Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why do we pay ballplayers truckloads of money? We are idiots!

Remember how Calvin invented his own games?  Calvin had loads of fun inventing his own games and playing them--and it seemed like he never played the same game twice because he was always creating new rules, if not new games.  Like here, for instance:

Now, you might think it is all mere Calvin and Hobbes fun.  Well, think again!

You want to think about the rules in tennis? In cricket?  The strike zone in baseball?  Or, how about trying to explain what "offside" in soccer means?  Or, ...

Once you step outside your fanatical interest in any particular sport, you immediately realize that all those are nothing but variations of Calvinball.  If you are not convinced that it is all Calvinball rules, try explaining, for instance, the rules of cricket to a third generation Cubs fan, or the rules of American football to a maniacal Arsenal hooligan!

Some Calvin in the past came up with a game.  A couple of buddies were the Hobbes.  They played and had fun.  A couple more kids wanted in. Soon, these kids became adults and indoctrinated their kids into the game.

At some point, kids stopped coming up with their own Calvinballs.  I suspect it is not because kids are no longer creative, but it is because adults preclude the creation of Calvinballs by teaching them the bizarre Calvinball rules of other games.

We make Calvinball even worse.  As we grow older, we are even keen on paying others to play Calvinball.  And we pay them gazillions of dollars.  Instead of getting dirty and tired from playing our own Calvinballs, we pay to watch tennis players, and basketballers, and footballers, and golfers play.  One of the most remarkably stupid things that we humans could have ever come up with.  

The British Open Championship in golf is underway.  If you plan on watching it, then think about what kind of crazy Calvinball that is.  A guy hits a tiny ball with a stick, and the goal is to direct that tiny ball into a small hole far away.  Similar to the crazy rules in the comic book version, this real world game involves penalty if the ball falls in the water, or if the player moves the ball even a fraction of an inch.  Is this not Calvinball?

The awful aspect is how we pay shitloads of money to these people playing Calvinball in order to entertain us.  Consider this, for instance: the designated hitter of the Red Sox earns 14,500,000 dollars.  And that is merely for 2013.  What does he have to do for that?  Swing at a ball that is thrown at him and connect with it in a way that produces runs.  That is it.  14.5 million dollars for one year!

Keep in mind that the earnings in the graphic below are only for the latest year, and are not cumulative earnings.
earnings figures include all salaries and bonuses paid out between June 1, 2012 and June 1, 2013. So in the case of baseball players, the listed salary will include salary from the 2012 and 2013 seasons, as well as any signing, award or playoff bonuses. ...
Endorsement income is an estimate of sponsorship deals, appearance fees and licensing fees for the 12 months through June. The golfers income include course design work. We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees and we do not include investment income.

Think for a minute on what MS Dhoni's 31.5 million dollars mean in India.  At about 60 rupees to a dollar, that is about 200,000,000 rupees.  About 200 crores, as they say in India!  Look away from the computer before you puke ;)

As I have noted many times before, the US is not the only country that is so keen on entertainment. At least we are only burning up the money that the Chinese have nowhere else to park.  It is terrible when a country, like India, where hundreds of millions don't even have access to drinking water, spends gazillions on Calvinball.

What is even worse?  The Calvinball playing gazillionaires championing humanitarian causes.  Oh, how their hearts bleed!

But, hey, if we didn't spend the gazillions on Calvinball, then we would not need those celebrities to reach into our wallets--yes, our wallets, not theirs--to spend on research for drugs that can treat, if not cure, diseases.  Or, to build schools in villages somewhere. Or to save that rare species.  Right?

I suppose in our own individual ways, we are all Marie Antoinette saying, "let them have cake" while we are entertained by ballplayers and comedians and singers and actors and .....

I, too, am guilty.  I can't seem to figure out how to make peace with this :(


Ramesh said...

There are very few things in the world that the good Prof should not blog about. Sports is one of those rare areas; for you are clueless about it :)

Of course sports stars are indecently overpaid, but the hoohaahaa about Dhoni is unwarranted. There are a sum total of maybe 5 or 6 Indian cricketers who are zillionaires. A few more cricketers earn a decent wage, but everybody else earns a pittance in sport - one reason why nobody takes it up in India. In every profession there are a handful who are ridiculously paid; not worth any noise.

Sriram Khé said...

I have had my years of having been a sports-crazy fan. Not merely in India ... Including keenly following the Dodgers and USC and Raider football in the US.
Which is why I admit to being guilty here.

I don't fault Dhoni for earning those millions. Or Tiger Woods or any sports person. I blame only the system that is in place, which elevates entertaining people to stratospheric levels. So, yes, the hoohaaha about Dhoni or Woods or anybody else is, ahem, fair game ;)

Like I noted in the blog, I am yet to make my peace with such gross injustices in the world ... a world in which, for instance, economic studies repeatedly show the phenomenal return on investing in drinking water and sanitation facilities, or primary schooling, ... ane, yet, we choose to bypass those investments and entertain ourselves.

This trying to make peace with such very, very jarring reality has been a lifelong struggle, as, I am sure, even my blog often reflects. Way before you and I got re-connected, I authored this piece ...
As I noted there, academic life, and my personal life too, is "a continuous attempt to redraw the line that separates what I teach from how I live."

It has been absolutely easy for me to make up my mind on what most might consider really big issues like atheism or death, or professional and personal disappointments .... It has been easy because they are about me. But, on matters like this, it is one heck of an ongoing conflict ... Am guessing that I will be waging these battles until I die :)

Ramesh said...

Such a dignified response to a provocative comment. You truly are a pleasure to debate with and occasionally needle :)

We are complex beings - Maslow's hierarchy of needs doesn't follow a linear progression. We want some fun in life - not just intellectual or economic advancement, even when it appears illogical. That's why entertainment is so high up in the wants list and consequently rewards those who are good at it disproportionately. I would rather have that than live in a Talibanesque sterile world.

Sriram Khé said...

Oh yeah, I prefer this world to the Taliban world ... not a nanosecond to even think about that.

But, it doesn't have to be this world or the Taliban world kind of a binary choice either, right?

Yes, Maslow indeed. Studies alwys point out that even the poorest people in India, for instance, when they have a little bit of money, "waste" it on alcohol or feasts or ... they are being very rational there, is what research shows. After all, that kind of behavior is also what makes us human!

Sriram Khé said...

More from the wide world of sports ...
On game day, the Dallas Cowboys stadium consumes more electricity than Liberia--yes, more than a country of 3.7 million people!

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