The Intersection Of Sports And Money

The college football bowl games seem determined to command attention far beyond what the games are worth.  In case you were busy alphabetizing your spice cabinet yesterday, there was a real nail-biter in the Miami Beach Bowl game when Tulsa beat Central Michigan 55-10.  But the “bowl game story of the moment” has nothing to do with what will happen on the field; rather it has to do with who will not be on the field.

Last week, Leonard Fournette (RB-LSU) said he would not play for LSU in its bowl game – whichever one they are in.  Yesterday Christian McCaffrey (RB-Stanford) made the same decision with regard to playing for Stanford in its upcoming bowl game.  Both players said they were going to focus on training and preparation for the NFL Draft.  And the commentators were off and running – – so to speak.

Not only do I support Fournette and McCaffrey and their decision here; I wonder why any player who is a likely first round pick in next April’s NFL Draft would risk injury in a stupid bowl game.  In the case of these two players, their decision is doubly smart.  Running backs in the NFL have a short shelf-life and many scouts/GMs try to assess how much “tread is left on the tires” of a potential draftee.  Injury history plays a huge role also in drafting decisions.  So, what is the value returned to the player for taking the field in a meaningless game about a month after the real games are over?

The bowl games are nothing more than a money-grab by bowl organizing committees and schools and TV networks.  Do not tell me about the grand traditions and the history and all that argle-bargle; they are a money-grab with a longstanding marketing campaign.  What Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey have done is to look to an event that was founded purely on economics and made a personal decision that is founded in pure economics.  They will stay home and watch other people play the game.

They are not trying to convince others to skip the contests – although their choices might be a model others could choose to follow.  Their actions are neither seditious nor are they abandoning the institution that will soon be their alma mater.  Enough already …

While I am sort of on the topic of the intersection of football and economics, I read a report about a week ago that said FOX has sold off more than 90% of its advertising slots for the Super Bowl in February.  On the surface, that sounds great but the pace of the sales is lagging compared to last year when all the ad slots were sold out by Thanksgiving.  People who follow the world of marketing and advertising far more closely and analytically than I do opine that the drop in TV ratings for the NFL early in this season is the cause for the lagging sales.  If all that the ad buyers are looking at are ratings numbers, they are likely to continue to be disappointed since this week’s games will fall on Saturday night (Christmas Eve) and Sunday evening (Christmas day).

According to various reports I have read, FOX is charging $5M for a 30-second ad slot in the “premium times” within the game structure.  Per one report, FOX is willing to negotiate that price downward if the ad buyer also purchases some ad time within other FOX TV properties.  In any event, it will be expensive for advertisers to get their message out during Super Bowl LI on 5 February 2017.  Expense or no expense, at least one advertiser figures that the Super Bowl is an ideal vehicle for its product:

  • Avocadoes from Mexico has been a Super Bowl advertiser in the past and has evidently bought time once again this year.
  • According to folks who follow purchasing trends, Super Bowl Sunday is the day of the year when Americans consume more avocadoes than on any other single day as guacamole seems to be a staple culinary option for Super Bowl parties.  Whether one calls it a culinary trend or a social trend, Americans seem to have transformed the day of the Super Bowl game from a time to watch the big game into a day to stuff calories down one’s gullet.

I know it is not going to happen, but what I would love to see for one of the Super Bowl ads from Anheuser Busch is the return of the three Budweiser frogs and Louie the Lizard.  I always thought those were clever advertisements and they have been “gone” for at least 15 years now.  Maybe it is time for a nostalgia trip?

Looking overseas at English football – what we call soccer – the Premier League is about at the halfway point in the season.  At the top of the table – what we call the standings – are the usual suspects; Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United are the top six teams.  You may recall last year that Leicester City “shocked the world” and won the league championship as predicted by just about no one.  So, where are the defending champions this year?

Here are the “Bottom Six” teams at about the hallway mark of the season.  Remember, the three bottom teams at the end of the season are relegated to the Championship which sounds prestigious but it is actually the second division of English football.

  • Leicester City  17 points
  • Burnley FC      17 points
  • Crystal Palace 15 points
  • Sunderland      14 points
  • Swansea City  12 points
  • Hull City          12 points

Relegation involves more than a loss of prestige in English football.  There are 20 teams in the Premier League and the television revenue generated by that league drops almost 100 million pounds into the coffers of each of the 20 teams.  By contrast, teams in the Championship get money from TV contracts in the neighborhood of 3 million pounds.  Avoiding relegation is a big deal in English football…

Finally, here is an item from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“No kidding. Jazz 7-footer Jeff Withey and former Playmate of the Year Kennedy Summers announced their engagement.

“No truth to the rumor they plan to honeymoon at Staples Center.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



10 thoughts on “The Intersection Of Sports And Money”

  1. I don’t have the time to look this up, but I’d bet that if Leicester City finishes the season in the Drop Zone, it would find itself in a very “exclusive” club, indeed.

    1. Peter:

      I do not have time to look for that either at the moment but will try to look once we can put Christmas in the rear view mirror…

  2. Let’s say I am the Selection Director for the Salad Bowl and want to invite State U for my 2017 game. State has a star RB who won the Heisman Trophy in spite of his otherwise mediocre team. Knowing star RB is a likely 1st round pick, would I be justified in telling State U their invitation is contingent on star RB’s commitment to play in the game? What happens if star RB refuses make said commitment? I can imagine the furor that would ensue.

    1. Doug:

      Most bowl games – perhaps not the Salad Bowl – have contractual agreements with conferences to send teams to play. In the situation you describe, you could indeed make such a contingent invitation but I think it would be more trouble for you than it is worth. First, what do you do if the star running back has a fever of 104 on the day of the game and has to be hospitalized? Suppose he is injured two days before the game during a walk-through? Suppose he and his coach conspire to accept your offer with the intent of him not playing due to a late injury? I think you would be setting yourself up for a large helping of tsouris with such an invitation…

    1. Tenacious P:

      I figure if Justice Antonin Scalia can use argle-bargle is a Supreme Court decision, I can use it here…

  3. I would like to see Joe Isuzu make a comeback.. since political correctness has forever deprived me of that childhood favorite, the Frito Bandito… “Ai, ai,ai ai, I am the Frito Bandito…”

    1. Ed:

      Joe Isuzu would be a perfect fit in 2016 with his “nuanced relationship” with the truth – – or as Steven Colbert calls it, “truthiness”…

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