22 July 2014

They're Still Freedom Fries

The missives in these endeavors generally aren't reactionary to other posts out in the blogosphere; that behavior is mostly directed to news organs (I'm talking to you, Irwin). But today brings a reference post to a post, on the subject of income inequality. In this case, Tour de France winnings. What's amusing, and futile to my way of thinking, is the effort expended in attempting to find a quant model to fit these data. Ain't gonna happen.

Winnings, in any sport outside of table stakes poker (and you can name others, I suppose), are determined by the policy of the sponsors. First gets 100 units, second gets 10 units, and so on down the line. At one time, though I'd have to look it up, memory tells me that professional tennis players forced the purse distribution to be *more* unequal (here's a report on the current method). That's it. That the "winner take all" (yup, the girls) approach (and, yes, I'm talking to you, LeBron) in sport has infected normal enterprise goes a long way to explaining the global economic malaise. Why is an extra two points per game actually worth an extra $4 million/year; or whatever? That's the distribution function; set by the sponsors based on whim. In what rational world are boys and girls who play games awarded vast amounts of moolah, over folks who actually produce? What value do they provide? None, of course. Well, a bit of reflected shine on the owners.

The money comes from sponsors, TV, gate receipts (none of those, that I know of, for the Tour), and whatever. That money comes from the revenue of the sponsors, which is to say Ma and Pa Kettle who buy the sponsors' widgets. The widget buyers don't get to decide how much of the price of a widget should go to LeBron or Lance. (Aside: in today's NYT Business section is a piece on corporate boards, which asserts that boards have decided that boards shouldn't truck with shareholders, much less the public. I think that's a working definition of oligarchy.)

Policy trumps data, when they disagree. Good luck finding a general quant model of income distribution in sports. Just look up the formula for the sport/event you're curious about. Then go have a micro-brew.

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