Money has the power to improve sports in terms of upgrading or building new facilities at both college and professional levels. Money investments in technology such as replay do improve sports to make sure the call is made correctly on the field. Financial investments to improve medicine has helped extend the careers of players that would have normally had their careers ended by certain injuries.
However, money doesn’t always improve sports on the playing field in terms of how each team competes. In addition, players can feel disrespected by their organization because it is unwilling to pay them what they are looking for. Also, available money may not be used to benefit players for the long term, one specific example is that of the National Football League’s inability to pay former players disability.
One way to improve sports with money is building new stadiums or renovating outdated facilities. Great facilities bodes well for teams in helping either land a free agent at the professional level or at the college level bringing in recruits for visits to the school.
Yet, just because there’s a new facility it doesn’t mean the actual team is going to improve the play on the field. The Washington Nationals baseball team had a brand new stadium built in 2008, but it hasn’t meant success for the Nationals organization with winning. So far the Nationals have an average of 59 wins the two years of their stadium’s existence.
The New York Mets baseball team in 2009 opened a new stadium and the team didn’t do too well either winning only 70 games. On the other hand the New York Yankees also opened a new stadium in 2009 and eventually ended up winning the World Series.
For the University of California the school had been trying for years to renovate Memorial Stadium where the team plays football. The school had to fight lawsuits for years to begin building a new facility and renovating Memorial Stadium. Last year the school won the lawsuit and got the go ahead to start building the new facility as well as the renovations to the stadium.
California’s reason for renovating Memorial Stadium was to be able to compete with other Pac-10 teams in the recruiting process. California is not the only team in the Pac-10 that is renovating their facilities. The University of Arizona in the upcoming year will also begin renovations on their stadium.
The reason for the renovations is that it’s becoming harder and harder to compete in the Pac-10 conference with aging stadiums.
Financial investments in technology are also playing a much bigger role in sports. There are plenty of examples of how sports use costly technology, specifically replay, to their advantage.
For tennis replay can be used to determine whether a ball was in or out.
Football regardless of college or at the professional level have the ability to make sure that calls are made correctly with replay. Although, there are rules that limit the use of replay so it doesn’t slow down the pace of the game too much. Examples of such plays that are usually reviewed are fumbles, interceptions, and catches.
Basketball has even got into using instant replay on a few select plays, such as reviewing whether a shot that was close to the three point line was a three or if the players foot was on the line. The other play that is reviewable in basketball is during the last seconds of any quarter to make sure a player made the shot before time had expired.
The National Hockey League uses replay to make sure that a puck goes over the goal line. That’s the only play that I’ve really seen where replay is used in the NHL.
Major League Baseball is the only sport that has really had a hard time implementing replay. Last year MLB finally instituted replay for homerun calls to make sure the ball was hit s fair or foul and also making sure that a ball did clear the outfield fence, or to make sure a fan didn’t reach over into the field of play.
After the playoffs and a seemingly endless string of bad calls made by umpires there were renewed calls for replay to be expanded. There’s no question that it should be. It shouldn’t be for balls and strikes though, but it should be for close plays at any base and whether the ball is fair or foul in regards to balls hit down the foul line.
For the NFL, college football, and the NHL it means that there’s an extra official that gets paid to view the play when a request for replay is made. They are the ones responsible for either correcting the call made on the field or changing the call that was made.
In MLB and the NBA the umpires and referees get to look at the replay and make the determination to whether the call was correct or not.
I believe the biggest improvement in sports where money is concerned has been the in the investment to advance the field of Sports Medicine. There are injuries that occur that would have ended or derailed the careers of players, but after the rehab process these players are coming back better than before their injuries.
An example of this is of Frank Gore who suffered not one but two serious knee injuries while at the University of Miami. The San Francisco 49ers took a chance on Gore by drafting him in the third round even though he was a first round talent before the injuries. Most often when serious injuries occur like that of Gore teams tend to stay clear of those players, but Gore has proved the doubters wrong and he has become arguably the greatest running back in 49ers franchise history.
There has been a surgery recently that has helped players extend careers because before this type of surgery came into play it would have meant knee replacement surgery, which would have ended the careers of those players. The costly type of surgery that is now being used is microfracture surgery.
What this surgery entails according to Medlineplus.com is the surgeon will make very small holes into the bone near damaged cartilage in the knee. Those holes are called microfractures and it helps the bone produce new cartilage.
Kevin Everett suffered a terrible spinal injury in a game in 2008 for the Buffalo Bills. His injury that he suffered normally would have meant that he would have been paralyzed, but thanks to the advancement of medicine and the way Everett was treated on the field after months of rehabilitation he was able to walk again.
A perfect example of how money does not improve sports is the example of the NBA Draft. The reason for this is the “one and done” rule which basically was instituted to stop high school players from jumping straight to the NBA.
This rule was created for the 2006 NBA draft and it states that in order for a player to enter the draft they must be 19 years of age, be one year removed from their high school graduating class, or play at least one year of college basketball. Before the rule change to enter the draft a player had to be at least 18 years of age.
With the new rule in place it has created issues at the college level. It means that there’s a lot more recruiting that has to be done for schools which costs money. Even with the recruiting there’s no guarantee that a player is going to stay more than a year, so college teams are now trying to find as much talent as possible in hopes of having these talented players for just one year.
Recently there have been two highly publicized incidents involving two of the better talents in college basketball. Each of those players left after one year for the NBA.
These incidents that each player was involved in are considered significant rule violations that could result in major sanctions for each college program limiting those schools ability to recruit players. One of those schools has already received sanctioning from the NCAA.
The player was Derrick Rose who played his only season of college basketball at the University of Memphis. He has been accused of having an invalidated test score which would have made Rose ineligible to play at Memphis. During his time at Memphis he helped lead the team to a 38 win season and into the NCAA Championship game where Rose and Memphis lost to Kansas.
According to the article written by Jeff Goodman in August of 2009 titled “NCAA Strips Memphis of ’08 season” Rose allegedly cheated on his SAT test to gain admission into Memphis. So, the NCAA issued their ruling back in August on the punishment Memphis should be given. The NCAA stripped Memphis of all 38 wins and placed the team on three years probation.
O.J. Mayo who was an even more highly sought after player had more serious charges leveled against him. In the article written by Jack Carey of USA Today, Mayo reportedly received gifts and up to $30,000 while he was still in high school. So, far there hasn’t been any punishment handed down to USC by the NCAA because the schools and the NCAA are still looking into the matter.
So, the rule the NBA has created for players wanting to enter the draft have hurt the image of the NBA because of these controversies. There are questions of to why not just let high school players enter the draft?
The answer to that question is actually an easy one to answer. There’s actually a quote from Pete Newell in regards to the NBA that answers why high school players and even players who have gone to college for a year should not be in the NBA.
Newell states "Players today have increased physical skills, but basketball skills have diminished, I resent the fact that many of them take the game for granted. It starts at the top, though. It's an overpriced, corporate-dominated business run by lawyers who have a bad product, and don't know how to fix it."
In terms of the second part of the quote about the NBA being a corporate-dominated business you can look no further to Lebron James. Before he even stepped foot on the basketball court he received a seven-year $90 million dollar contract with Nike.
When you look at the first part of the quote it fits perfectly in regards to James. What makes James a great player isn’t his tremendous skills on the court, but his athleticism. He has the ability to get to the rim on anyone in the league because of his strength.
All teams have to do though is play back on defense and force James to shoot. James does not have a mid-range jump shot and he doesn’t shoot very well from beyond the three point line. He does have tremendous peripheral vision, so he does have the ability to pass the ball and find open teammates, but that’s predicated on him being so dangerous at getting to the rim.
If James suffered a serious injury that affected his athleticism he would have a much harder time as a player in regards to being able to score because he wouldn’t be able to get to the rim like he had before and would have to rely on his jump shot.
James isn’t the only player in the NBA that has this problem either. A majority of NBA players really in this era would have struggled to find a roster spot in previous eras. Yet, NBA players are being paid a lot more money than any other era. So, really it hasn’t improved the game of basketball it actually has made it worse.
For MLB it’s a little bit different in terms of how money is used in the sport. There are small market teams and there are teams in larger markets. In terms of small markets the Oakland A’s, Florida Marlins, and Minnesota Twins are put in the small market category. The Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees would be considered large market franchises.
For the small market teams the philosophy is to develop their young talent and on occasion spend money to keep a key player or bring in a player that is an essential need, but they will try not to overpay for players.
The philosophy for a larger market team is to spend as much money as possible in hopes that the player will sign. This leads to the belief that teams in larger markets are waiting for talent to develop and then buying the best team possible. Overspending isn’t considered a problem to the large market teams unless the player is not producing on the field.
Looking at the NCAA specifically at college football one of the biggest issues is how the National Champion is determined. Unlike basketball, baseball, and hockey there is no playoff system, which is inexcusable. Instead the NCAA uses what is known as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).
The BCS uses three components that are weighted equally according to BCSFootball.org it includes the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, USA Today Coaches Poll, and an average of six computer rankings.
With this system in place the NCAA according to the site last year the BCS made 1.2 billion dollars from the bowl games. So, it’s really not a surprise that the NCAA doesn’t want to implement a playoff system if the current system that the NCAA is using is making money.
Even with the money being made by the NCAA, Dan Wetzel points out in his article titled “Wetzel’s Playoff Plan: Money Talks” he quotes a Sports Illustrated poll that states 90 percent of college football fans are opposed to the BCS.
Also, Congress has chosen to take a deeper look at the BCS. Joe Barton the committee chairman was quoted as saying "Too often college football ends in sniping and controversy, rather than winners and losers. The current system of determining whose number one appears deeply flawed." This quote is from the Associated Press article “Congress to look into ‘Deeply Flawed’ BCS System.”
According to the BCS organization website the belief is that the BCS is succeeding based on the fact that since the BCS inception in 1998 eight times the number one and number two ranked teams in the country played in the National Championship game.
Not mentioned on the website for the BCS is the fact that there have been other teams that were just as deserving of the chance to play in the National Championship game. For example the University of Southern California in 2008 should have been a team that went to the National Championship game.
It has been incredibly hard since the BCS implementation to state that the team that has won the National Championship has been the best team in college football. USC arguably was playing the best football in the country at the end of the 2008 season and into the Rose Bowl where USC annihilated Penn State and further provided proof that USC was the best team in the country.
So, the BCS does allow for the NCAA to gain an exceptional amount of money thanks to advertising and the number of bowl games, but the actual system in place has not improved the way teams are selected to play in the National Championship game.
Now, one of the best things about college sports is the fact that college athletes are not paid to play. One of the biggest differences in professional sports and college sports is the fact that a college player has no problem giving their best effort game in and game out because if the players don’t give their best effort they may find themselves sitting on the bench.
College basketball’s March Madness is one of the best ways to see college athletes giving everything they have. What makes March Madness even better is that there are teams usually referred to as “Cinderella teams.” These teams are usually from much smaller conferences that make the tournament of 64, but they shock the nation by how well they play and end up taking down a team from a major conference for a major upset.
In theory these teams are not supposed to beat teams from a major conference, but each year these schools find ways to defeat those teams and create recognition for themselves.
As for money in the NFL there’s two significant things that really does damage to the image of the NFL. The first is that the contracts in the NFL are not guaranteed. The second is the neglect of former NFL players by not approving disability claims.
There are plenty of examples of how badly the NFL has neglected former players. There’s a great article written on the subject by Paul Solotaroff of the Men’s Journal titled “Casualties of the NFL.”
Solotaroff uses the example of Brian DeMarco, Terry Long, Andre Waters, and a number of other players to show just how badly the NFL and the NFL Players Association have treated these individuals.
The article also introduces the Gridiron Greats Foundation, which has done more for these former players than the NFL has done. I think that the best part of the foundation is its mission statement which can be found on the website Gridirongreats.org.
The statement is this “The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund’s mission is to assist retired NFL players, who are in dire health and financial distress by providing a means to regain a semblance of dignity and quality of life that every human being deserves. The Fund will support grant applicants through a series of conventional and non conventional fund raising efforts while calling attention to those in need through partnership programs, licensing efforts and public relations events with the set goal of expanding the Funds assets through partnerships with the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association and Alumni”.
But, even more powerful for one to see on the website of the Gridiron Greats is the stories of former players and just what they’ve gone through with no help from the NFL. It definitely gives a fan a much different perspective of the league. This is about money and the only way for the NFL to improve its image is to start doing a better job of accepting disability claims from former players.
Money does play a role in improving sports, but really at only two levels. The technological level where plays can be reviewed to make sure the call are correct. Sports Medicine is the other level that has improved sports based on being able to extend careers of many athletes.
Even with the superficial level regarding the building of new facilities doesn’t necessarily mean that the actual product on the field is going to be improved as with the examples of the Mets and the Nationals.
There’s college players leaving early for the NBA, but don’t necessarily mean that these players have the necessary skills developed to make an immediate impact in the league and that usually means being on the bench and not playing. There’s NFL players holding out for more money or causing trouble for the team if they don’t get what they want, and for the NFL as well showing greed over making sure that former players are getting the disability payments.
In terms of college football there’s the BCS which hasn’t really proven much except that a computer doesn’t have the necessary skills to make the correct judgment in what teams should be playing for the National Championship.
College basketball is much more exciting because of the fact that the athletes are not being paid and they give the maximum effort every night, contrary to what happens in the NBA where players will take games off and not put much of an effort on the court.
Also, with college basketball with the NBA’s “one and done” rule it has increased the likelihood that college coaches spend time, effort, and money in recruiting players only to have them leave for the NBA.
What causes concern and doesn’t improve college teams is if those players come in commit a violation against NCAA rules such as cheating on a SAT test like Derrick Rose or allegedly accepting money from an agent like O.J. Mayo.
It could put college programs in serious trouble and those players like Rose and Mayo will be long gone making money in the NBA, but the college team will be feeling the effects of the punishment handed down by the NCAA for years.
In closing, appropriate oversight is required to ensure that the financial investment to improve sports actually does the job.