Weekend Happenings…

Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship yesterday; it was his sixth win in one of golf’s major tournaments.  Even though there are few golfers to have achieved that level of success, that sixth major victory is overshadowed by the fact that Mickelson is 3 weeks short of his 51st birthday today.  Prior to yesterday, the oldest golfer ever to win a major was Julius Boros who was a mere 48 years old, and that “record” had stood since 1968.  According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the sportsbooks there took a beating as a result.

The odds on Mickelson winning the PGA prior to the tournament ranged from 200-1 to 300-1 depending on the book.  As the tournament proceeded, the odds kept dropping but here are some of the payouts that caused “six figure losses” for the sportsbooks:

  • William Hill had 2 bets on Mickelson of $100 at 200-1.
  • DraftKings had a bet of $1000 on Mickelson at 300-1 and another bet of $364 at 250-1.
  • Westgate only had 15 bets on Mickelson prior to the tournament and its largest payout was on a bet of only $18 at 250-1.  The Westgate says they broke even on the tournament.

The next major golf tournament is the US Open which will happen in late June.  It is the only major tournament Mickelson has never won in his career and coming off this win, the head of the Westgate sportsbook estimates that the odds of him winning will start at 50-1 – – not 250-1.

Moving on …  Everyone here knows that I hold Sally Jenkins in high regard as a writer and as a thinker.  However, her column in yesterday’s Washington Post makes a case against the argument she puts forth.  Sally Jenkins and I think alike when it comes to viewing the NCAA as a bunch of venal, money-grubbing parasites and her column yesterday makes a case that the NCAA “sold out” women’s sports in the TV deal that the NCAA reached with CBS and Turner Broadcast Network.  Indeed, the championship events in women’s collegiate sports get short shrift from the TV execs but looking at some numbers makes the case that giving those events short shrift is exactly what those execs should do from a purely business perspective.

TV execs buy broadcast rights in the expectation that those events will draw lots of eyeballs.  So, when Sally Jenkins leads off her column citing the NCAA softball tournament with these facts, you get a sense of the standard set:

“The NCAA softball tournament began this weekend, and the audience for it on ESPN will average more than 1 million viewers per game with the championship series apt to commend almost twice that.   And yet the competitors don’t have a place to shower because the NCAA treats them as ‘less than an afterthought’ as one coach told The Washington Post.”

There is no men’s collegiate softball tournament out there to make a direct comparison, so I had to cobble together some comparable data:

  • There was no College World Series last year but in 2019 the tournament averaged 1.96 million viewers.  That means it played to double the projected audience for this year’s softball tournament.
  • The 2019 Little League World Series averaged 1 million viewers for the tournament.  That is about what the ongoing softball tournament will average.  The collegiate women are not nearly as exploited as the Little Leaguers.  The softball participants do not have to hold bake sales to raise money for transportation to and from the game venues.

There is another economic comparison that is stark:

  • The NCAA women’s basketball championship game last month had 4 million viewers; that is the biggest TV audience for that event since 2014.  Interpret that datum as an indicator that women’s college basketball is on the upswing.
  • The NCAA men’s basketball championship game last month had 16.9 million viewers; that is the smallest TV audience for that event since 1982.  Upswing or not, a “large” TV audience for the women’s championship game was less than 25% of the “small” audience for the men’s championship game.

TV execs are not philanthropists nor are they social activists.  They exist in a competitive world of their own where success is measured in ratings because ratings drive the prices they can charge to advertisers on their broadcasts.  It turns out that the NCAA and the folks at CBS and Turner came to a deal where broadcast rights to March Madness were packaged with rights to other NCAA championship events as well.  One might see that as “selling those other events down the river”; or, one might say that some of those “other events” got a good deal being associated with television rights in the first place.  After all, women’s college basketball and softball are much more lucrative events for television than some other NCAA championships – – for men or women.  Think fencing and/or synchronized swimming …

Over the weekend, another boxing match was announced; I doubt it will reverse the decline that the sport has been in for the last 30 years or so, but it looks to be a real fight and not a celebrity event or something involving a “YouTube sensation”.  Manny Pacquiao will fight Errol Spence, Jr. in August in Las Vegas.  Pacquaio is 42 years old; he has a record of 62-7-2; his last fight was in July 2019.  Spence Jr. has a record of 27-0 with 21 KOs.  The bout will be for these three titles:

  1. WBA Super Welterweight (held by Pacquaio)
  2. WBC Welterweight (held by Spence, Jr.)
  3. IBF Welterweight (held by Spence, Jr.)

Finally, Dwight Perry demonstrated some marketing skills with this commentary in the Seattle Times:

“Browns running back Nick Chubb will soon have his own breakfast cereal, called ‘Chubb Crunch.’

Some other possibilities:

Ricky Williams: Weedies

Sidney Crosby: ForeChex

Philadelphia fans: Jeerios.”

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