Cognitive Dissonance

Kevin Blackistone is a sports columnist for the Washington Post in addition to being one of the rotating panelists on ESPN’s Around the Horn program.  His columns are usually about things in sports that are apart from games and strategies; importantly, his columns are always well-written and thought provoking.  However, his column here, takes me to a place where worlds collide and where some cognitive dissonance occurs.

Blackistone is aghast that Clemson football coach, Dabo Sweeney, just signed a 10-year contract with Clemson for a total of $93M.  For the record, I am not “aghast”, but I do wonder where all of this is going to end because it surely seems out of control to me.  When you read the column, you will see that Sweeney has also found ways to monetize his name and some of his motivational sayings – things a football player would not be allowed to do.  Blackistone decries the fact that the coach and the school are getting rich while the players are unpaid for their labors.

As everyone here knows, I am not in favor of paying college athletes.  At the same time, I don’t think any coach in any collegiate sport is worth $9.3M per year and I think that every college and university should be taxed on all the revenue that comes in through college athletics.  It is an industry associated with universities; it is not the fundamental mission of that university.

However, here is where I get to the “world’s colliding” …  Blackistone takes the revenue generated by Clemson football last year and divides that number by the number of Clemson scholarship players.  The result is $611,764 per player and Blackistone labels that as “fair market value”.  If that is the case, then those football players are hugely “underpaid” since all they get is a full tuition scholarship out of the deal.  But time out for a moment:

  • Apply that same logic to the Clemson women’s rowing team or women’s cross-country team.  If you divide revenue generated there by number of participants to determine “fair market value” you will get a trivially small number.  Any scholarship athletes there are being hugely “overpaid”.
  • Moreover, the law says Clemson cannot just get rid of those “money losing” / ”economically inefficient” sports.  Title IX will not allow that.

I do not read minds, but I am positive that Kevin Blackistone does not want to revoke Title IX.  However, its existence makes it the case that those football players who are “underpaid” are – at the same time – providing some of the funding that allows the women on the rowing team to compete.  Here is the dichotomy:

  • The NCAA rules create the situation where the players do not get paid – beyond a full tuition scholarship – but the coaches earn regal sums.
  • Federal law creates the situation where the players do not get paid – beyond a full tuition scholarship – and part of the money they generate for the university goes to fund other sports.

There are plenty of inequities there; the football – and basketball – players are the ones on the short end of the stick.  But leaning on a flimsy concept such as an athlete’s “fair market value” is not the path to any sort of remedy.

Moving on …  The first month of baseball is in the books.  There have been some early surprises and as the calendar turns to May tomorrow, here are some things I will be looking for:

  • The Boston Red Sox lost 8 of their first 10 games this year and the Tampa Bay Rays have started the season by posting the best record in MLB.  As of this morning, the Rays are 7.5 games ahead of the Red Sox.  I will be looking to see how that lead holds up towards the end of May…
  • Fernando Tatis, Jr. has been a major factor in the Padres first 29 games posting a batting average of .300 and an OPS of .910.  Given the hype, we should expect Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. to give the Blue Jays a kick-start starting about now.  I will be watching to see how these guys play over the next month or so…
  • The rash of injuries suffered by the Yankees to this point in the season is a huge statistical outlier.  Yet, the Yankees are only 2 games behind the Rays in the AL East.  I will be watching the Yankees to see how they keep things together until at least some of the “regulars” get back to the status of playing more than “simulated games” or “rehab assignments” …

There is another MLB “situation” I will be watching simply because I do not understand why it has not been resolved already.  There are several “good teams” out there who need bullpen upgrades to have a shot at being a “really good team” this year.  Just in the NL East, that situation seems to obtain in Atlanta, Philly and Washington.  At the same time, Craig Kimbrel is still unsigned as a free agent; and while he may not be Mariano Rivera, Kimbrel is an awfully good relief pitcher.  Quo vadis, Craig Kimbrel?

Finally, Greg Cote had this item in the Miami Herald about another MLB relief pitcher:

“Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly strained his back while spending five hours minding the boiling crawfish at a Cajun party for teammates. I blame the Dodgers. His contract prohibited skydiving and motorcycle racing but said nothing of minding boiling crawfish.”

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