Just like the rest of us

A quick pet peeve, while working on a post about the all-important issue of why Bill Simmons was dead wrong to say that Dirk Nowitzki is the fifth most valuable player in the league.

James Harden said yesterday that he wouldn’t shave his beard for a million dollars. This touched off a discussion on Mike and Mike this morning about what people would and wouldn’t do for a million clams. All fine and in good fun. At one point, Greenie noted that a million dollars isn’t actually all that much money for Harden, who signed an $80 million contract last year. Real money, for a guy like Harden might be more like ten million bucks. Greenie then averred that Harden is atypical in this regard, and that for “most of us,” a million bucks is a lot of dough.

The pet peeve – celebrity sports talking heads talking about players’ salaries, wealth and so forth as if they are “just like us.” News flash. They’re not. As best as I can tell, Greenie and Golic make $2.5 million per year. According to the Census Bureau, in 2012 median household income in the United States was about $51,000. That means that, roughly speaking, the two Mikes each make fifty times the median income in the United States. Greenie and Golic aren’t one-percenters. They are in much more rarefied air than that – they are 0.1 percenters, among a relative handful of the most well remunerated Americans. I know a million dollars isn’t pocket change, even for them. But the bottom line is that they live lives of wealth and privilege that most people cannot fathom.

The coin of the realm in sports talk radio continues to be how well you communicate that you are an “every man,” just another sports junkie who happens to have a platform that most people don’t, from which you speak for the masses of (mostly) guys who are just like you. Golic is in a bit of a different position because he’s a retired pro athlete, understood to be different in that critical respect from virtually all of his audience. Both Mikes do, however, play to their base when it comes to discussions of wealth and money. So as Golic often says, “just stop it.” You’re not like us. I don’t personally begrudge them their salaries at all (I think people who make that kind of money should pay more in taxes, especially since it turns out the world doesn’t end when they do, but that’s another story). Our elite sports commentators are not every men. They are celebrities in every sense of that term, including in how differently they experience money than do ordinary Janes and Joes.

On this score, I think it would be more honest to drop the faux populism.

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4 comments

  1. I’d be much more interested if they converted the conversation into the frame of “What is the average percentage of annual income require to get people to do things that are embarrassing or against their preferences?” version of this question. That would be a great academic study. I would be interested to see if relatively poorer people have an average percentage equivalent to relatively richer or even exceptionally rich people.

  2. JW–I believe the equation would be written as thus: (D$–0.1%ers=C2$>MI$). That is, when “faux populism” requires “Closeted Celebrities” (C2) such as Greenburg and Golic to “distance” (D) themselves and their earnings ($) from the elite (0.1%ers), said distance becomes greater (>) as C2’s $ extends further from the average Jane’s and Joe’s (MI) earnings ($).

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