Category: Sports

The NFL’s voices

This is the 100th anniversary season of the National Football League, so the Associated Press decided to create a list of top NFL announcers.

I’m going to modify the AP’s list, because there are two that deserve a separate category, and this doesn’t mention an additional category that needs mention:

While fans of some sports all have their favorite local announcers, the NFL has been much more of a shared viewing experience.

With all games being shown on national networks rather than solely on local channels, the most memorable voices of football are universal.

There were the early voices of the game such as Curt Gowdy and Ray Scott; the unique combination of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford in prime time; to years of Pat Summerall’s brevity punctuated by John Madden’s boisterous interjections.

Everyone has a style they prefer, from Tony Romo’s role as Nostradamus to the exuberance of Gus Johnson and Kevin Harlan to the understated style of men such as Summerall and Scott.

Here’s a look at some of the iconic voices of the NFL:

CURT GOWDY

A versatile announcer nicknamed the Cowboy who started off as Mel Allen’s partner on Yankees radio broadcasts, Gowdy was one of the original voices of the AFL on ABC when the league started in 1960. He moved on to NBC in 1965 and was in the booth for some of the most memorable games in pro football history. He called the first Super Bowl for NBC; the “Heidi” game in 1968; Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl 3; and the Immaculate Reception. ABC wanted to hire Gowdy as the original voice of “Monday Night Football,” but NBC wouldn’t let him out of his contract. His final Super Bowl broadcast came when Pittsburgh beat Dallas for the title following the 1978 season before he was traded to CBS to create an opening for Enberg to become the lead voice of the NFL on NBC. Gowdy had few catch phrases but was known for colorful descriptions.

MERLIN OLSEN

The Hall of Fame defensive tackle went on to have a long career as the top analyst at NBC, working alongside greats Gowdy and Enberg during the 1970s and ’80s and calling five Super Bowls. A physical presence on the Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line, Olsen was more soft spoken as an announcer. He never tried to overshadow the game and was a comfortable listen throughout his career.

The former defensive tackle for the New York Giants became perhaps the most respected analyst of the early Super Bowl era. Working for years alongside Gowdy on NBC’s top team, DeRogatis was known for his ability to describe what happened even before a replay and helped millions of fans better understand the game. He worked three Super Bowls, including Joe Namath’s guarantee game in January 1969.

The first place I differ from this list is that there are two who need to be in both analyst and play-by-play roles, because they did both.

PAT SUMMERALL

Summerall transitioned from a successful playing career to the booth in the 1960s and became the voice of the NFL. He started off as an analyst and was part of the first Super Bowl broadcast. He shifted to a play-by-play role in 1974 at CBS and that’s where he really shined. With an economy of words and understated persona, he helped analysts Madden and Tom Brookshier shine. A call of a big TD for Summerall could be as simple as “Montana … Rice … Touchdown.” He announced a record 16 Super Bowls on network television and contributed to 10 on the radio as well.

FRANK GIFFORD

The Hall of Fame running back went on to have a career as one of the most versatile announcers in football history. Gifford started broadcasting following his first retirement when he was knocked out on a hit by Chuck Bednarik. He retired for good following the 1964 season and returned to CBS as a broadcaster, where he was an analyst for the Ice Bowl and the first Super Bowl, and a sideline reporter on two more Super Bowls. He then moved to ABC in 1971 where he shifted to a play-by-play role on “Monday Night Football,” often playing the straight man to Cosell and Meredith. Gifford then moved back to the analyst chair in 1986 when Michaels took over and remained in that role for more than a decade. Gifford and Summerall are the only announcers to call a Super Bowl as both play-by-play man and analyst.

The broadcasts are not what they’ve been were it not for the pregame shows, headed by Brent Musburger when he was at CBS …

… and postgame, led by ESPN’s Chris Berman:

Canadian NFL football (and other oxymorons)

Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press:

I’d love to tell you about the fantastic football game that went down at IG Field on Thursday night, with a raucous, packed house looking on as star NFL quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr took turns going deep to their talented crop of receivers such as Davante Adams and Antonio Brown.

Except I’d be lying. Absolutely none of that happened.

What actually played out was nothing short of a sham. A boondoggle. A complete and utter embarrassment. And anyone who shelled out their hard-earned dollars to take in the action — and I use that term loosely in this case — has a right to feel like they got completely ripped off. Because they did.

The final score shows the Oakland Raiders beat the Green Bay Packers 22-21 on a last-minute field goal in a meaningless pre-season contest. But that doesn’t even begin to tell the full story of what unfolded. I’m not kidding when I say I expect to see a string of lawsuits flowing out of this gong show, with various parties pointing fingers at each other.

Sure, the game is going to be remembered. But for all the wrong reasons.

Where to begin?

How about the fact the field, which had to be reconfigured from the CFL size of 110 yards to the NFL size of 100 yards, was reduced to 80 yards just before the game began. That’s right, each end zone was actually on the 10-yard line. Marked by a bright orange pylon. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up. All we were missing was the windmill and clown’s mouth.

Apparently there were last-minute concerns over the state of the playing surface. A gathering of players, coaches, management and NFL executives just a couple hours before kickoff led to some speculation the whole game might actually be canned. Which, in hindsight, might have been the best move rather than the farce that followed.

“The field met the mandatory practices for the maintenance of surfaces for NFL games based on an inspection (Wednesday). Concerns arose (Thursday) surrounding the area where the Blue Bombers’ goal posts were previously located. The 10-yard line will function as the goal line at this game. In lieu of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line,” the Raiders, who were the “home” team, said in a statement emailed out during the first quarter.

Yes, even our football fields have potholes.

“LOL so now we have a bump in our lil end zone cause of this… we will play thru it tho! …. A sand baseball infield is way more safe in the middle of a football field for sure!” Winnipeg Blue Bombers running back and Winnipeg native Andrew Harris tweeted out Thursday night, a cheeky reference to the fact the Raiders share their home stadium with the Oakland Athletics of MLB.

Naturally, this led to all kinds of ridicule on social media from observers across North America watching the game on television, and it’s unfortunate Winnipeg (and the Bombers) will take their share of it. Because like everything associated with the event, this is entirely on the NFL and the Toronto-based promoter, On Ice Entertainment. The Blue & Gold simply rented out their facility and let the guests take over. They also have no financial stake in how it turned out, which they should be thankful for.

The absurd field flop was bad enough, but it’s just one of a number of “Lucy pulling the football out from under Charlie Brown” type whiffs.

How about the fact that, despite claims to the contrary when the game was first announced and tickets went on sale, none of the big names actually suited up. Of course, that news wasn’t communicated to anyone until moments before kickoff, with Green Bay announcing 33 healthy scratches, including Rodgers. Same goes for Carr, Brown and other prominent Raiders.

The whole sales pitch surrounding the game was that all of the stars would come out and probably play at least the first half, since it was happening during the third week of the pre-season.

Lies. All of it lies. Instead, we were treated to an assortment of NFL backups, wannabees and never-will-be’s, many of whom will likely be playing in the CFL in short order. It says something when the loudest cheers of the night came from fans applauding themselves in the fourth quarter for succesfully getting a sustained “Wave” going around the stadium.

As for the crowd, it was announced after the game that there were 21,992 fans in the stands. My best guess was somewhere in the 18,000 to 20,000 range. The bigger question is how many of those were paying customers versus giveaways meant to “paper the house” and save some face? We’ll never know, because the promoter won’t say.

Sluggish sales had been a big story leading up to the game, with approximately half of the stadium showing as available on the Ticketmaster site earlier this week, thanks to grossly overpriced tickets that were running north of $400 and represented a clear miscalculation of this market. Local sports fans were staying away in droves. But then a strange thing started happening, with many of the blue dots representing unsold seats on Ticketmaster suddenly vanishing.

The promoter previously slashed prices for about 6,000 end zone seats — after initially claiming there would be no such price reductions. And that angered many of the loyal fans who bought tickets when they first went on sale in June, only to discover they got suckered into paying about twice as much as others who were late to the party.

Despite On Ice president John Graham’s claim that the ticket agency would handle issues, I’m told many fans have been met with “Sorry, final sale, no refunds,” upon their repeated inquiries. On Ice painted themselves into a corner by charging way too much out of the gate, then made a bad situation even worse.

Speaking of Graham, he’s pretty much gone into hiding throughout this process, including not responding to several messages I’ve sent him. Other media colleagues have expressed similar concerns.

Graham did break his silence to speak with Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun on Wednesday, sort of, and went on a bizarre rant, accusing him (and other local media) of biased reporting — even asking the veteran scribe at one point if he was trying to “go to war” with him.

Friesen was later told his media credentials were being revoked for the game, leading to an hours-long behind-the-scenes battle that ended with the NFL getting involved and Friesen rightfully being allowed to cover the game. Talk about trying to shoot the messenger.

But wait, there’s more! How about Graham’s promise in June for a big festival and celebration of football surrounding the game. He even cited the Winnipeg Jets “Whiteout” street parties as something they would try to emulate.

“It’s not that we’re flying in, playing a game and getting out of town,” he claimed at the time. “We don’t do those things.”

But that’s exactly what happened here. Both teams flew into town late Wednesday, with no practices or player availability prior to the game. And then they left, just as quickly as they arrived. There was little fanfare or related activities, other than the Bombers putting on a viewing party at The Forks for those who couldn’t afford tickets to the game.

Go figure that Oakland’s punter, A.J. Cole, getting off the team plane wearing a “Winnipeg, Alberta” T-shirt he’d ordered on Amazon, was actually far down the list of embarrassing things associated with this game.

We weren’t the first choice to play host, with Edmonton and Regina rumoured to be the original destinations targeted. Given how it all played out, those cities can breathe a big sigh of relief that they avoided having this debacle in their own backyard.

As for Winnipeg, I suspect most people will be saying good riddance to what was billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but ended up being nothing more than a Mickey Mouse production that most people saw for the greedy cash grab that it was.

See you later, NFL. Sorry it didn’t work out. It’s not us. It’s you.

Winnipeg’s tabloid newspaper had a muted response:

Edmonton would have been a better choice, even though this was a home preseason game for the Oakland/L.A./Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders. The Edmonton Eskimos, like the Packers, are a community-owned team that wears green and gold, and has a better, though older, stadium. The game also could have been played in Toronto, where the CFL Argonauts’ stadium has a hybrid grass surface similar to Lambeau Field.

McIntyre may not know the history of NFL preseason games outside the U.S. The Dallas Cowboys played a preseason game at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in 1994 against the Houston Oilers that drew 112,376 fans. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took one look at the turf before the game and decreed that none of his star players, including quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin, would play. Azteca was supposed to host Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams last season, but the game was moved to L.A. due to the state of the field.

At least the game, such as it was, was played. In 2016 the Packers were supposed to play the annual Hall of Fame Game against Indianapolis in Canton, Ohio, but the game was canceled because, of all things, the paint for the NFL logos and in the end zone didn’t stick to the artificial grass. There had been rumors yesterday afternoon that the game might be canceled due to the goal post issue.

The point is that there should have been an expectation that the field be nearly perfect if you want to see anyone you’ve ever heard of, based on past experience with the NFL. And on that score, Winnipeg failed. On the other hand, the NFL also failed because, thanks to both teams’ coaches keeping their starters out of the game, the game was utterly meaningless to each team. That could be said of a lot of NFL preseason games.

The NFL makes its teams play four preseason games even though the players hate it. There have been thoughts of dropping two two preseason games but increasing to 18 regular-season games, and the players seem to not like that either. (You can gue$$ why the NFL per$i$t$ in mandating four pre$ea$on game$, which are in team$’ $ea$on-ticket package$.) There probably won’t be a preseason change in the NFL until a team plays none of its starters for the entire preseason.

 

Back on the air, everywhere

My instinct for self-promotion requires me to say that I will be returning to the airwaves 31 years after I started on the airwaves with Cuba City at Platteville in football tonight at 6:40 Central time here.

My open (which I write out in advance so that I don’t, uh, stumble over, uh, something I am, uh, winging) indicates that this season will be unlike any football season before, because of changes to conferences in the southwestern half of Wisconsin, and will be unlike next season, due to changes to conferences statewide.

But upon further review, last year might have pegged the weirdometer in all the sports I covered. These are the things that happened In games I broadcasted over the past year:

  • A football game had to be moved from the local university, where the local high school plays, to the local high school the following afternoon because of predicted severe weather that did not materialize. The local high school had not hosted a varsity football game since the doors opened in 1967 until that day.
  • For the second consecutive year, the local high school had a weather delay during its Homecoming game. Fortunately the game was finished that night instead of the following afternoon, which happened the previous year.
  • The local high school had a winning record, but losing conference record, and therefore missed the playoffs, while a few schools had losing records and made the playoffs. (The tiebreaker was win percentage, and 4–5 is better than 3–4, which is better than 2–3.) One of those latter teams then won two road playoff games, making it one of the top eight teams in its division.
  • I announced a state semifinal game after spending three days in Missouri, where we went (blissfully missing Election Day) to pick up our military police oldest son from basic training. The radio station sports director was taken aback when he called me the night before the game and I told him I was in East St. Louis. But we got back, and I announced the game as scheduled.
  • I then announced a state championship game, a broadcast that didn’t go very well technologically. But the team we were announcing won, so no one cared.
  • The winter sports season started out fine. Then came New Year’s Day, and like a flipped switch every team’s schedule got blown apart because of weather — heavy snow, fog, freezing rain and ice storms, and bitter cold. Games were scheduled four and five times. One game was rescheduled to a Monday after school was out, giving the varsity game a youth basketball sort of vibe. For the first time in more than 30 years of doing this I got to announce “Five minutes left in the first half, and as of now we are in a winter storm warning.”
  • One of those weather postponements forced fans from one school to drive two hours on consecutive nights for a girls’ regional final and a boys’ regional quarterfinal. The schools involved should have scheduled a doubleheader, but no one did, or the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association didn’t, or doesn’t, approve something with common sense. (The drive home the second night was enlivened by freezing fog.)
  • Our radio station group had fewer boys basketball teams that survived the regional round than announcers, so I wasn’t assigned to any sectional games. But the day I thought my winter season was over, I was assigned to an Illinois “supersectional” game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. That put me at center court announcing a game featuring the eventual Illinois Class 1A state champion, which happens to be the alma mater of Chicago trumpet player Lee Loughnane.

    It was a great experience, even though I spent the next day at home with food poisoning.

  • I also got to announce state wrestling for the first time. It was an interesting broadcast experience because the radio station sells hundreds of live-read ads (as opposed to prerecorded ads), so I got to read a lot of ads.
  • A couple months later, I got assigned to announce postseason softball and baseball during a spring that, even by Wisconsin standards, was pretty hideous. I had no weather cancellations, but the weather in most games was bad enough for me to wear the radio stations’ logo-equipped winter jackets and broadcast from a park shelter that at least kept the rain out, but focused the wind to create a wind tunnel-like effect.
  • Before one of those games, an assistant coach from the team I was covering asked where it would be online. He told me that a friend of his in Colorado, a graduate of the home team who was the son of two graduates of the road team, wanted to listen. So I mentioned the Coloradan on the air, and he said he listened.
  • Two days later, I got to announce the previous game’s winner in an 11-inning sectional final. The coach of the opponent, which had ended my team’s season the previous season, was having back problems, so I interviewed him squatting on the dugout floor while he lay on his stomach on the dugout bench. He had told friends of his, and I had told the opposing school, where the game would be, and so my game had quite a large online audience, while the opposing school’s fans sat right behind me, and I engaged them in conversation during the broadcast. That team, which won the sectional final minutes before the game probably would have been suspended due to darkness, ended up winning state.
    (While that was happening, another school we were covering was leading 1–0 in the sixth inning, though its opponent had two runners aboard. And then the rains came, and the unpires ruled the game couldn’t continue, and so the host won, making the losing team’s fans angry that insufficient effort, they thought, was made to dry out the field. The host ended up winning state.
  • Then came baseball, which started with a sectional final trip in the rain, making me wonder if the game would actually be played. It did delay the game … about five minutes, though it rained out another game. So just before my semifinal game I got a text asking if I could announce the rained-out game the next day. So in 24 hours I announced four baseball games, happily with the right teams winning, in the final case due to the opposing team’s trotting out several pitchers, none of whom could find the strike zone.
    (The technological adventure of the second pair of games included the cellphone on which we announce the games overheating because, unlike the previous day, it was sunny and hot. Fortunately there was a concession stand with a refrigerator and freezer, and so I ran to the concession stand and got ice in a bag, on which we put the phone, covered from the sun by an equipment case, so we could get on the air.)
  • Both our teams ended up playing each other in a state semifinal, guaranteeing us two days at state. Our game fortunately ended before the next division’s games were interrupted by a seven-hour-long rain delay, part of which we spent entertaining the announcer of the late game and young TV sports people in our broadcast booth. The semifinal winner ended up losing the state title, but in such a case they got to play in, and I got to announce, the last game of the season.

Not bad for a part-time guy, methinks. Have I mentioned I am really lucky to be doing this?

One reason why high school sports is so fun to cover is that you might think you know who will win, and that team may well win, but not always. You have to expect, or at least anticipate, the unexpected in sports, and that applies to sports broadcasting too.

Presty the DJ for Aug. 5

First, a non-rock anniversary: Today is the 95th anniversary of the first broadcasted baseball game, on KDKA in Pittsburgh: Harold Arlen described Pittsburgh’s 8–0 win over Philadelphia.

Speaking of Philadelphia … today in 1957, ABC-TV picked up WFIL-TV’s “American Bandstand” …

… though ABC interrupted it in the middle for “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

Today in 1966, the Beatles recorded “Yellow Submarine” …

… and “Eleanor Rigby” …

… while also releasing their “Revolver” album.

Continue reading “Presty the DJ for Aug. 5”

Post-World Cup pre-Olympics new$

The U.S. national women’s soccer team managed to alienate people who should have been fans by stridently dissing conservatives on the way to their Women’s World Cup win.

One year from now, the team will compete in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, assuming the team doesn’t do what, if they were serious about their pay situation, it should have done — strike.

Two pieces of news cast new light on the finances of international soccer and the U.S. women’s team. First, from Brad Polumbo:

The United States has the best women’s soccer team in the world, as evidenced by our recent Women’s World Cup win. But we’re told that the women’s team still faces blatant sexism and a pay gap compared to our men’s team.

That’s what woke feminists like USWNT Captain Megan Rapinoe keep telling us. In fact, the women’s team has even filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer alleging gender-based pay discrimination. I’ve already made the argument against equal pay and explained why Rapinoe is far from a good role model, but a new open letter and fact sheet released by U.S. Soccer completely refutes the equal pay crusaders’ argument.

First, it reveals that while U.S. Soccer is the target of the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit, they’re not even the ones paying the men and women unequally. According to U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro, they actually pay the women more than the men. He writes:

Over the past decade, U.S. Soccer has paid our Women’s National Team more than our Men’s National Team. From 2010 through 2018, U.S. Soccer paid our women $34.1 million in salaries and game bonuses and we paid our men $26.4 million—not counting the significant additional value of various benefits that our women’s players receive but which our men do not.

How’s that for sexist? Cordeiro explains that this pay gap — in favor of the women — is due to different pay structures the men and women have negotiated, as the women’s team is given an annual salary and benefits while the men are paid more sporadically, proportional to participation. This disparity is necessary because the men have more professional soccer opportunities outside of international competition, such as the leagues in Europe and Major League Soccer. National soccer is a side gig for them, not a full-time job.

Now, it is true that the men’s World Cup offers significantly higher prize money, and that when prize money is counted, the men received $41 million from 2010 to 2018 and the women received just $39.7 million despite vastly outperforming the men relative to their own competition. And more generally, the winning team in the last men’s World Cup received $38 million in prize money, while the winners of this year’s Women’s World Cup get a relatively modest $4 million.

But this is up to the International Federation of Association Football, not U.S. Soccer, which means the “equal pay” lawsuit hasn’t even been filed against the right entity. Moreover, the differential in prize money offered by FIFA is explained by differences in revenue generation and viewership, not sexism.

As I wrote before:

Almost half the world watched the men’s 2018 World Cup, with nearly 3.6 billion total viewers tuning in to watch some part of the tournament. The final match alone reached an audience of over 1.1 billion people. Subsequently, the tournament’s sponsor, FIFA, brought in a profit of over $6 billion.
The women’s team garners significant but substantially lower viewership. We don’t have data for the 2019 tournament, but during the women’s last World Cup in 2015, 764 million viewers tuned in for some portion of the tournament. This is quite good, but it still pales in comparison to the men’s tournament’s audience.Unsurprisingly, Cordeiro’s letter explains, “We look forward to the day when Americans choose to spend their time and money equally between women’s and men’s soccer.” But as the U.S. Soccer fact sheet makes clear, today is not that day, and the pay structures reflect that reality.

But Cordeiro wasn’t done. David Hookstead:

U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro hit back hard at the women’s national team over equal pay.

With the World Cup in the news after we won the whole thing, the issue of pay between the men’s and women’s national teams has once again been a hot topic for debate. A lawsuit is currently underway over the pay disparities between the two teams. The issue at the core is simple. The women are more successful, but women’s soccer doesn’t generate the same kind of cash the men do.

Now, Cordeiro is claiming they actually lose money.

According to TMZ Sports, Cordeiro released a statement on Monday saying the following in part:

From 2009 through 2019 — a timeframe that includes two Women’s World Cup championships — the Women’s National Team has earned gross revenue of $101.3 million over 238 games, for an average of $425,446 per game, and the Men’s National Team has earned gross revenue of $185.7 million over 191 games, for an average of $972,147 per game. More specifically, WNT games have generated a net profit (ticket revenues minus event expenses) in only two years (2016 and 2017). Across the entire 11-year period, WNT games generated a net loss of $27.5 million.

U.S. Women’s National Team spokesperson Molly Levinson responded in part by calling the numbers “false” and the statement from Cordeiro a “ruse.” She also said the women’s team wants to “be paid equally for equal performance.”

If the women’s national team has actually lost money since 2009, then I don’t even know why we’re having this debate. Sports leagues and teams aren’t paid simply by how much they win.

They’re paid in large part by revenue generated. It’s why the worst NBA team still makes much more money than the best team in the WNBA.

It’s called economics, and it’s really not that difficult to figure out.

If the numbers are false, then that’s a different story. Luckily, that seems like that something that would be very easy to fact check.

I have no idea how this lawsuit will end, but I find there to be next to no outcome where it turns out the women generate more revenue than the men historically.

The women should try to get as much money as possible, but they’re only ever going to get cash as it’s tied to revenue.

Anybody who doesn’t understand that fact just doesn’t understand sports.

Or business. Of course, liberals have a well-known hatred of markets.

“A ballplayer spends a good piece of his life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

The New York Daily News:

Ex-Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton was a 20-game winner, won two World Series games, spent 10 years in the big leagues — and made a bigger impact with a pen in his hand than a baseball.

The author of the groundbreaking hardball tell-all “Ball Four” died Wednesday following a battle with a brain disease linked to dementia, according to friends of the family. The Newark, N.J., native was in the Massachusetts home he shared with his wife Paula Kurman after weeks of hospice care. He was 80.

Bouton, who made his Major League debut in 1962, threw so hard in his early years that his cap routinely flew off his head as he released the ball. By the time he reached the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, the sore-armed Bouton reinvented himself as a knuckleballer.

Bouton spent that season collecting quotes, notes and anecdotes about life in the big leagues for his acclaimed book “Ball Four.” Released amid a storm of controversy, the account of Bouton’s tumultuous year was the only sports book cited when the New York Public Library drew up its list of the best books of the 20th century.

In “Ball Four,” Bouton exposed in great detail the carousing of Yankees legend Mickey Mantle, the widespread use of stimulants (known as “greenies”) in Major League locket rooms, and the spectacularly foul mouth of Seattle Pilots manager Joe Schultz.

“Amphetamines improved my performance about five percent,” Bouton once observed. “Unfortunately, in my case that wasn’t enough.”

But the book caused most of his old teammates to ostracize him, and he was blackballed from Yankees events for nearly 30 years until the team in 1998 invited Bouton to the annual Old-Timers Day event.

Bouton, across his 10-year pro career, posted a mediocre lifetime record of 62-63, with an ERA of 3.57.

But for two seasons, on the last of the great 1960s Yankees teams of Mantle, Maris, Berra and Ford, Bouton emerged as a top-flight pitcher.

In 1963, he went 21-7 with six shutouts and lost a 1-0 World Series decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Drysdale. A year later, Bouton’s record was 18-13 with a 3.02 ERA and he won a pair of World Series starts against the St. Louis Cardinals.

And then he developed a sore arm in 1965 that derailed a promising career that started just three years earlier. Bouton’s career ended after the 1970 season with the Houston Astros, although he returned for a five-game cameo with the Atlanta Braves in 1978.

Post-baseball, Bouton became a local sportscaster with WABC-TV and then WCBS-TV on the evening news, enjoying ratings success at both stops.

Ball Four was a book unlike any other in baseball until it was published, but you knew that.

Megan Rapinoe’s history lesson

Joel Engel writes to U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe:

First, let us congratulate you and your teammates on a sensational World Cup championship. You made us proud.

You know us, right? The country you’ve represented so ably on the pitch? Because—hope this doesn’t sound weird—we’ve kind of had some small role in your success. No question, you worked for what you’ve accomplished with the talents you were fortunate to be blessed with. But never forget you that had the opportunity to do so. That you’ve made the most of those opportunities delights us; it’s what we’re all about. But we do wonder why you’d discount the privilege you enjoyed of having had those opportunities that are, sad to say, deprived to most people around the world.

Correct us if we’re wrong. But our understanding is that most or all of you and your teammates came from middle-class homes (or better) and were allowed and encouraged to take up organized sports at early ages. All (or most) of you went to college and I’d be surprised if any of you paid full-tuition.

This is . . . not the norm around the world. It should be! But this is a form of privilege that’s been granted to you by dint of your birth and we kind of thought that you’d (1) be grateful for it, and (2) would recognize it for what it is and be humble about how many of the women you competed against in France did not have the same advantages.

Because let’s be honest: If you’re a female soccer player, being born in America is like winning the lottery. The U.S. women’s teams have now won four World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals, and eight CONCACAF gold cups—that’s the kind of domination that no national team in any country in any sport, male or female, has ever achieved. Something must be going right with America and our support of women’s athletics. USA! USA!

So we were kind of confused the other day when you explained your refusal to sing the National Anthem. We’re not quite sure what upsets you. “I think for detractors,” you said, “I would have them look hard into what I’m saying and the actions that I’m doing. Maybe you don’t agree with every single way that I do it, and that can be discussed.”

Well, back atcha. Aren’t we entitled to the same benefit of the doubt?

Let’s discuss whether there’s a country that has made more progress on virtually every human rights front in little more than a generation? In fact, let’s discuss how some countries are actually going backwards. Surely you’ve noticed that France and Germany and the UK and much of the rest of the world are trying to criminalize the kind of speech rights you’re now famous for exercising.

“I know that I’m not perfect,” you said, “but I think that I stand for honesty and for truth and for wanting to have the conversation and for looking at the country honestly. I think this country was founded on a lot of great ideals, but it was also founded on slavery. And I think we just need to be really honest about that and be really open in talking about that so we can reconcile that and hopefully move forward and make this country better for everyone.”

What we hear you saying is, we should look past your imperfections and focus on your intentions. Okay, well, again, back atcha. Right there in the preamble to our Constitution it says, “in order to form a more perfect union…”

You see? “More perfect” expressly states that we’re a work in progress. And aren’t we all! And we have this Constitution—the oldest in the world—that allows for every generation to amend what was originally set down and try to make “this country better for everyone.”

There’ve been 17 Amendments added to the original 10. True, not all of them have made things better. The 16th, 17th, and 18th were giant mistakes that backfired spectacularly (though fortunately the 18th was repealed). But all were passed with the intention of making things better: for example, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and limiting presidents to two terms.

So if we’re going to “be really honest” about slavery and “hopefully move forward,” you might acknowledge that chattel slavery ended more than 150 years ago. It was a legacy of our colonial master, England, which at the time practiced slavery in every one of its colonies and territories, and had for over a century, before the American Revolution was a glint in the Founding Fathers’ eyes.

Read the accounts of the Constitutional Convention to see how fiercely slavery was debated. Yes, it would’ve been wonderful if the antislavery voices had prevailed. But keep in mind that if slavery had been disallowed from the beginning, about half of the original 13 colonies wouldn’t have joined the “united” states. Then what? Then no United States. The fact that it was a primary topic of discussion and argumentation at a time when slavery existed on every populated continent and had since the beginning of time was a moral victory without precedent in history.

Here’s the progressive historian Sean Wilentz, from his book No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding:

[A]lthough the framers agreed to compromises over slavery that blunted antislavery hopes and augmented the slaveholders’ power, they also deliberately excluded any validation of property in man.

This exclusion, insisted upon by a majority of the delegates, was of profound and fateful importance. It rendered slavery solely a creation of state laws. It thereby opened the prospect of a United States free of slavery—a prospect some delegates deeply desired and many more believed was coming to pass. Above all, it left room for the new federal government to hinder slavery’s expansion, something which, after the Constitution’s ratification, slavery’s opponents struggled to achieve.

Kind of amazing, no? Imagine the guts it took for the Founders to force this exclusion at a moment when it threatened to derail the entire creation of the country. Again: USA! USA!

About twenty years later, the importation of slaves was prohibited, and a few decades later, 2 percent of the country’s population (4 percent of men) died fighting a civil war to end slavery. No other country did that. Have there been racial issues and prejudice since then? Absolutely. There’s not a mixed-racial society on Earth that doesn’t suffer issues like that, and ours are compounded by the lingering hangover from both slavery and Jim Crow. But has there been astounding progress, in law and hearts and minds? The answer is an unqualified yes. You can want to improve things more without misunderstanding the amazing scope of progress we’ve already made together.


Frankly, we don’t really care if you sing the National Anthem or stand there like Han Solo in carbonite. Either one is your right. This isn’t North Korea, where citizens fear they’ll be tortured or killed if they stop applauding Fearless Leader. This is in itself another point in our favor. But whatever.

But we do have a question:

Did you notice how loudly and enthusiastically the French players and spectators in that jammed stadium sang their national anthem, La Marseillaise, before your quarterfinal match against France? These people adore their anthem. No matter where or when it’s played, they stand up straighter, sing at the top of their lungs, and frequently hold back tears—like that scene in Casablanca. Sometimes the French just burst into singing the anthem while waiting for a train. And French coaches don’t seem to have much problem getting a plane of French citizens to sing along.

Now for the record: We love France. We do. Without France, we might very well not be here. And, without us, neither would France. But it must be said that France is . . . not perfect, either. They have had historical problems with how they treat immigrants. And racism. There’s rising anti-Semitism. And France hasn’t exactly achieved egalité in women’s rights, either.

Compared with that, America looks pretty good, no? If you’d been French, would you have sung their national anthem? We sure hope not.


If you don’t speak French, you might hear the tune and think La Marseillaise is the best drinking song on the planet. But it’s actually the most martial of all the national anthems, and has been since it was written during a period in the bloody French Revolution when France was flinging itself into wars against other European powers—in this case, before France attacked Austria.

Take a listen:

Let’s go children of the fatherland,

The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody flag is raised
In the countryside, do you hear
The roaring of these fierce soldiers?
They come right to our arms
To slit the throats of our sons, our friends!

To arms, citizens!
Form your battalions!
Let’s march! Let’s march!
May impure blood
Water our fields!

Makes the “Star Spangled Banner” look pretty admirable, actually.


As you saw, several members of the French team you played against were young women of color. Their families had come from former French colonies in Africa like Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, and Cameroon. Repeat: former colonies. Meaning countries that France, competing with other European powers, fought over and occupied for centuries in order to steal their natural resources and enslave their people. We never did that.

It wasn’t all that long ago, probably during your parents’ lives, that the last of those African colonies were granted their freedom from France. Only after a war. And beaucoup de problèmes remain. In fact, many of these young women grew up in what the French call “les banlieus,” essentially suburban slums inhabited mostly by immigrants with little hope of being accepted as fully French and only slightly more hope of a better future—unless, of course, they played soccer and showed French football officials they could be useful. Yet they sang as loudly and passionately as everyone else; same with the young men on the French U-20 team, many of whom have colonial heritage.

By contrast, our national anthem was inspired by seeing a flag still flying over a fort that had been attacked by the British in 1814, soon after they’d invaded Washington and burned the White House, the Capitol, and other buildings and before attacking Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The siege lasted a full day and night, but in the morning the American soldiers who’d withstood the barrage raised a large flag—as Francis Scott Key saw with his own eyes from a boat in Baltimore Harbor. Not for nothing was the War of 1812 nicknamed “The Second American Revolution.” (By the way, the lyrics Key wrote were paired with a tune that really was a popular drinking song.)


You’re probably too young to remember a term that used to be thrown about wherever Americans traveled after World War II: “The Ugly American.” It was a pejorative that referred to, as Wikipedia puts it, “loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens.” Given that “USA” is on your jersey, we were embarrassed to hear that sentiment directed at you and the team, beginning with your 13-0 slaughter of Thailand in the first Cup game, when Team USA celebrated each goal as if it were the Cup clincher, and crescendoed when Alex Morgan mimed drinking a cup of tea after scoring against England.

“Wah-wah-wah,” you said sarcastically, insisting that men aren’t criticized for similar displays of grandiosity and unsportsmanship.

As it happens, you’re right about that. Which explains why our national pastime is baseball, not football or basketball (or, for that matter, soccer). In baseball, guys make plays that defy the laws of physics, but baseball’s culture is nonchalance, so players pretend it was no big deal; that it’s what they’re being paid for; that they’ve done it before and will do it again.

Sure, back in the dugout, their teammates will go a little crazy and maybe push them onto the field for a reluctant, and quick, curtain call if the fans demand it. But they don’t perform for the crowd because the unwritten rule is: Never show up the other team. Those who do can expect a little chin music next time they come to the plate.

In football, it seems like every sack, or tackle, or first down, or reception produces a celebration or an arms-wide “I did it” for the crowd. Same with dunks and three-pointers in basketball. Kind of like what you did after scoring the first goal in the championship game and running to the corner of the pitch.

But isn’t this . . . not good? Isn’t it the kind of behavior we should be trying to discourage in athletes? Because when you respect the other team, you respect the game.

The idea of athletics is to try to live up to our highest ideals. Not revel in living down to the debased standards of others.

Besides—not to put too fine a point on it—but it’s a really bad look given your enormous privilege. Thailand’s per capita GDP is 1/9 of America’s. They went through a military coup in 2014. When you go crazy after scoring the 8th goal against those women you maybe look like Cobra Kai. Nobody roots for Cobra Kai.

All right, Megan, we’ll let you go enjoy the fruits of your victory. You’ve earned your place in the Pantheon, and we hope you’ll use it constructively. As someone who’s been so blessed and so privileged, please encourage other young women to take advantage of their opportunities in this country that are unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and urge them to work hard for what they want, just as you did.

And as a P.S., I’d also ask you to indulge me by listening to Whitney Houston’s version of the National Anthem. It’s a game changer.

And I’m (not) proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free …

The U.S. women’s soccer team will play the Netherlands for the Women’s World Cup title today.

About them and one particular player, Jerry Newcombe writes:

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. I can’t fathom the ingratitude of American soccer star Meghan Rapinoe’s attitude toward America.

Writer Warner Todd Huston notes, “Rapinoe raised eyebrows in the 2018 season by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem even though she is playing for the U.S. Women’s National soccer team. Her taking a knee only came to an end starting in the 2019 season because the team passed a rule requiring players to stand during the anthem. But she right away said that she would never sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ again, nor would she place her hand over her heart because she hates America.”

Sadly, she is by no means alone. There are millions of ungrateful Americans today.

I remember years ago seeing one of The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson which showed one dog in his den showing another dog his mounted, stuffed trophies on his wall. There were a couple of stuffed cat heads and bird heads and also a human hand mounted on the wall. The host dog was saying to his guest, “And that’s the hand that fed me.”

What a fascinating contrast. Last week a man and his infant daughter tragically drowned trying to get to this country through illegal means. And yet the soccer star who was born here has nothing but contempt for the land of opportunity that has given her so many opportunities.

This reminds me of people who are ungrateful to the Lord, even though every beat of their heart is by His grace. When He says, “Enough,” it is over and then comes the judgment.

President Lincoln reminded us of our need for thankfulness to God when he called for a day of fasting and prayer during the conflict that tore this country apart.

On March 30, 1863, he wrote, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven ….But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” [Emphasis added]

Our own prosperity as a nation has caused us to forget the Lord, said our 16th president: “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

With another Fourth of July upon us, I think it is a good time to recall why we should be grateful as Americans. This country was born through the sacrifices of those who went before us.

What is the Fourth of July? It commemorates that date in 1776 when 56 men in Philadelphia, representing three million people, agreed by voice vote to adopt the final wording of our national birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence.

They knew their lives were on the line by voting for independence from England, and a handful of them paid the ultimate price for this declaration. Several of them were specifically targeted by the British.

The document declared that the rights of man come not from the king or the state, but from the Creator. It declared that when a government interferes too much with God-given rights, the government ultimately becomes illegitimate.

This declaration came years after futile attempts to work with the king to bring about an acceptable peace. But as the “men of Boston” put it, according to the great 19th century historian, George Bancroft: “While America is still on her knees, the king aims a dagger at her heart.”

We seem to forget the sacrifices of the founding fathers who bequeathed the freedoms, and subsequently, the prosperity we enjoy in this country.

A key founding father John Adams declared: “It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever…” America would become its own nation, separate from England.

Adams adds that if we have to endure hardship because of it, God will still help see us through: “[I]t may be the will of heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, the furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals; but I submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”

The men who birthed America and declared independence laid everything on line, as they trusted in God.

Why should Meghan Rapinhoe be grateful? Because she was born in a country which gave her opportunity to “write her own script” as some might put it. It is hard for me to comprehend ungrateful Americans.

It’s not hard for me. When people read about this country’s past — legal slavery until the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, women’s (lack of) rights — some people assume that this country hasn’t progressed all, despite the fact that, for instance, Colin Kaepernick is not a slave, Rapinoe can legally vote and do everything else a man can do, and both have the First Amendment right to express themselves as they please, though there is nothing in the First Amendment that shields anyone from the consequences of their free expression.

Meanwhile, the team has found something else to complain about, the New York Post reports:

Megan Rapinoe considers Sunday to be the final insult.

Just a few hours after the United States and the Netherlands meet in the Women’s World Cup final in France, Brazil or Peru will celebrate winning the Copa America, South America’s men’s championship. And then at night, the United States or Mexico will win the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the men’s title of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

A TV triple of championships for some is yet another slight for others.

“It’s ridiculous, and disappointing, to be honest,” said Rapinoe, the star American midfielder.

FIFA said playing the three finals on the same day would boost attention for all.

“The scheduling of the different events has gone through a comprehensive consultancy process, which has involved all key stakeholders and taken into account different aspects of the women’s and men’s international match calendars,” the governing body said in a statement. “It is a rare and exciting occurrence.”

CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani told The New York Times, however, the decision to schedule the Gold Cup final for Sunday was not deliberate and was due to a “clerical error.”

“It’s terrible,” said former American midfielder Aly Wagner, now Fox’s lead World Cup match analyst. “It is so disturbing to me that the Women’s World Cup does not have its own day to stand on its own and have a final to highlight these tremendous athletes and their work and their accomplishment. They wouldn’t dream of doing it to the men. Why would they do it to the women?”

FIFA announced the Women’s World Cup dates at the emblem launch on Sept. 18, 2017, then revealed the full schedule the following Feb. 9.

CONCACAF did not announce the expansion of the Gold Cup from 12 teams to 16 until Feb. 26, 2018, then said last Sept. 27 that the final would be held at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 7. South America’s governing body made the Copa America dates known since at least early 2018 and said last Dec. 18 the final would kick off at 4 p.m. EDT.

The Women’s World Cup final will start at 11 a.m. EDT on Fox, followed by the Copa America final at 4 p.m. EDT on ESPN+ and the CONCACAF final at 9:15 p.m. EDT on FS1. Telemundo, a sister network of NBC, has Women’s World Cup and Copa America Spanish-language US rights, while Univision has the Gold Cup.

“I really am a believer in the rising tide lifts all ships,” said David Neal, executive producer of Fox’s World Cup coverage. “Because of the timing of them, it’s probably not going to hurt anybody.”

Advertisers don’t seem to think the three finals will cannibalize each other.

“It doesn’t alter in any way shape or form what we plan to do. I’m not sure whether it’ll splinter viewership or not,” said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer of Visa, one of six FIFA partners.

Advertisers focus on their product’s marketing and activation and pretty much ignore the other tournaments.

“The priority for Coca-Cola is the FIFA Women’s World Cup and we’re going to do everything we can to bring a lot of attention, a lot people in front of TVs, to watch the game, to watch the final,” said Ricardo Fort, head of global sponsorships at The Coca-Cola Co., another FIFA partner. “Too bad for the other finals. I’m pretty sure the Women’s World Cup final is going to be a big global event again.”

My prediction is the U.S. will win this morning, and it will have negligible impact on growing women’s soccer in this country. They are trying to plant in waters they poisoned.

 

Politics’ triumph over sports

The U.S. women’s soccer team takes on Great Britain in a Women’s World Cup semifinal at 2 p.m.

In keeping with the idea that the best way to generate support for your team is to alienate your potential supporters, Sue Bird writes:

This is my World Cup Semifinals preview. The title was supposed to be “So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend (and 10 Other Things I Want You to Know Before the World Cup Semifinals)” but we ran out of space. My bad. Thanks for reading. GO USWNT. …

First of all, I’ve gotta get this on the record, if it’s not already clear: I’m SO proud of Megan!!And the entire damn USWNT. That’s why I’m writing this article, mainly. So if you could do me a favor, let’s just take a second, for real, and appreciate this RUN my girl’s been on?? Like, take away all of the “extra” stuff — and just focus for a second on the soccer alone. Two goals against Spain. Two goals against France, WHILE A GUEST IN THEIR MAISON. I want to hit on a lot of other topics while I’m here, and trust me I will — but I just think it’s also really important not to forget what this is actually, first and foremost, about, you know? It’s about a world-class athlete, operating at the absolute peak of her powers, on the absolute biggest stage that there is. It’s about an athlete f*cking killing it.

It’s about Megan coming through.

(3) O.K. so now that that’s out of the way, I’ll answer The Question. The one that’s probably most on your mind. And by that I mean: What’s it like to have the literal President of the literal United States (of literal America) go Full Adolescent Boy on your girlfriend? Hmm. Well… it’s WEIRD. And I’d say I actually had a pretty standard reaction to it: which was to freak out a little.

That’s one thing that you kind of have to know about me and Megan: our politics are similar — after we won the WNBA title in Seattle last season, no way were we going to the (f*cking) White House! — but our dispositions are not. And as we’ve been talking through a lot of this “stuff,” as it’s been happening to her, you know, I’ll be honest here….. some of it scares the sh*t out of me!!

I mean, some of it is kind of funny….. but like in a REALLY? REALLY? THIS GUY??? kind of way. Like, dude — there’s nothing better demanding your attention?? It would be ridiculous to the point of laughter, if it wasn’t so gross. (And if his legislations and policies weren’t ruining the lives of so many innocent people.) And then what’s legitimately scary, I guess, is like….. how it’s not just his tweets. Because now suddenly you’ve got all these MAGA peeps getting hostile in your mentions. And you’ve got all these crazy blogs writing terrible things about this person you care so much about. And now they’re doing takedowns of Megan on Fox News, and who knows whatever else. It’s like an out-of-body experience, really — that’s how I’d describe it. That’s how it was for me.

But then Megan, man….. I’ll tell you what. You just cannot shake that girl. She’s going to do her thing, at her own damn speed, to her own damn rhythm, and she’s going to apologize to exactly NO ONE for it. So when all the Trump business started to go down last week, I mean — the fact that Megan just seemed completely unfazed? It’s strange to say, but that was probably the only normal thing about it. It’s not an act with her. It’s not a deflection. To me it’s more just like: Megan is at the boss level in the video game of knowing herself. She’s always been confident….. but that doesn’t mean she’s always been immune. She’s as sensitive as anyone — maybe more!! She’s just figured out how to harness that sensitivity.

And I think Megan’s sensitivity is what drives her to fight for others. I think it’s what drove her to take a knee. The Megan you’re seeing now? It’s the stronger version of the one who knelt in the first place. All the threats, all the criticism, all the fallout — coming out on the other side of that is what makes her seem so unfazed by the assholes of the world now.

I think in trying to help others, Megan has cemented who she is.

Whatever career Bird plans, I predict it isn’t going to be in writing. Mature people know the correct times for obscenities and the incorrect times. Bird evidently does not

I could point out, as I did Friday, that alienating your potential audience is bad business, but that would be like talking to a brick wall, because their feelings are more important than anything else. (And evidently their sexuality is more important to themselves than anything else about them.)

 

On women’$ $occer

The U.S. women’s national soccer team plays at France in the Women’s World Cup today at 2 p.m. Central time.

John Phelan writes about the team and its complaint against the United States Soccer Federation, and an ugly truth therein:

The US women’s soccer team is currently playing in the World Cup in France, defending the title they won in 2015. They’ve had an incredible start, scoring 18 goals in the group stage—a record for the tournament—and beating Spain to reach the quarterfinals.

Some see this success as fresh evidence in support of the case for equal pay for male and female players. According to a lawsuit filed on March 8 by the US women’s soccer team, their players are being paid less than the men, in some cases earning just 38 percent of their pay per game.

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) denies the pay differences are related to sex. This week, the two groups agreed to enter into mediation to resolve the dispute.

The pay gap feud entered the national discussion in 2018 following an impassioned speech from FIFA world champion Abby Wambach. The New York Times reports:

In spring 2018, Abby Wambach, the most decorated soccer player in American history, gave a commencement address at Barnard College that went viral. The player who had scored more goals than any other, male or female, in international competition described standing onstage at the ESPYs the year after she retired in 2015, receiving the Icon Award alongside two peers, Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant. “I felt so grateful,” she recalled. “I had a momentary feeling of having arrived; like, we women had finally made it.”

As the athletes exited the stage, each having, as Wambach put it, “left it all on the field for decades with the same ferocity, talent and commitment,” it occurred to her that while the sacrifices the men made for their careers were nearly identical to her own, their new lives would not resemble hers in one fundamental way. “Kobe and Peyton walked away from their careers with something I didn’t have: enormous bank accounts,” Wambach said. “Because of that, they had something else I didn’t have: freedom. Their hustling days were over; mine were just beginning.”

I don’t doubt Wambach when she says that she, Manning, and Bryant “left it all on the field for decades with the same ferocity…and commitment” and that “the sacrifices the men made for their careers were nearly identical to her own.” But if there is a case for equal pay, this isn’t it. The first hard lesson is that pay is not dependent on your effort but on your product.

… Abby Wambach was paid less because her efforts generated much less product—revenue—for her employers than Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant’s comparable efforts generated for theirs. When Bryant played his last game for the LA Lakers in 2016, they sold $1.2 million worth of Bryant merchandise that day. I can’t find similar figures for what Abby Wambach generated for her last team, the Western New York Flash, but I doubt it was anywhere near that.

So what’s the story with revenues for the US men’s and women’s soccer teams? The Wall Street Journal reports:

In the three years after the U.S. women’s soccer team won the 2015 World Cup, U.S. women’s games generated more total revenue than U.S. men’s games, according to audited financial reports from the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Doesn’t this disprove US Soccer’s argument that the difference in pay between the men’s and women’s teams is “based on differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex”?

Not so fast. These figures relate to “gate” and “game” revenues. But, as the WSJ points out:

…ticket sales are only one revenue stream that the national teams help generate. U.S. Soccer brought in nearly $49 million in marketing and sponsorship revenue in 2018, nearly half of its $101 million operating revenue, according to federation records.

US Soccer sells these broadcast rights and sponsorships as a bundle, not separately for each team. As a result, it’s hard to tell how much of, say, Budweiser’s sponsorship is attracted by the men’s team and how much by the women’s. Presumably, sponsors are paying to get their name in front of potential customers. Considering that data show TV viewing figures for the men’s team are higher than for the women’s team, this might suggest that the men’s team is the attraction for a disproportionate amount of that broadcast and sponsorship revenue. This would explain the pay disparity.

If pay is dependent on the product, what decides the value of that? This is the second hard lesson. Not only is your product not related to your effort, but the value of that product is also determined subjectively by the consumer.

Abby Wambach and Kobe Bryant play different sports, so maybe it’s unfair to compare them. The US women argue that they are underpaid relative to men playing the same sport. How can the same output be valued differently? …

Why wouldn’t US men’s and women’s soccer be perfect substitutes? Maybe sports consumers are sexist. Maybe the women’s product isn’t as good as the men’s in some objective way. From a pay perspective, the reason is irrelevant. There is no economic reason why similar effort should yield similar pay and no reason why different products should yield similar pay.

The US women currently in France have won three World Cup titles. The US men have never won a World Cup and failed to even qualify for the 2018 tournament. The women’s team’s achievements are hugely impressive. If you want to reward them with cash rather than words, put your money where your mouth is. Show you value their product by spending on it.

Apparently in the view of at least one team member, getting people to spend money on their product is not necessary, based on this CNN report:

American women’s soccer co-captain Megan Rapinoe is not planning to go to the White House if the national team wins the World Cup.

A reporter from Eight by Eight, a soccer magazine that looks at the sport and its place in culture, asked Rapinoe if she was excited about going to the White House if her team wins the Women’s World Cup.

“Psssh, I’m not going to the f*****g White House,” she fired back before the reporter finished the question. “No. I’m not going to the White House. We’re not gonna be invited. I doubt it.” …

In May, Rapinoe called out the soccer’s leadership for not doing enough to level the pitch for men and women players. She acknowledged “strides” had been made toward the better treatment of women, but FIFA essentially has “unlimited resources” and a historic lack of investment in women’s games.

“I would like to see a major paradigm shift,” she said.

Rapinoe is also one of 28 players suing the United States Soccer Federation, alleging the men’s national team earns more than they do even though they play more games and win more matches

But, as Phelan noted, generate less revenue than the underperforming men’s team. And yet apparently Rapinoe is fine if conservatives do not support her soccer team.