Thursday Thnotes

Boy, have I been negligent…

A few tidbits:

1) I was on the Box Score Geeks podcast this week with Dre and Brian. Always a pleasure to talk to them. The main topic was authoritarianism, owing to the fact that a certain former football owner has all but secured the Republican nomination for President of these United States. But there were some sports tie-ins, too.

2) Louis Menand had an interesting review essay in the New Yorker – “The Professional Sports Bubble.” Menand included the following data, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“The entire industry rests on the labor of athletes. The number of athletes is actually quite small, but, as a class, they are not getting that much of the money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13,700 people make their living playing spectator sports in the United States (compared with, for example, sixty-nine thousand people who are actors). The median annual wage for athletes is $44,680.” Remember that, for example, there are many more full time professional baseball players in the minor leagues than in the major leagues. And the typical minor leaguer makes less than $30,000 a year (and some, far less). The athletes that do “make it” are a very select few, who’ve run a difficult-to-comprehend cauldron of competition, emerging from a massive of pool of other extraordinarily talented individuals whose athleticism blows away that of the typical person. (You know, just like James Dolan, whose powers of inheritance are second-to-none). And they excel at something that very large numbers of people are willing to pay handsomely to watch.

Speaking of sports bubbles, an ESPN discussion this morning broached the prospect that when Washington National superstar Bryce Harper becomes a free agent, he will sign a contract in the range of half a billion dollars. When he does, just remember that the team that pays him will be able to afford it.

3) Last week, I read Shawn Fury’s highly entertaining Rise and Fire, about the history of the jump shot. (yes, he wrote a full-length book about the jump shot. And yes, I read it).  Fury’s account of the first sightings of the jump shot, in the 1930s and early 1940s, are especially interesting. Not surprisingly, to anyone who pays attention to such things, the shot met with intense criticism from scolds who were convinced that it would destroy the great game that basketball was. You see, before the jump shot, when the traditional method of pitching the ball at the basket was a two-handed set shot typically fired from the chest, players needed to be really open to shoot. This required constant passing and weaving. Thus, basketball games were very low-scoring affairs in which it took arduous effort (in a pre-shot clock era) to find a player open enough to shoot. The jump shot changed that dynamic, allowing individual players to elevate and score on their own, without the benefit of intricate and laborious offensive sets. This, of course, meant the ruination of Western civilization.

In every generation since, critics have lambasted subsequent innovations as the straw that would finally break the camel’s back, the subversion of tradition that would destroy the team game and replace it with an individual free-for-all – in other words, with anarchy and chaos.

Something else I learned from the book – virtually every player in every era believes that the players he played with were the best ever. Imagine that.

4) not specifically a sports story, but with many potential sports tentacles, particularly given looming threats from the NBA and the NCAA about the staging of future events in North Carolina.  North Carolina’s governor continues to try to defend the indefensible – HB2 – the notorious law that would require, if it were to be enforced, every individual to show a birth certificate or their genitalia to enter a bathroom. I wrote an article for Huffington Post on Monday about some of the many ways said governor is making a fool of himself.


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