More on sports and what we value…

I think Coach Dale would agree.

My point in this previous post was NOT that teachers should make “$1 million a year,” or to be more relevant in this case, $6.125 million a year.

My point was that a football coach should NOT.

Let’s relate it to the ongoing discussion about the pay of coaches of women’s teams.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Dawn Staley makes $2.9 million. I think that’s the latest figure.

That, I take it, is the result of her supporters advocating strenuously for her to make more money. Well, congratulations to them, and to her — she’s obviously a great coach. Ask my mom, who gets frustrated any time she can’t get a game featuring Coach Staley’s team on her YouTubeTV account.

But folks, that’s way too much money to pay someone for training people how to throw a ball through a hoop. I think even the main character of one of my fave movies, Coach Norman Dale, would have agreed with me on that. (Also, he would want me to remind all of you that you are to pass at least four times before shooting — team, team, TEAM!)

Oh, but wait, you rise up to shout: $2.9 million is way LESS than Beamer makes, which means hers should be raised even MORE. Well, no, it doesn’t mean that. I mean, you’re right that Beamer makes more. You’re wrong that the way to address it is to raise her pay to the same level.

It’s kind of nuts that someone is paid $2.9 million to, as I say, teach people to throw a ball through a hoop. And it’s more than TWICE as crazy to pay a football coach $6.125 million to teach people to run around and smack into each other really hard — or however you want to describe what it is that he does.

Of course, you’d have a point if you want to argue that he has a bigger job than she does — heading up a larger organization with more employees, more other staff, more players, all sorts of avid constituencies to deal with, etc. And you also have a point when you say what he does brings in more money, from tickets and other things.

But MY point is that the fact that football IS such a big frickin’ deal, with so many people SO excited about it and willing to shell out SO much money for tickets and parking spaces and food and beer for tailgating and little flags to go on their garnet-and-black SUVs, and the extra gas to run their SUVs’ engines for an hour creeping along in the traffic to the game, and their wardrobe of special clothing they wear on game days, and the extra-huge TV to watch the games when they can’t be there, yadda-yadda…

All of THAT shows how messed up our values are, not only in term of where our money goes, but in terms of the time and energy spent. This is something we should ponder.

Anyway, that was the topic of my post. I wasn’t arguing that teachers should be paid $6.125 million. I was saying a football coach should not. And I was saying that a society in which the marketplace allows for him to make that much is a society with pretty confused values…

25 thoughts on “More on sports and what we value…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Oh, and before someone comes at me with a “what about” response asking whether the same goes for baseball, the answer is, yes it does.

    Of course, the problem is worse in football, because more people are even more obsessed by it…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, as to why I had to write this second post to make this other point related to what I wrote before, let me explain…

    I’m been trying in the new year to control myself and keep each post to a single point, and come back to other points later, so I can post more often on more subjects. I’ve been trying to make myself do that for nearly 18 years. When I wrote for print, I had to focus because of the space constraints. Blogging tempts me to try to anticipate every single thing anyone might say in response, and go ahead and address it, and the posts get ridiculously long, and I write fewer of them. Compared to writing for print, this kind of writing weakens discipline — since the space available is limitless. (What is NOT limitless is people’s attention spans, and I’m trying to be mindful of that.)

    Anyway, in writing that earlier post, and trying to keep it focused on one thing, I promised myself that I’d come back and explain another point in a separate post. But I hadn’t done that until now, so thanks to Doug for reminding me of that in a comment….

  3. bud

    I’m glad you’re finally discovering the very real problem of income inequality in this country. Beamer is a very tiny part of the problem. People like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are far more flagrant abusers in a system that gives an inordinate amount of reward for pure lucky breaks.

  4. clark surratt

    Brad, you are reaching to make a point.
    These college football coaches are part of the nation’s exceedingly prolific billion dollar professional entertainment business, like writers, singers, dancers, rappers, actors, pro athletes, etc. If you have the ability to draw the crowds, sponsors, buyers, or TV eyes, you may get what the market will bear. This is worldwide and centuries old.
    Have a good year

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And that’s my point, Clark.

      It’s not about this or that individual. What concerns me is that we, collectively, as a society have such messed-up priorities. The problem is that there IS such a thing as “the nation’s exceedingly prolific billion dollar professional entertainment business”…

      What am I saying should be done about it? There’s no policy decision or anything like that I’m seeking. I’m looking out there at everybody and saying, Let’s get real, people…

      1. Doug Ross

        Do you watch movies? Read books? Or do you shun any enterprise that involves people making more money than you think they deserve?

        Your fallacy in thought is that supporting entertainment and sports is mutually exclusive from supporting teachers. The government gets tax dollars and the corrupt politicians decide to waste it. We have a hospitality tax that goes to arts and other non education pork projects. Push for the tax money to go to teachers intead of arts.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Do me a favor and tell me where I indicated that I was interested in any way in what any individual “deserves?”

          I know that you’re a libertarian, so you see everything in terms of an individual and his or her money, but if you want to have a fight about whether person X “deserves” to make Y amount of money, exchange emails with bud. He’ll argue with you about that all day.

          What I am writing about here is the fact that when we, collectively, as a society, distribute our resources — we’re talking about something that is the combined effect of actions taken by hundreds of millions of individuals — it shows, in the aggregate, what we value as a society.

          Let me say that again (as Joe would say, and which Jason Sudeikis so effectively lampooned) — as a society.

          That should have been clear from the headline — “What do we value?” — and everything that followed it, but let me put it in capital letters to emphasize it further: AS A SOCIETY.

          I know I’m a word person, so let me put it in terms that might be clearer to numbers people: “In 2021, about 134.83 billion gallons (or about 3.21 billion barrels)1 of finished motor gasoline were consumed in the United States.”

          No individual used 134.83 billion gallons. If one did, we might want to put our heads together and give him a list of vehicles with better mileage he might want to switch to. That would be a kindness, I think.

          No. That was the collective action of the population of the United States.

          And that’s kind of the scope of what I’m talking about when I say “What do we value?”

          Another way to draw the line for you would be to say, we’re talking about the values of the spenders — all the spenders — not any recipient.

          Anyway, that’s as many times as I’m going to explain what the post is about. From now on, any comment that undertakes to argue with me about something I did not say — something in which I have no interest — is not going to be approved…

            1. Doug Ross

              Total b.s. There are far, far, many more successful engineers (like myself) who had little to no arts education than those who did. Funding for arts education is perpetuated by people who need to make money off their own arts education. Without the government assistance, there wouldn’t be the demand for their services.

              We’d be far better off as a society if we taught kids personal finance and Excel than how to play Greensleeves on the recorder.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yeah, but what if one of them turned out to be the Jimi Hendrix of recorder players?

                I mean, if we’re going to judge it in terms of ability to earn money…

              2. Bill

                Engineers don’t necessarily have to be good at drawing but they do need to understand technical designs and diagrams, if they want to do their job well they should be well versed in all fields related to engineering. In the fields of civil and mechanical engineering, for example, construction of roads, buildings, walls, dams, mechanical equipment and thermal devices all begin with a design. These designs need to be studied quite thoroughly so that they can be made efficiently in reality. That is the quality of an engineer’s drawing skills. Drawing is a major part of an engineer’s job. Without proper analysis, he can act upon it and no further productive activity can take place.

                Engineering Sketches do many things. basically, they communicate thoughts and to help develop an approach before the engineer begins the official process of the product blueprint.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  It goes both ways.

                  STEM people need the arts — and especially the humanities — to be well-rounded people.

                  Similarly, artists need grounding in math and science…

  5. Barry

    What we- American society- values is clear

    authoritarian types
    political power (if our side is in charge)
    forcing people to believe what we ourselves believe about politics, religion, personal moral values,
    Many of us are very concerned about what others do in their bedrooms or if they use birth control

  6. bud

    Let me play devil’s advocate just a bit. We live in a country that places a great deal of value on market forces setting wages and prices. Conservatives decry government interference in this process, going so far as to suggest the current high rate of inflation is the consequence of government interference in market forces by way of excessive spending. Perhaps they have a point but I find it interesting that as inflation eases conservatives are getting quiet on this issue. So the all important market is working its magic by rewarding skilled, yet rare, football coaches in an entertainment venue that is extremely popular. Wages are high in this profession not because of some societal valuation but rather through a multitude of individual choices that grant a few well placed individuals in a position to take advantage of their skill set, which likely exists in greater abundance than the prevailing wage warrants. Shane Beamer had a built in advantage because of his father’s past success. Shane was able to learn football from a young age and as he matured he already had established contacts that allowed him to showcase these skills. Some poor kid from Cayce is just not positioned to take advantage of his innate abilities the way Shane Beamer could. All this creates an artificial income inequality system that can be somewhat alleviated through the tax code. We really should pay more attention to what Bernie Sanders has been telling us.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thanks for that thoughtful approach, bud.

      I’m still not that interested in Shane Beamer and whether he’s worth all that money. If you accept that society values football enough for him to be able to make that much, then why shouldn’t he?

      My point is, should society value football that much? I say no. Others obviously disagree.

      Lately, I’ve found myself approaching a lot of things in a new way. Well, not entirely new: I guess I’ve started taking my usual forest-over-the-trees approach to a new level.

      I’ve started realizing more fully that so many problems we have are not because of this person or that program or whatever. People tend to think that if you just replace the person, or reform the program, everything is fixed.

      The problems are because of much broader, more complicated phenomena that are hard to understand, much less do anything about.

      The madness over football is one of those things.

      But to show you how my thinking goes, let’s take another example: Trumpism.

      I’ve said from the start that as thoroughly obnoxious as he is, Donald John Trump is not the problem. He’s just the jerk who showed up at the right moment to take advantage of the real problem — the mass insanity in the electorate that would cause millions of voters to do something that the American electorate would nave have done before, which is even consider someone as useless and unsuitable as Trump.

      I remember the America that would have laughed him off the stage. Suddenly (and yes, folks, you can point to all sorts of things that led us here — racism, Reaganism, Social Darwinism, the Tea Party, etc. — but while it almost happened in 2012, it didn’t fully happen until 2016), we are the kind of country that would actually consider electing such a grossly inappropriate person as president.

      Anyway, this — that the problem isn’t Trump, but the sickness that caused people to respond favorably to him — was fairly evident from the start, but it’s become much, much more so. That’s because we’ve watched Trump himself decline in influence in recent months — not that he’s gone, but he’s clearly faded a bit — but the madness continue, as people like DeSantis have worked hard to replace him, and a bunch of yahoos have just taken over the House.

      Aliens could drop down tomorrow and carry Trump away — why they would want him I don’t know, but bear with me — and the problem would still be here.

      And increasingly, I’ve realized that the country won’t be sane and well again until millions of people wake up and realize they’ve been on the wrong course.

      “Good luck with that!” you say, and you’re right. It’s a depressing way of looking at things, because I don’t know how to achieve such a thing. His supporters will no more pay attention to the mountains of evidence that their hero caused what happened on Jan. 6 than football fans will stop and think maybe they should stop being so crazy about a game that causes so much brain damage.

      I don’t have a program for fixing it. It’s taken me this long just to sorta kinda start understanding the problem — at least, understanding it here and there, around the edges, and vaguely intuiting the immensity of the whole…

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