Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The older I get, the more I hate college football

In the market economy, we certainly know how to put a price on anything and everything, irrespective of how much we value that item or the work that a person does.

Take for instance the snow that has been piling up in Boston.  Imagine if the workers whose job it is to clear the roads and streets did not show up for work. Or threatened to go on a strike.  We immediately see the value of the work they do, right?  These are real services they provide, without which quite of bit of life in Boston will come to a standstill.  One would think that they will be highly paid.


Or, take elementary school teachers as an example.  We trust them with what pretty much every parent would consider to be the most precious in life--their children.  Teachers who have immense opportunities to shape or ruin their children's futures.   One would think that they will be highly paid.

Instead, you and I and the other billions of humans collectively prefer to pay people for services that we could easily do without.

Take, for instance, the latest news about a college football coach. At the university in the town where I live.
The University of Oregon will pay at least $17.5 million to keep winning football coach Mark Helfrich on his home turf for another five years.
$17.5 million!  Other than this guy who is now spending some of his fortunes on a road trip, I doubt whether any reader of this blog really knows what $17.5 million mean.  I have no freaking clue how to understand that kind of a money.

$17.5 million for coaching a football team.

The market, my friend, knows how to put a price but has no fucking understanding of value!  This is the system that we are stuck with.  Especially when the people can't get enough entertainment in their lives.  To heck with the children in the second grade, but goddammit we shall have entertainment 24x7!

You want more references to understand the distorted and screwed up emphasis on entertainment?
Helfrich’s annual salary is now about six times the UO president’s compensation.
Let me recap.
The coach is for a football team, whose existence is made possible by the university whom the players represent.
Without the university, there will not be students.
Without students, no football team.
The university is there to educate students.
One would think that, therefore, the educator-in-chief, the university president, would be the highest paid officer, right?
But, the coach earns six times what the president is paid!
According to the USA Today coaches salaries database, Helfrich — whose previous annual salary of $2 million ranked 52nd nationally and 10th in the Pac-12 — is now fourth among his Pac-12 counterparts and tied for 22nd nationally with an immediate base-pay raise to $3.15 million.
That, my friend, is how "the market" works!  But, we are stuck with it because the great alternative was infinitely worse.

Keep this in mind the next time you try to convince me, or somebody else, or even yourself, on the glories of the market!

BTW, because a $17.5 million can barely cover the caviar bill:
Some of the fringe benefits in Helfrich’s contract include:
Two courtesy cars.
Membership to the Eugene Country Club and the Downtown Athletic Club.
Use of a skybox suite and 12 tickets to home football games; four tickets to home games of Oregon’s other varsity sports.
Travel for his spouse to regular-season road games and for his spouse and children to postseason games.
Meanwhile, the road cleaning crew in Boston gets ready for another dump on Thursday.  The elementary school teachers spend their own money for supplies.  We pay bullshit jobs quite a bit, and make sure we would attack the real value adders if they asked for an Oliver Twist-more!
in our society, there seems a general rule that, the more obviously one’s work benefits other people, the less one is likely to be paid for it.  Again, an objective measure is hard to find, but one easy way to get a sense is to ask: what would happen were this entire class of people to simply disappear? Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors, or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic. A world without teachers or dock-workers would soon be in trouble, and even one without science fiction writers or ska musicians would clearly be a lesser place. It’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs or legal consultants to similarly vanish.
We are fucked up!

ps: I am sure there will be some who will claim that these are not representative of a free market.  But, hey, that claim is no different from die hard Marxists' claim that the USSR was not practicing true Communism.  So, no point talking about some Utopian version of anything that does not exist on this planet.


Anne in Salem said...

Your P.S. just took away all my fun! I had a fabulous answer all ready to argue with you, and you disallowed it before I could utter a syllable! No fair.

Actually, I'm closer to your thoughts than you might imagine, mostly because I see so little value in professional sports. I can't imagine the amount of money the elite players earn; it's more than I'll earn in the rest of my lifetime. I know many athletes contribute significantly to charities and volunteer time, and the disapproving public doesn't always see or know about these actions, but I cannot rationalize or justify such outrageous salaries.

Except, clearly the market supports them. Stadia sell out even with tickets so expensive just to cover some of the salaries. People watch the games on TV or computers, people watch shows about the games, and people watch "classic" games from years past. Clearly the people want their games - and are willing to pay for them. I wonder how many snow clearers or teachers can afford to attend a live game. I wonder how many pay $200 more on their cable package to watch all the games every weekend. Clearly, there is a market, no matter how incomprehensible to some of us.

Sriram Khé said...

Yep ... there is a market! Which is a sad reflection of who we are as a people :(

I spoilt your fun with the PS, eh ... hehehe ;)

Ramesh said...

Hey - I don't know what $17.5 million is, either :)

Yeah sure it is a ridiculous salary, but I argue against it for reasons different from you and Anne

- Its outrageous because shamateurism means the players are nicked and the coaches earn ridiculously. That's daylight robbery.

- In agreement with Sriram, it is outrageous that public funding has anything to do with this. Let them run a private professional league like the NFL and then let them pay anybody whatever they want.

Sport is entertainment as well. Ditto with movies - stars there are also paid obscene amounts .....

Sriram Khé said...

If even you Ramesh don't know what $17.5 million means ... oh well, no hope for the likes of me :(

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