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Boomer Bytes #61: March Madness – Really?

Editor’s Note: Below is another column in Steve Canipe’s series called Boomer Bytes. The column, as the title suggests, will focus on a variety of topics that may be of interest to baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. But Canipe also hopes to start a conversation with younger generations, too. Check out an introduction and Canipe’s (first self-titled) column here.

March Madness – Really? 

By Steve Canipe

If you have not been paying attention to the hype that is all over television, in the paper, on the radio, everywhere—then you have missed out on what has become a frenzy of coverage for men’s basketball. The biggest show in town is happening as I write this in Greensboro; it is called the ACC Tournament!!!

Looking on StubHub the best seats available are available at nearly $2,200 per ticket. Wow that is high to me to watch a game. Now I enjoy basketball games but to take a family to the game you are looking at a starting price of almost five thousand dollars and this does not count the $7 beer and $8 hot dogs nor the $10 parking. Well I guess these add-ons are pretty minimal after all.


Have you ever stopped to wonder what makes us be willing to pay so much for entertainment? It is not just college basketball but the various professional sports as well that are charging and, perhaps more sadly, getting these sums. It is not like the owners have it easy, not even like Hornets owner Michael Jordan, himself a millionaire.

Much of Mr. Jordan’s wealth came from his playing days in Chicago but even more keeps rolling in from the professional endorsements for things like Hanes underwear to Nike shoes to Novant Health. According to Forbes magazine (http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2014/02/27/how-michael-jordan-made-90-million-in-2013/) in 2013, Mr. Jordan earned ninety million dollars from endorsements.

Is there any wonder that kids are clamoring to be “big time” athletes in order to reap these economic rewards as well as get the fame and adoration. Lots of young men play basketball but few can earn their way to the top shelf of stardom. This is true not only in basketball but football, baseball, golf, soccer, etc. You name it; if there is a professional team there will be individuals striving to make it to the top.

In many life and work areas, there are earning disparities between men and women. In basketball it is even more apparent than most other fields. In 2011, the men’s game in the NBA had an average salary that works out to about $3 million per year. For women playing in the WNBA, the average in the same year was a shade less than $70 thousand!! (http://www.livestrong.com/article/347157-what-is-the-average-salary-of-a-basketball-player/)

Many Boomers played sports for fun and some played for money, but the sums are nothing like today even given the inflation. For example one of my baseball heroes was Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. According to an article in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Mantle) in 1961 Mantle signed his highest contract for about $70 thousand. This equates to about $547 thousand today using the inflation calculator from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm) In 2012, the lowest salary (minimum wage if you will) for a baseball player was $480 thousand. This is a minimum starting salary not for an all-star, home run hitting centerfielder!!

What is happening? Do the players at a small school like Appalachian State have a chance to make the big bucks? One of the most successful players is Dexter Coakley who, according to ESPN, recently signed a five year contract worth $14.5 million. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=pasquarelli_len&id=2003253. Armani Edwards, the beloved quarterback who led App State to national titles, was reportedly signed in June 2014 to a one year contract for $730,000. http://www.rotoworld.com/recent/nfl/5889/armanti-edwards This is pretty amazing given his spot in the draft and inability to be successful with several teams. I’m taking nothing away from him; I loved to see him play but also was very impressed to see him on the honor roll academically. Sport for him was a way to get a great education, have fun, and perhaps set himself up with a nest egg.

Where is all this money coming from you might ask. Well it is coming from you and me – the Joe Fans who are willing to spend the big bucks for the premium seats in skyboxes. This is true whether you are talking about the new seats in the recently upgraded Kidd Brewer Stadium or in other palaces of sport throughout the country. I am a graduate of ASU and love my Mountaineers. I have season tickets on the 50 yard line in row WW; a great view of the field. The tickets themselves are not hugely expensive in and of themselves, but in order to qualify to purchase those tickets and seats, I must be a member of the Yosef Club. This membership gives me a reserved parking spot and a chance to go the Yosef Club Room all for a price. The 2015 brochure outlines the various levels from <$100 to $18 thousand. http://www.appstatesports.com/ViewArticle.dbml?ATCLID=209382788&DB_OEM_ID=21500&DB_OEM_ID=21500 Different levels of giving have different perks. The brochure outlines what you get for each giving level.

College sports are a big business whether colleges want to admit it or not. For example Nick Sabin of the University of Alabama is paid $7.3 million and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma is paid over $5 million; these numbers from Sporting News (http://www.sportingnews.com/photos/4592730-top-15-highest-paid-college-football-coaches-nick-saban-charlie-strong-bob-stoops-urban-meyer-photos/slide/260860)

Scott Satterfield according to Newsday (http://sports.newsday.com/long-island/data/college/college-football/coaches-salaries/scott-satterfield/) had a guaranteed base salary in 2014 of $225 thousand. Seemingly a real bargain but there were incentives for things like winning the conference, having an average team GPA over certain levels, and other perks not included in the base salary.

Head coaches salaries are only part of the cost of big time college athletics. Many coaches, academic tutors, scholarships, food, travel, and many other things including weight rooms and medical expenses have to be added on as well. A big business at work.

If it seems like I am taking potshots at college athletics, I am not. I just lament the fact that to actually take yourself, a spouse, and a couple of kids or grandkids to a game, it is very expensive. Some venues have special sections that are much less expensive. The AZ Diamondbacks had a section (way in the nose-bleed area) that they reserved and sold only on game day for $5 per ticket. But you could actually take a family to the game without having to mortgage the farm!! These same Diamondbacks had club seats in the dugout or home plate areas in the $7 to $10 thousand range for season tickets (that is per season ticket) – http://arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com/ari/ticketing/season_chart.jsp.

Minor leagues are fun; you are closer to the players; and way less expensive. The Hickory Crawdads baseball tickets are affordable. For example, a ticket for opening day in the VIP area can be had for only $14 (http://www.etix.com/ticket/online/performanceSale.do;jsessionid=5BF95C6F875A8AC0BA350AFB6433DB6E?method=switchSelectionMethod&selection_method=byBest) This is reasonable. Too bad it is 50 miles down and back!!

So with all the hoopla in Greensboro and in other venues around the country, the college fans don their colors and head to the arenas and pay a lot for the tickets but also for the privilege of being able to buy a ticket at whatever cost. The madness is in full swing. For me I will watch on television on ESPN, Raycom, or whoever is broadcasting the games. Better views and much less expensive in every aspect including the beer and pretzels!!

What do you think of the costs? Do you think college players should get some of the millions of dollars being made other than in scholarships for their being willing to play. Their playing earns, it seems, the colleges a lot of money.

Share your thoughts on the madness and costs and money being earned and spent in the space below or send me an email at boomerbytes@yahoo.com. In the meantime, Go Mountaineers, Go ACC, and also go for your favorite team!!