support research into finding treatments for the condition. Clicking that link (or this one) will take you their donations page.

But you can find your own charity -- Charity Navigator will help you pick a worthy one.

And, to make a point, I suggest that every NFL fan do this on the same day -- and skip football that week. I won't make you miss your team's opening week. Instead, I'll pick Week 3 of the NFL season.

So here's the plan: On Week 3 of the NFL season, NFL fans who truly care about people will NOT WATCH ANY NFL FOOTBALL, and will on that day donate at least $5, or some of their time, to the charity of their choice.

I hope that by doing this, we can bring attention not just to the fact that this is a truly rich country which owes it to the less fortunate to help them out, but also to the fact that there are many many Sam Bradfords and others who earn supermoney and who have a moral obligation to not hoard money and instead to help others.

Remember: The WEEK 3 NFL Protest. Spread it around.

I'll finish up the Rams some other time. I've lost my appetite for football today.

Bad Guys! Good Guys! Other Guys!

and Bai Ling, all in Petty Cash.

Petty Cash is the hottest new thriller around, a stunning work of art from indie director Ross Bigley. Starring Bai Ling, it... Oh, heck. Why bother telling you when I can showing you (or something like that?)

Petty Cash Trailer from Dirty Job Films</

Thursday, July 7, 2011

By naming them, I may be creating a whole new group of irrelevants... I have to think this through. (Thursday's Sporting Lists)

With 1,500 unemployed NFL players adding to the joblessness numbers, there's a chance that every NFL player you can name will be deemed "Mr. Irrelevant" this year, at least until they go out and start committing all that crime Ray Lewis says will happen if the NFL season doesn't happen.

Tradigtionally, the media calls the last player taken in the draft "Mr Irrelevant," a tradition that started in 1976. But the real Mr. Irrelevant is not the last player taken -- that player gets all sorts of attention bestowed upon him, as the last player taken in the draft.

No, as Sweetie pointed out, the truly irrelevant player is the second-to-last player taken: The guy unlucky enough to be taken by a team (and lose the right to negotiate as a free agent) but unlucky enough to be taken second-to-last, so he doesn't get all the attention and free stuff Mr Irrelevant gets.

To give The Real Mr. Irrelevants some props, here's your Thursday Sporting List of

The REAL Mr Irrelevants:
Selected Players Who Were Taken Second-To-Last In The Draft:

1. Bill Kenney, 1978: Kenney was picked second-to-last in that draft -- but then got the Mr Irrelevant prizes anyway when the actual last pick got a back injury and didn't report to camp. Kennedy played 9 years at QB for the Chiefs and the Redskins -- but his career actually started 2 years after he was drafted; the Dolphins picked him in 1978, but then cut him in training camp, and he didn't sign with the Chiefs until 1980. Kennedy later served as a state senator in Kansas.

2. Stan Woodfill, 1976: The first True Mr Irrelevant, Stan was the 2d-to-last pick in 1976, a kicker out of Oregon drafted by the Dallas Cowboys as pick number 486 in the then-17-round draft. has no statistics for him, and notes his career as lasting 0 years. Other profiles of him note that he played at Oregon, and his year of birth. And that is all the world will ever know about Stan Woodfill.

3. Alfonso Boone, 2000: The first second-to-last pick of the new millennium -- or the last-second-to-last pick of the old millennium, depending on how much of a loser you are -- Alfonso Boone was drafted by the Detroit Lions, but made his career debut for the Bears, playing for them for 9 years (including appearing in their Super Bowl) until he landed on the Chargers, where he is still on the roster. Boone took a hard path to the NFL - -his first college dropped the football program after his freshman year.

4. Howard Smothers, 1995: Howard, taken 248th by the Eagles, is apparently no relation to these guys:

and while he played (according to zero seasons, he was important enough to be listed as having a November 16th birthday on this site, which apparently ranks Howard Smothers as equal in birthday-date-knowing-importance with other famous people born on November 16, people like Maggie Gyllenhaal, Marg Helgenberger, and Chinua Achebe, who wrote the book Things Fall Apart, which I was supposed to read in 10th grade but never did.

5. Ken McMichel, 1990: Drafted 330th by the team then known as the Phoenix Cardinals before the owners did the dubious marketing maneuver of expanding the geographical pull -- really, fans? You really are more likely to root for a team if it seems to encompass your geographical area? If that's the case, why doesn't some team, say the Jaguars, change their name to the United States Jaguars?

Or, even better, to the United States Navy Seal Team 6?

Ken has been missing since then; in fact, the Oklahoma Sooners are looking for him, so if you bump into Ken, let him know.

6. Chris Neild, 2011: Before the draft, said this about Neild:
the unsung hero of West Virginia's defense... Neild is just starting to show up on most NFL draft boards. He is a late round selection at best right now, but there is plenty of room for him to move up once teams analyze a little more tape and see him without his pads on. If Neild can have some solid workouts between now and April, do not be surprised if he keeps sneaking up the draft boards and he ends up being taken in the fourth of fifth round.

Neild didn't get that high -- he was second-to-last this year, taken by the Redskins, who were so psyched that they posted about him on Youtube!

$10 says he's cut by the end of camp.

7. Josh Hull, 2010: A linebacker from Penn State, Josh came tantalizingly close to being on the worst team to ever make the playoffs, but a last-game loss by his St. Louis Rams to the Seahawks (a team owned by a horrible human being who deserves your ridicule) sent the Seahawks to the playoffs and Josh home. Hull also lettered in baseball, and was an academic all-american studying environmental engineering.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Can we afford to end the pro sports lockouts?

I hate to get all serious here, but I've been spending the morning alternating between listening to my podcast of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, drinking coffee at my office feverishly because I keep forgetting to buy it for home and don't feel right about stealing it from my job, and wondering if there will ever come a time that I can afford to take my family to a professional sports game.

I've tried a couple of times, over the years, to take the kids to some sporting event or another. Not because I like seeing sports in person; I think the worst way to watch a game is sitting in the stands. Who wants to sit on an uncomfortable seat next to a bunch of rowdy, drunken strangers who'll probably start swearing/vomiting any moment, only to not get much of a glimpse of the game?

True story: I took Middle Daughter and The Boy to a Wisconsin Badgers game once; our seats were near the south end zone, up about halfway. We couldn't see a dang thing. Stuff we missed included the opposing starting quarterback being knocked out of the game, something I didn't learn about until I read about the game the next day.

True story, too: That game was UW-Northern Illinois, the only Badger game I can routinely afford to take the kids to see, because we know a lawyer who has season tickets and he'll sell us that game (or the other patsy game, if we want) cheap.

This year, tickets to a UW Big-10 football game are $49 apiece. I have five kids, so if my wife and I wanted to take them to see a game, getting in the door will cost us $350. Even if I took just 1 kid at a time, it'd be $100 to see the Badgers play a name-brand football team.

That's not counting refreshments or other optional stuff.

At the pro level, it's even worse. The cheapest seats to a Milwaukee Brewers game are $8 "Bernie's Terrace." This is the view from there:

The next level up is in the bleachers, $20 to $30 per seat. That doesn't count parking; if you don't want to pay for parking at Miller Park, you can walk about 2 miles to save on that fee.

So to take 1 kid at a time costs me $16, if I don't actually want to see the game, or $40 if I do.

You can't buy Green Bay Packer tickets on the open market. They're always sold out, and if you want to buy them, you have to buy them from a season ticket holder. So I didn't even check on those.

Ticket prices for professional sports are rising far faster than the price of other consumer goods. Between 2009 and 2010, NFL ticket prices rose 64% (according to FanSnap), from an average of $154 to an average of $252.

The FanSnap statistics require some interpretation and skepticism. First, a national average is a little misleading; the average price of an NFL ticket takes into account the very pricey tickets at some venues, and some teams charge more than others.

According to the article I got that stat from, the lowest average price for an NFL team ticket in 2009 was $90 for the Tennessee Titans; the highest 2009 average ticket price was $280 for the San Diego chargers. The site says that in 2010, San Diego dropped their average price to $271 while the Titans more than doubled their average, to $199.

It's not clear whether the increase was an all-around increase in ticket prices, or merely the addition of some higher-priced seats that drove up the average, either, so I did some checking.

The Titans' single-game ticket prices in 2011 will range from $43 to $83, according to this article. (That alone calls some of the other data from the FanSnap site into question; the Titans' article says they haven't raised prices in 2 years, and it's impossible to have an average ticket price of $199 when the maximum price of a ticket is $83; again, I don't know how FanSnap calculated their averages or where they got their data from, so I'm not vouching for the credibility of those facts. That's why I'm investigating.) The Titans said they were keeping prices steady to help fans out, given the economy.

San Diego, meanwhile, dropped the prices of some of their end zone tickets from $63 to $54, but did so not as an economic measure but an on-the-field strategy:

“We think lowering the price of these 6,500 season seats gives us the best chance to fill Qualcomm Stadium next year,” Chargers Executive Vice President A.G. Spanos said in a team-issued release. “A full, loud stadium gives us the strongest home-field advantage and allows the fans at home to enjoy the game as well.”
(Source.) The seats with reduced prices aree the top-tier of the end zone seating in the stadium bowl. Seats in the second-tier area of the stadium, along the sidelines, begin at $98.

By whatever measure, tickets to professional events are extraordinarily expensive. Upper level end zone seats to a football game, with nothing extra, would run me and one child $86 in San Diego.

By comparison, I can get a ticket to Six Flags near Chicago for $40 (online), a 1-day ticket to Disney World is $74 for kids, $80 for adults, a five-hour fishing and crabbing charter trip in Oregon costs $70 a person, and a 3-hour mule tour of the Grand Canyon will run me $118.50 per person.. but they include a snack.

So this:

Costs about the same as this:

And they're both more expensive than this:

Now, owners and players should think carefully about continuing the lockouts that now affect two of the three major sports in the country; if the costs are about the same, then if a season is partially or wholly cancelled, there are going to be those who opt to do other things on Sunday afternoons, and once habits change, they'll be slow to change back. People who might have bought tickets this year might instead go to an amusement park or use the money for something on vacation, and they may not come fully back to football.

But fans should think carefully about whether we want them to come back.

As a general rule, owning an NFL team is more or less akin to owning a dollar-bill printing press. Since 1998 (when Forbes first began tracking) NFL team values have increased every year until 2009. In 2009, the values of teams dipped 2%. (By comparison, home values across the country dropped 13.2% in 2009.) But that dip was accompanied by an increase in actual revenue -- a raise, to laypeople -- with annual TV revenues of $95.8 million per team. (That doesn't include seating, concessions, and pro shop sales, all of which are team-specific.)

The poster child for why the NFL's owners want to get a bigger share of the TV pie is the Green Bay Packer franchise; according to the same Forbes article, increases in player costs for the Packers rose, cutting the Packers operating profits -- that's profits, money left over after expenses -- to $10 million, down from $20 million.

That is, the league's owners want the players to make concessions because the only team which will publicly share its books made only $10 million in profit in 2009.

The NFL teams' average operating income was a record $33 million in 2009. "Operating income" is the income teams have after paying all expenses except taxes and interest.)

Almost none of that money comes from fan revenues -- ticket sales. The Redskins in 2009 had operating revenues of $202 million, which doubled the previous year's money. So in 2008, the Redskins had $101 million in operating revenue. How'd they double that income? Some of it came from increased seating for regular folks, but most of it came from "premium" seating and selling the stadium's naming rights.

The naming rights bring in $7.6 million per year. I don't know how much the "Premium Club" brings in; I wasn't able to find the cost, but you can see what you get here.

The stadium itself has been sold out since 1990, so adding seats no doubt increased the team revenue. The stadium seats 91,704 people. I also couldn't find the official price for tickets, although I found plenty of articles noting that the Redskins would refund fans for any games which are scrapped by the lockout, an ironic twist from a team that sued a 72-year-old season ticket holder whose financial problems prevented her from buying the second year of her contract.

But if you assume that FanSnap highest-ticket price of $252 is the ticket price for every single seat at FedEx field, then the Redskins bring in $184,875,264 per year (91,704 x $252 x 8 home games.) That is, if the Redskins charged the absolute highest average price for every single seat, they could get $184,000,000 a year from fans.

The point of that is that even by charging top-tier prices for the worst seats in the house, a team cannot get much more than they already get from other sources (and if they did raise those prices, the other revenue sources, if they remained the same, would simply push up profits.)

Should teams charge $252 (or more) per seat? Should it cost $504 for me to take one of my kids to a game?

Not that I'm letting players off the hook. Players are complaining that their playing time is limited and that they need to make as much money as possible because of injuries and because they need to go on to other careers after they play, arguments which don't make sense if you parse them out, and arguments which also leave off the hook, entirely, the very very selfish top tier of players who are screwing over their teammates.

First, the complaint that playing time is limited.

An average major leaguer plays for 5.6 years. That stat doesn't seem to include time spent in the minors, and doesn't include pitchers.

In 1999, TIME reported that the average NBA career was 4.82 years.

In the NFL, an average career lasts 3.5 years.

Now, don't worry about average salaries; those are driven up by selfish players that are wrecking your team; more on that in a second. Look at league minimums: the minimum amount guaranteed to play in the league for that average career. (And consider: what's the mandated minimum for your field? Probably zero.)

In baseball, you'll get at least $400,000 per year. The NBA guarantees everyone at least $473,604 per year. The NFL is the stingiest: just $325,000 per year must be paid to a given player.

In other words, the average baseball player can expect over the course of his average career to earn $2,240,000. The average basketballer will get $2,282,771 over his time in the NBA. And football players can expect to earn $1,1375,00 before they're shown the door.

Which is to say, if you're good enough to make it to being an average professional sports player, by the time you're about 26, you've earned at least $1,000,000.

Now, once those guys are done with their average careers, nothing says they can't go work someplace else; you can be a running back and then go sell insurance, or teach high school, or work in my office. (I'd probably hire you, especially if you had played for the Buffalo Bills.)

But even if you just stopped earning after leaving your pro sports career, you're doing okay. The average male with a college degree earns between $39,150 and $60,493 per year; if you've only got some college, that drops to $31,000- $49,000. So the average mid-20s guy is earning, say, $50,000 per year by the time he's in his mid-twenties. If he began working at 22, just like many pro players do, that guy has, after three year, earned $150,000.


So you NFL players who have earned a minimum of $1,000,000 when you're done with your three years, you have outearned your old college bros by a factor of ten. And you may be luckier: playing three years gets you vested in the NFL pension plan, which kicks in at 55 but which can be tapped into earlier (with reduced benefits.) (That may be subject to change as the two sides negotiate the new collective bargaining agreement.)

If the NFL players, and NBA players, and others, who earned the league minimum simply spent $100,000 per year -- a good living for a twentysomething -- they would have enough money, guaranteed, to get them through their twenties, providing a pretty ample amount of time to land a new career post-sports.

So they need to maximize their earnings during those three years?


They need to minimize their spending. Players costs are the rising tide of the leagues and the owners are locking out players and ending our sports in part to feed their own greed, but in part to feed players' greed.

Nobody needs to earn more than $200,000 per year, in the first place. But saying that $375,000 per year, or more, is not enough is ridiculous and insulting.

And it keeps me from taking my kids to the game.

As I said, too, players who play for only a few years argue that they then need to go into other careers, and that's why they need more money. That argument, frankly, is a load of bull. What other career choice lets you charge people to train you to do something else?

The NFL trains players to do something other than play; they have a whole career development center that trains them to do something other than what their teams are paying them to do.

Try that with your boss: say "I think that we should set up a program which will help me develop a career to do after I'm done working here." Then add "And you should pay for it." Then hope that you get that training fast, because you're not going to last long at that job.

But, hey, that's the deal the players struck, so I can't fault them for wanting as much money as possible, right?

Sure I can, if they're taking it from me -- if they're making me pay $18 for a Brewers t-shirt (or more) and $100 to take one of my kids to a game, and if they're moving more games to cable and satellite to drive up the prices of the games that I watch at home, all so that players can outearn me 10-1 over a few years.

I won't reveal what I make, but I will say that after paying my mortgage and my student loans and our other bills, including a modest amount of groceries, if I were to take my two youngest to a Brewers game and get them some lunch and a souvenir there, that would constitute my spending money for an entire month.

So why shouldn't I begrudge players who claim they need to make more than $375,000 per year, players whose college was paid for on scholarship and who, when they end their probably-brief jaunt through the majors will have had access to millions of dollars more than I'll likely earn in my whole career?

And why shouldn't I especially begrudge the millionaire players who pocket as much money as the rest of the team in endorsements and salary, helping keep my favorite teams mediocre, at best, while driving up the prices for everyone else?

Let's talk Peyton Manning, who everyone feels is a totally good guy and loves and who nobody would attack, except for me, because Peyton Manning is selfish and is hurting his teammates and you.

I've written before about how high-priced players are basically just jerks who favor themselves over teammates and fans, and that analysis is absolutely correct. Peyton Manning just exemplifies it for the NFL, so I'll pick on him.

While players league-wide are complaining about how little they get paid and how they have to maximize their income, the superstars among the league are especially hypocritical on this issue, because they are taking money not only from you and me, in the form of higher ticket and memorabilia prices, but also from their teammates -- which keeps the quality of the team down. In that way, superstars like Manning are their own leveling field, contributing to parity.

In 2007 alone, Peyton Manning earned $13 million from endorsements. Now, if you give a man $13 million just once in his life, he should never need money again. If you were twenty years old and I gave you $13 million, then, if you lived to be 100 years old you could spend $162,000 per year and when you died you'd leave $40,000 to cover your funeral expenses.

Peyton's last contract was in 2004, and gave him $34.5 million as a signing bonus, plus average annual salaries of $14 million. So, since 2004, Peyton Manning has made at least $131,500,000.

Which is to say, Peyton Manning has made $41 per minute since 2004, each and every minute of each and every single day. If you've spent 20 minutes reading this, Peyton Manning just got richer by $820.

How does that hurt his team? In many ways. The most recent negotiations for Manning's new contract tried to free up money to sign new free agents; Indy has signed only four free agents since Manning signed his last contract. And they looked like a team that didn't have much fresh blood in them last year, didn't they?

Manning's contract cost $19 million against the Colts' salary cap in 2010, or nearly 1/6 of the total the Colts could spend on all 53 active players that year. His 2010 salary alone was equal to the two next-highest players on the roster, so the top 3 highest-paid players on the Colts in 2010 took up almost 1/3 of the total amount the team could spend.

That left 10 of the 53 players earning less than $400,000 -- still a good sum of money, but what do you get for $400,000 in the NFL? Rookies or journeymen, and those are the guys who'll play your special teams, be your fourth wideout or third-down back, your backup lineman. Those are the guys who'll keep a playoff run alive if they have to. If they can.

What if Manning had simply cut his salary by $1,000,000 per year -- money he didn't need? Spread that among the bottom tier of the colts and you can pay $100,000 more per year to 10 more players, who now earn more (and so might be higher-quality players, if they signed as free agents.)

Or, what if Manning and the other top 2 had cut their salaries each by $1,000,000 per year, reducing the Colts' operating costs by $3,000,000 per year? The Colts' stadium seats about 70,000. That would amount to one free ticket per fan per year -- or, in other words, would let the Colts reduce prices by an average of $42 per fan per year.

Colts tickets start at $48 apiece. Reducing the price of those tickets would mean the Colts would only have to charge six bucks for the worst seats, and wouldn't harm Manning at all.

I could go on, but I won't.

Every year, I check out the various ticket-resellers, and look into specials, and look for coupons, and otherwise try to find deals which would let me treat my family to a pro sporting event. Again, not because I like going to see the games live, but because I feel like it's something that people should do if they like sports. When I was a kid, my dad took me to Lambeau Field for a playoff game against the Cardinals, and while it was the coldest I've ever been, I've always remembered going to see that game, getting down on the field after a win, and the time spent with my dad.

My brother gave me and my wife tickets to see the Packers play the Bears in Reggie White's last game as a Packer; we went to Soldier Field and spent the time holding our signs up upside down (on accident) and trying to make out what was happening on the field, but it was fun.

I took some of the kids to a Bucks game a few years back, on $10-ticket day. My dad took us to a Brewers' game at Miller Park. Those were fun events, but the fact that I can reel off the list of sporting events I've seen live is indicative of the high cost of the price of admission.

The questions facing the owners and the players in the two major lockouts right now are how can we divide up billions of dollars, and that question is largely academic. There's no wrong way to divide up a billion dollars, really.

But the question facing fans -- and not being asked by players or owners -- is this: How much longer do we want to break the bank to support millionaires and billionaires? How much longer do we want to have our kids sit through three hours of a game (games that are almost always mediocre) when for the same price they could go fishing, or to an amusement park, or go get a new videogame system that'll be around for longer than that?

If the lockout continues into the season, if people start finding other things to do with their Sunday afternoons, the owners and the players may find out the answer to the fans' question. And they may not like it.


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