Friday, December 12, 2008

Tsunami of revulsion over sports $

With Major League Baseball's winter meetings in Las Vegas underway, the weather there is nice enough -- sunny and 60 degrees. But there’s a tsunami heading toward the New York Yankees, who just signed a pitcher -- C.C. Sabathia -- to a seven-year, $161 million contract. Sabathia, 6-7, 250, a southpaw, had been throwing baseballs from pitching mounds in the Big Leagues for the last eight seasons, mostly for the Cleveland Indians.

In 2009, based on his career stats -- an average of 207 innings per year -- Sabathia will make approximately $111,111.00 per inning pitched this season. In each of those innings he will throw about a dozen pitches, which will take him some 10 minutes. In most games he will throw something less than nine innings, usually six or seven.

Nice work ... if you can get it.

By April, when the season starts, there’s a good chance a lot of baseball fans will be out of work, probably more than are today. Some of them will be able to afford to go to games at the new zillion dollar Yankee Stadium. Many will not. So, they’ll have to watch the games on television.

Of course, for the Yankees fans who’ve had their cable TV disconnected, they’ll have to follow Sabathia’s adventures some other way. Newspaper? Maybe not.

The salaries of professional athletes have been popping eyes for decades. But the money was there, so capitalism has been good to star players. It’s been good to the owners of the teams and ESPN, too. In general, sports fans have seemed content with all that. The large money came from fans who paid for seats, and even more so from companies aiming an advertising message at those fans.

Well, in case you haven‘t noticed broadcast advertising is diminishing. Newspapers advertising is disappearing. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Yes, the money surrounding sports has been vulgar for a long time. In easy times, it was shrugged it off as inevitable. Now times are changing fast and the revulsion factor is on its way to reaching a tipping point.

So, all across the land, what has been a simmering disgust with publicly-financed stadiums is on its way to that tipping point, too. To get local, Richmond is in the same boat as the rest of America. Dig it: Richmond will not build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom.

The public’s patience with millionaire snotty poseurs who cheat to win, and lie about it afterward, like pitcher Roger Clemens, is inching toward that tipping point.

The money that propped up the wretched excesses of professional sports is running out. The tsunami of public revulsion won‘t just punish the New York Yankees. It‘s going to change the relationship between sports and money forever.

Brother, can you spare $161 million?

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