Michael Rushton’s latest post is about the Superstar economy, something I’ve occasionally blogged about especially as it relates to the Survivorship Bias. This blurb below recalls some of the things I said in my Savior Demographic post as well as some discussions in the comments section of that post.
Sport gives an interesting perspective on superstars. How is it like the arts? First, there is a consensus as to what is ‘best’: major league baseball has better players than the minor leagues, premier league football has better teams than 3rd division, and so on. Second, broadcasts of games can reach millions. This generates a very large amount of advertising revenue, and players are able to capture a good portion of those revenues.
But the reach of sports is relatively recent – world-wide audiences, increased popularity, are things that have grown rapidly in the past few decades, but were not always in place.
All this came to mind from a (to me) fascinating photo gallery in The Guardian, of English football players, in the 1970s, at home. The photo above is of Alun Evans of Aston Villa, and, while it looks like a lovely family home, it is not what we associate today with the lifestyles of premier league athletes. Pitcher Jim Bouton, author of the brilliant memoir Ball Four, was on NPR the other day, and he pointed out his average salary (in the 1960s), playing for the Yankees, was $19,000. I did a bit of checking: the average major league baseball player’s salary in 1974 was $40,839, which is equal to $197,000 in 2014 inflation-adjusted dollars. That’s a high income, but not out of line with successful professionals in other fields like law, medicine, or business. The average MLB salary in 2014 is just under $4 million. Now some of that is due to players’ abilities to capture a higher share of the rents generated from attendance and broadcasts – of course free agency has made a difference. But most of it is due to the increased ability to capture wider audiences through broadcasts and internet, with the associated advertising revenues.
The post is well worth the read as it addresses the Met Opera and some HD cast issues I’ve brought up in the past.