How will the economy affect sports?

By: Al Hudson-November 12, 2008

If you can believe the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, financial woe is about to hit the sport as never before. But isn’t it interesting that the Los Angeles Dodgers recently offered free agent slugger, Manny Ramirez, a reported contract worth over $23 million dollars a year for 2 or 3 years. This would make the enigmatic slugger the second highest player in the game on a yearly basis.

Personally, I wouldn’t infect my club with anyone who had blatantly quit on his team, but temporary success can blind many an executive.

Contrary to Selig’s prediction of doom and gloom, Major League Baseball produced the highest total revenue in the history of the sport in 2008. Don’t expect significant changes to the structure of the game. The greedy owners will cut payroll to make more money, and claim fiscal responsibility is the reason. Some owners will smell an opportunity to achieve that elusive trophy and championship to add to their triumphs. They will spend what they feel is needed. I liken them to John Paul Jones, "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!"

NASCAR is another sport extolling sensibility practices. I can see their problem more clearly. The major automobile companies have experienced catastrophic losses recently, with more of the same predicted. However, more people attend the events than any other sport in this country, and that won’t change significantly. In addition, an enormous chunk of money comes from sponsors who still want their name in front of those fans.

Don’t even say football will suffer. At least in the South, where football is more important than Mother, religion, and presidential elections, fans will continue to attend pro and college football. If Tennessee and Clemson can afford the buyouts to fire their coaches, the money tree still blooms.

Sadly, sports will take a hit where we need it the most. High school sports are on life support in some areas of the country. In almost every high school, football is the cash cow that supports everything else. Basketball is a minor revenue producer, and in most cases it takes care of itself. Non-revenue sports such as baseball, soccer, golf, track and field, wrestling, bowling and others are at the mercy of the football program. The same applies to college programs, but the revenue from football is much larger than at the high school level.

Shortage of funds means one thing, some programs have to be cut to balance the budget. Before I make the next statement, I am not opposed to women having the same opportunity as men to participate in sports at any level. But Title IX has caused men’s programs to be axed so that an equal number of women can participate. The reason, there just isn’t enough cash to support the total package.

High school athletic directors have literally had to beg their communities for funding to support high school athletics.

One of my pet peeves is that some black colleges have abandoned baseball due to the afore mentioned reasons. Major league baseball has been mystified as to why the percentage of black athletes in the big leagues is at an all-time low. Common sense will tell you that football and basketball will command the attention of most of the top high school athletes because a football or basketball scholarship has been decreed to be a full ride scholarship.

Baseball scholarships are limited to a percentage that equals about one third of the team. Therefore, when a college baseball coach awards an athletic scholarship, it is normally a partial scholarship. Simple economics will tell you that players will be more attracted to a full ride opportunity. Title IX has forced schools to put money in women’s programs at the expense of men’s non-revenue sports. I would like to see Major League Baseball take a more pro-active role in subsidizing high school and college baseball programs. All of which brings us back to Bud Selig’s "Cry Wolf" syndrome.

It is so sad that this country has abandoned fiscal responsibility. The "Microwave Generation" has crippled themselves with their "I want it now" attitude. We, as parents, are as much to blame as anyone.

I have heard and uttered the phrase, "I want my kids to have more than I did as a child!" If we had limited that to educational opportunity, the whole country would be better off. But no, we had to provide cars, televisions, clothes, money and love to a greater extent than we received from our parents. A noble plan, but we had to earn what we had as kids, and our children didn’t learn the true value of a dollar. We have given them a sense of entitlement that we never had.

For every child with economic responsibility, there are seven over their head in debt. This leads to discontent at home, which leads to family ruination. Bankruptcy and divorce apply to more homes than not.

The problem is not what we can do about the economy of sports, but how can we regain control of our families?

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