Category Archives: Sports - Page 2

Suprisingly, NFL Players Are Woefully Underpaid

ESPN has a list of all 278 professional, major-league sports teams in the world, ranked by the average player’s salary. The list includes teams from 10 countries, playing 7 sports, totaling about 8,000 players, each of which averages 2m$ per year. Yet the first NFL team on that list, the Pittsburgh Steelers, is ranked a whopping 75th with an average of 3m$ per player per year.  The last NFL team, the Cincinatti Bengals, is ranked 184th, averaging half that salary — 1.6m$ per player.

Meanwhile in soccer, which claims 7 of the 10 highest spots, salaries range from the 1st ranked Barça at 8.7m$ per player to tenth ranked Inter Milan (5.7m$/player), to dead last on the entire list — Columbus Crew with an average of 89k$. American soccer of course has no fans, so the LA Galaxy tops that subset of the list at #219, with 555k$ per player. But, there are three American teams in the top 10 so that we can at least save face: at #5, the LA Lakers (6.3m$/player), followed by NY Yankees (6.2m$/player) at #6, and the Philadelphia Phillies (5.8m$/player) in 9th place.


CC Sabathia is the highest paid pitcher in baseball history


One thing to keep in mind is that these numbers are averages: a few star players make a lot more, and most make a lot less. Having said that, the cheapest NBA team — the 66th ranked Indiana Pacers — pay more per player (3.4m$) than the NFL’s wealthiest, the Steelers. Average baseball salaries have a lot more variance: their highest salaries are comparable to the top NBA ones, but their lowest are on par with the lowest NFL salaries. For example, the cheapest baseball team is the Oakland As, who are ranked 164th and pay 1.8m$ per player — marginally more than the aforementioned Bengals. (Incidentally, the 2011 movie Moneyball told the story of how the As did very well in the early 2000s, despite having no money, by analyzing their players using a statistical system called sabermetrics.)


So the average salary for every NBA player is higher than every NFL player, but baseball spans them both. And it makes sense that basketball players make more money, since there are fewer of them on the team. It also makes sense that baseball players make more money, since their season is longer and they play dozens and dozens of games per season instead of the 16 in the NFL. But football players get punished like in no other sport and they deserve more compensation than the soccer and basketball players that fall down and grab their shin at the drop of a hat; especially the much-ignored linebackers.

In other news, college football players are still glorified slaves who bring in millions to universities, and in return are paid absolutely nothing.

The entire list is available on ESPN’s website.

From ESPN, via NPR


The BCS Is Probably Moving To A 4-Team Playoff In 2014

The AP is reporting that all the BCS commissioners are finally on-board with recommending a four team, three game playoffs. The effort is being led by SEC commissioner Mike Silve, which sort of makes sense since the SEC has dominated college football, winning 8 of the 13 national championships, including the last 6 years in a row. The BCS leadership will recommend this new plan to its conferences, tweak it as needed and then get various levels of approval, including that from university presidents. This last one will likely be the toughest sell because any change to the current bowl system may undermine the giant revenues universities make from playing in bowl games. But if everything goes well — and it looks like it will, — final approval for the playoffs will be given on July 4th. (How patriotic.) was give on June 26th.


Part of the reason the playoff system will likely be approved — besides the fact that fans that have been clamoring for one for years and that it’s very conspicuously the only sporting system without one — is that the powers that be may not have much choice: shortly after his 2009 inauguration, President Obama said that we need a college playoff system. His comment stemmed from the fact that following the 2008 season, there were three 1-loss teams  — Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, — which left it up to computers and polls to decide which two of them would end up in the national championship game (it was Florida and Oklahoma; the former won 21-14). And to add insult to injury, the only undefeated team (Utah), wasn’t even allowed to prove itself because it was widely considered to not be quite up to par in playing with the big dogs.

Boise State fans have been locked out of the national championship game despite having great season records


It looks like Obama followed through on this issue, because in May of 2011 the Department of Justice began an investigation on why the NCAA does not use a playoff system, hinting that there may be anti-trust issues at play. That legal pressure, on top of the immense pressure from the fans, may have finally been enough to tip the scales in favor of the playoffs.

(Updated to reflect the actual agreement reached.)

See also:

From The AP

Broncos Sacrifice Tebow


If you haven’t heard, the Broncos acquired the recently free-agent Peyton Manning and subsequently traded Tebow to the Jets for two draft picks, because Peyton’s giant salary meant they couldn’t keep Tebow without hitting the salary cap.


Applying Graph Theory To March Madness

A bioengineering grad student got tired of filling out his March Madness bracket based on faulty intuition, so he decided to apply some mathematics to the problem. In and of itself, of course, that’s nothing new: sports statistics are probably the most crunched numbers in the world, and Vegas is on top of that game. What’s interesting is his approach, in that he modeled the Division I teams as a network and then applied graph theory to it to find the winners. This has also probably been done before, but the approach is very elegant and therefore worth a second look.


A tournament represented as a directed graph


First, he based his analysis only on the teams’ win-loss records; this is nice because

  1. winning is all that matters, and
  2. it keeps the analysis from getting out of hand with complexity.

He modeled the teams as nodes in a directed graph (in which the edges between the network’s nodes have directions) and made the edges point in the direction of the win. To each edge, he also assigned a weight, from 0 to 1, based on the magnitude of the defeat — because not all wins are created equal. Then he represented this network as an adjacency matrix, did some math on it to calculate the eigenvector centrality for each team to determine their relative importance in the network, and got a ranking of the Division I teams. Based on that ranking, he filled out a bracket (PDF):


He also has the entire ranked list of Division I teams, and his blog post has a lot more detail on the methodology, if you’re math nerd.

From BioPhysEngr, via Slashdot

Tebow Doesn’t Change: He Changes You

Tim Tebow: on the left, while playing for the Florida Gators; on the right, while playing for the Denver Broncos


From CBS Sports

Why Football Is The Quintessential American Sport

These days, football is the national pastime in all but name only, and an article in the Wall Street Journal by a British convert brilliantly explains why that is, and why the rest of the world doesn’t get it:

In its energy and complexity, football captures the spirit of America better than any other cultural creation on this continent, and I don’t mean because it features long breaks in which advertisers get to sell beer and treatments for erectile dysfunction. It sits at the intersection of pioneering aggression and impossibly complex strategic planning. It is a collision of Hobbes and Locke; violent, primal force tempered by the most complex set of rules, regulations, procedures and systems ever conceived in an athletic framework.

Soccer is called the beautiful game. But football is chess, played with real pieces that try to knock each other’s brains out. It doesn’t get any more beautiful than that.

From The Wall Street Journal, via Neatorama

Urban Meyer’s Own Statements On Coaching At OSU

Now that former Florida football coach Urban Meyer has officially left his commentator gig at ESPN and accepted the head coach position at Florida’s quasi-rival OSU, some OSU and most Florida fans are up in arms. Here’s why, in Meyer’s own words:


Urban Meyer at his resignation, for health reasons, from Florida (December 2010)


“At this time in my life, however, I fully grasp the sacrifices my 24/7 profession has demanded of me, and I know it is time to put my focus on my family and life away from the field.  The decision to step down was a difficult one. […] I will profoundly miss coming to campus every day to coach this team, but I will always be a Gator at heart.” — From his resignation announcement, December 8th, 2010

“I am committed to ESPN and will not pursue any coaching opportunities this fall. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the people at ESPN this spring and remain very excited about my role with the network this fall”. — May 30th, 2011

“When rumors are out there — last week, a guy hit me with something, ‘Did you meet with so and so?’ Of course not. I don’t know how those things get printed, just, ‘Source says.’ Who’s your source? A guy walking down the street? Those things bother me, but it comes with the job, I guess.” — When asked about how he deals with speculation about coaching at OSU, October 13th, 2011

“I am very happy with my role at ESPN, I have no plans to return to coaching at this time.” — November 11th, 2011

“I can only tell you what Urban just texted me back about rumor that he has accepted job at Ohio State — ‘No truth to it.'” — Journalist Pat Dooley, via Twitter, November 18th, 2011

“Well there’s no truth to that. I know it’s that time of year, but I have not been offered any job and I have certainly not accepted any job.” — November 19th, 2011

“I’m in a good place right now mentally and physically. So if something happens with Ohio State, I’ll have a decision to make. But there has been no interview. There has been no offer to make a decision about.” — the day after his first contact with OSU, November 21st, 2011

“I have not been offered any job nor is there a deal in place. I plan on spending Thanksgiving with my family and will not comment on this any further.” — November 23rd, 2011

“A year ago in my mind I was convinced I was done coaching. Then I moved away. I didn’t realize I’d miss it so bad. […] But for the coaching position at the Ohio State University, I would not have coached this coming year. […] Florida was my dream job. I will always be a Gator. However, this is my home state and it’s great to be back home.” — From the press conference announcing his new position at OSU, November 28th, 2011

Urban Meyer at his first press conference at OSU (December 2011)


Every Florida fan feels like they just got the it’s-not-you-it’s-me routine. At least Steve Spurrier left for better pastures in the NFL and failed miserably before returning to coach a rival team. Meyer on the other hand, resigned for apparently no reason — over the course of 11 months, his health and family became a non-issue. Pat Dooley says he just needed a sabbatical, and that Florida’s program is broken, while OSU’s is not; in other words, Florida was too much to deal with for Meyer.


The New Marathon Record Is 2:03:38

A guy from — can you guess? — Kenya broke the record yesterday at the 38th Berlin Marathon. The old record was held by an Ethiopian who was about 21 seconds slower. The first record, in 1908, was at the hands of an American with 2:55:18, so athletes have gotten a lot faster in the last hundred years. But they’re approaching some limit of human performance, because the 2:10:00 mark was broken in 1967 by an Australian, so in the past 45 years, only 6 minutes have been shaved off — as opposed to 36 minutes in the first 45 years.

For comparison, a comfortable walk is about 3mph, so a mile every 20 minutes. Jogging is about a mile every 12 minutes. Running: under 10 minutes per mile — most people can’t do this for more than a mile, if that. Really fast running: under 7 minutes per mile — few people can do this. This guy, Patrick Makau, averaged a mile every 4:43, for 26 miles.

From NPR

The Justice Dept Is Investigating College Football

The Associated Press is reporting that the Justice Department antitrust chief has sent a letter to the president of the NCAA asking him to explain why they don’t use a playoff system in college football, adding that the BCS system “may not be conducted consistent with the competition principles expressed in the federal antitrust laws”. Utah’s attorney general is apparently also preparing for a lawsuit against the BCS, on similar grounds. In related history, the NCAA has been saying for a while that they would move to a playoff system if the major schools wanted one, and bin Laden-killing President Obama made an early promise to try to do something about the lack of playoffs in college football. Hopefully the Justice Department will be as successful as the Navy SEALs.

From NPR