Envy And Altruism

Kevin Williamson has a fun article on the joy of stardom and the joy many see when stars like Tiger Woods and Allen Iverson fall from grace.  As a Patriot fan we would add Aaron Hernandez as the one who fell the lowest because just couldn’t stop killing people.  Kevin concludes:

And that may be why we love the ritual public denunciation of fallen idols. If we convince ourselves that they are monsters and moral outliers, then we do not have to face the much more terrifying possibility that they are schmucks like us — and that we are schmucks like them.

We have a different take on it.  We do agree that stars are often schmucks like us.  Failure to prepare for retirement hits all classes of folks.  Any individual’s expertise is limited to a very small area.  Being a great retirement planner is unlikely to make you a great basketball player and vice versa.  On the positive side, the failure of retirement planning provides us with a steady stream of live classic rock.  Yet we think our joy in failure of these stars is more about envy.  And envy connects to politics as the left largely practices the politics of envy although the right is not envy free.  Anytime you hear about press bias from the right there is an element of envy in it.  Envy sells.  We admit to envy about our opponents ability to kill the ball in handball.  We hope they envy some part of our game.

Sidebar: The local lawn care company sells envy too.  The truck says, in big, bright, and bold letters: Kick your neighbor’s … grass.  We understand and expect it is well received.  End Sidebar

First, let’s talk about altruism.  Kevin writes about Allen:

Some guardian angel at Reebok saved him from the very worst of it, persuading him to take a modest $800,000-a-year stipend and leave $32 million in a trust fund that he cannot access until he is 55 years old. So he just has to eke out a living on the better part of a million bucks per annum until he gets paid for real.

Without being privy to the transaction we are pretty sure that Allen wanted the money up front.  We also highly doubt that Allen outfoxed the Reebok folks in determining the discount rate for the annuity.  In fact, it looks like he is getting an unimpressive 2.5% ($800,000/$32,000,000) on his investment.  We also think it is safe to say that Allen is way better off with an assured return and not being able touch the trust fund.  So some folks, like the guy at Reebok, do good.

But most of have a combined awe and envy of folks like Tiger, Allen, Aaron and many others.  We saw Jason Day hit a 260 yard, uphill, three wood absolutely on the pin when he won the PGA.  It was awe inspiring and he didn’t look like he swung hard.  We have a strange combination of envy and worship of these amazing beings that when they fail many of us feel good about ourselves.  As we said previously, (you can look it up) the only time Jordan Speith understood our golf game was when he hit the second shot (third including the penalty) at the 12th at The Masters and had the passing hope that he had hit so bad that it wouldn’t make it to the water.  We have had that joy he missed.

So we envy their talent as much as we love it.  When they fail somehow we succeed and that’s why the stories of abuse and failure are so popular.  We enjoy their epic accomplishment and we might enjoy their epic failures even more.  It works in politics, advertising, and the media.  It doesn’t mean that everyone is consumed with envy as Reebok guy showed but betting against envy is like betting against the market.  It doesn’t work very often.

 

Economic Illiteracy

Jonathan Tobin, at NRO, is reminding us of the economic facts:

Raiders owner Mark Davis and his fellow NFL franchise holders will make a fortune out of a stadium whose design will be geared toward generating increased income from luxury boxes, restaurants, and other bells and whistles that the team’s current home lacks. Taxpayers pay the bill for the stadiums, while almost all the benefits go to private interests. This is a Robin Hood in reverse system that amounts to nothing less than socialism for sports team owners.

Yup, common sense and research show that the prices that tax payers pay to attract professional sports franchises are not worth it.  The only way to get a significant benefit is to narrow the analysis down to tiny area.  Yes, on the block they built the stadium there was a positive economic impact.  Otherwise it is just tradeoffs like more football and less theatre or dinners next to the stadium rather than elsewhere.  We are more interested in why this continues to happen again and again when we know the outcome.

Sidebar: Social Security and Medicare.  End Sidebar.

Economic illiteracy is surely part of it but only part of it.  Jonathan says:

One can trace the political advantages of governments providing their people with bread and circuses back to ancient Rome. The appeal of team sports in our own day is also undeniable. No mayor or governor wants to be remembered as the person who “lost” a beloved team the way New York City let Major League Baseball’s Giants and Dodgers depart for the West Coast in 1957, leaving behind legions of disillusioned fans. By contrast, politicians who agree to even the most egregious deals in which teams are provided new stadiums virtually free of charge (as, for example, was the case in Pennsylvania when the state agreed to finance two new parks for baseball and football in both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at the start of the new century) that will make them incomparably richer are lionized even if the net impact on taxpayers is overwhelmingly negative.

We agree in part but think it is a bit more subtle.  The folks paying the taxes in cities know they are getting taken for a ride any number of times and get very little in return.  Most big city services are high cost and low quality.  The folks paying the bill figure why not waste a billion $ on me rather than some other group.  It is hard to stop other problems but it is easier to add one.  With any luck it might be a single $billion rather than $billion a year.

 

Good Sporting Fortune

When you have been involved in sports as a player and fan as long as us you know about random shocks to the system.  Today Arsenal overcame a red card to Granit Xhaka in the 65th minute.

Sidebar: A red card means you play a player short for the rest of the match.  In this case Arsenal was a player sort for over 25 minutes.  End Sidebar.

Arsenal scored on a 98th minute penalty to escape Burnley at home 2-1.  An expected win became a miracle escape.  They now sit second in the table.

On this side of the pond, the Patriots benefitted from an injury to Le’Veon Bell and defeated the Steelers convincingly, 36-17.  As sports fans, we know that there is both skill and randomness involved in these outcomes.  It brings you joy when the outcomes favor your teams.  Now we try to catch Chelsea and beat the Falcons.  Neither is assured but the latter is more likely but we know from experience that anything can happen.

 

Relegation In The NFL

We know relegation isn’t feasible in the NFL because there are no replacement teams and no place to put the relegated teams.  Still it would increase fan interest for next week.

Sidebar: The three worst teams in the NFL all won today.  The Browns, 49ers, and Jaguars had won three of 42 games before today.  Today they won three of three.  End Sidebar

The first question is how many teams would be relegated.  Soccer leagues relegate three of 20.  The NFL has 32 teams so four or five is a reasonable number. The Gloves-in-law picked four so we will go with that. Picking some larger number would make different games crucial.  This year four works well.  Four for the current year would mean that the Browns and 49ers are already gone and the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, and Rams are on the bubble.  Now four ugly games next week: Jaguars v. Colts, Bears v. Vikings, Bills v. Jets, and Cardinals v. Rams become epic battles for survival.  The four games are particularly ugly without relegation because none of the eight teams can possibly go to the playoffs.  Relegation would make both ends of the NFL standings exciting at the end of the year.  It will take years but let’s start working on it.

Don’t Go For Two

Today’s Chiefs at Falcons game is another lesson of not going for two.  The Falcons tried for two to get within a field goal.  It didn’t work.  Then the Falcons scored a touchdown to go up by one.  So now they must go for two to get the lead up to three.  Of course, if they had of gone for one in the first case there would be no problem.  The Chiefs intercept the second try for two and run it back for what is ruled a safety.  The Chiefs take the lead back and do win by the single point.

Don’t ever go for two unless you are sure the other team cannot score.