Battle of the Science-deniers at the Australian Open

What could be more unusual in the tennis world than the 1988 Australian Open? From Wikipedia:

Another event dubbed a “Battle of the Sexes” took place during the 1998 Australian Open between Karsten Braasch and the Williams sisters. Venus and Serena Williams had claimed that they could beat any male player ranked outside the world’s top 200, so Braasch, then ranked 203rd, challenged them both. Braasch was described by one journalist as “a man whose training regime centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple of bottles of ice cold lager”. The matches took place on court number 12 in Melbourne Park, after Braasch had finished a round of golf and two shandies. He first took on Serena and after leading 5–0, beat her 6–1. Venus then walked on court and again Braasch was victorious, this time winning 6–2.

The gender-neutral (ATP) final match featured an elderly Long COVID survivor who went to prison rather than accept the Sacrament of Fauci (see Avoid travel to Australia now that Novak Djokovic is on the loose?). What were the odds of this unsanctified spreader of Covid competing against another Denier of Science? “Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine” (NYT, August 2021):

Third-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas caused an uproar in his native Greece this month after he said he would get vaccinated only if it were required to continue competing.

“I don’t see any reason for someone of my age to do it,” said Tsitsipas, 23. “It hasn’t been tested enough and it has side effects. As long as it’s not mandatory, everyone can decide for themselves.”

Giannis Oikonomou, a spokesman for the Greek government, said Tsitsipas “has neither the knowledge nor the studies nor the research work that would allow him to form an opinion” about the necessity for vaccination, and added that people like athletes who are widely admired should be “doubly careful in expressing such views.”

Who watched the match? We were on Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas and were too busy with Flowrider to spectate. At $100 per day per adult (kids free), the passengers were a representative cross-section of America, including quite a few Blacks and Latinx. Together with about 150 of our fellow cruise fans, we watched the first half of the Eagles-49ers playoff on the ship’s big screen and the crowd burst out laughing when the announcer referred to “Doctor Jill Biden” being in the audience. (We’re still in a COVID-19 emergency (not to be confused with the “existential” climate crisis), which is why filthy unvaccinated foreigners like Novak Djokovic cannot come here on a two-week paid visit, and our nation’s top physician has time to watch a football game?)

A view of the Finnish-built magnificents on the walk back from the charming all-natural island of Coco Cay on game day:

(Pro tip: Try not to visit Coco Cay until March or April. The huge pool is unheated, there is no hot tub, and the ocean is cold!)

Here’s what Flowrider is supposed to look like:

Beginners lie down on a boogie board until they end up in a tangle of limbs up at the top. (I told everyone that I made more than $3,000 in two Flowrider sessions… female spectators paying me to put my shirt back on.)

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Tampa Bay football game guide for pilots

On the last day of Kwanzaa, I decided to pay homage to Tom Brady by seeing him play live. This was only the third time at an NFL game in my life. Once was the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, a horrible experience due to cold weather and multi-hour traffic jams. The second game was a recent Miami Dolphins game (previous post). Tampa is far and away the easiest from a logistics point of view. You fly, or get a friend to fly, a small plane to Sheltair TPA. No need to pay ramp or parking fees if you buy at least 16 gallons of fuel (enough for about 270 miles of travel in a Cirrus SR20!). The Sheltair folks will then zip you via minivan through closed-to-the-public airport roads (6 minutes) almost to the stadium front entrance. On the way back you can wait for the minivan or simply walk 30 minutes back to Sheltair.

In order to avoid get-there-itis, I waited until I was on the ground and on Sheltair’s WiFi network before purchasing any tickets (from the Ticketmaster verified resale market). Here are some photos…

(Note some of the Floridians above wearing long pants as protection against the frigid 75-degree temperature.)

Getting food or drink inside the stadium was a nightmare. If you don’t want to miss the game, put some snacks in your pockets before going in. Here are the lines outside the vendors 30 minutes prior to the game:

You’ll want to be on the west side of the field (the Bucs side) most of the season because then you’ll have the sun at your back.

I asked to see the manager to remind him/her/zir/them that not all of those who nurse identify as “mothers”:

The view from my $250 (including fees) seat:

Our hero of the gridiron and an inspiration to all men who are interested in marrying a woman (“All that you need to do to keep a wife happy is be in better physical shape, have a better personality, and be more successful than Tom Brady”) led the team to victory over the Carolina Panthers, 30-24.

It’s a different and more confusing experience than watching a game on TV. They do show closed captions from the TV broadcast on a screen within the stadium so it is easier to understand what the referees are saying. Or you can bother the expert fan sitting next to you, as I did every 5 minutes: “What just happened?” It’s also loud, so bring earplugs if you don’t want to be exposed to fatiguing levels of noise for 3+ hours (but Miami is much louder due to sound pumped into the stadium electronically; in Tampa the loudness is mostly from the fans).

Head over to the commercial airline terminal to see the giant flamingo sculpture. You can also eat authentic Lu Cai (Shandong) food at an authentic restaurant within this pre-security part of the terminal: P.F. Chang’s.

I was delighted to see that the airport terminal management takes Kwanzaa seriously:

Speaking of Tampa and airports, the city is the home of the young federal court judge who freed Americans from Joe Biden’s unconstitutional masks-in-airports rule (see Forced masking: the 34-year-old judge versus the 79-year-old president).

Loosely related: I rode the FBO minivan with a Bonanza pilot who runs a logistics business. “All the people who were charging huge premiums a year ago are now calling me begging for business,” he said. “Trucking companies call me every day offering capacity at a discount.” From his point of view, the boom economy was over.

Summary: I’m still not a huge live football fan, but a late season game in Tampa is probably as good as it gets. The weather is likely to be dry and 70s. Every time the Bucs score, cannon shots are fired from a pirate ship at one end of the stadium. The fans are loyal and enthusiastic (in Miami, by contrast, it seemed as though at least half of the audience was rooting for the other team).

Related:

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Which Muslim countries are left in the World Cup?

“Fans pause action for Friday prayers during first World Cup in a Muslim country” (Reuters):

As noon approached, muezzins across Qatar called Muslim soccer players, fans and officials to the first Friday prayers of the first World Cup to take place in a Muslim country.

How’s the World Cup going? Reuters says that this is the first time that a Muslim country has hosted. So it would be exciting if a Muslim country won the tournament. Besides England and France, which Muslim countries remain competitors?

Separately, here’s a guy at London’s Tate Modern studying a soccer game play analysis by Coach Cy Twombly:

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Getting half of someone’s earnings without going to family court

The U.S. has been the world leader in enabling a plaintiff to go to family court and obtain half (or more) of a defendant’s future earnings (see Real World Divorce and a recent enhancement for alimony and child support plaintiffs in Maskachusetts).

This week, however, we’ve learned of a way to get half of a target’s earnings without needing to walk down to the courthouse. From the Righteous, “United States Women’s National Team earns more money from men’s World Cup than its previous two women’s tournaments” (CNN):

The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) earned more money from its male equivalent reaching the knockout stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar than it did from winning its own tournaments in 2015 and 2019.

“This is a truly historic moment,” US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement in May. “These agreements have changed the game forever here in the United States and have the potential to change the game around the world.”

“Male equivalent”? Aren’t the male equivalents of the USA Women the local 14-year-old boys’ teams? (“FC Dallas under-15 boys squad beat the U.S. Women’s National Team in a scrimmage” (CBS))

Let’s check the Deplorables… “World Cup 2022: US women’s soccer team earns nice payday thanks to men’s win over Iran” (Fox Business):

The U.S. men’s national team defeated Iran 1-0 on Tuesday to move onto the knockout stage of the World Cup for the first time since 2014.

While the entire U.S. cheered on Christian Pulisic and company in the exciting defeat of their final Group B opponent, it was the U.S. women’s soccer team that really won big without having to put a cleat on.

The U.S. men’s team is guaranteed a payout of $13 million for making it to the knockout stage of the World Cup, and because the U.S. women’s team struck a historic deal to receive equal pay with the men and split prize money 50/50, they are guaranteed at least $6.5 million.

The prize for the men making it to the round of 16 is more than the women earned for winning the 2015 and 2019 World Cups combined. According to Yahoo Sports, the women’s team earned $2 million in 2015 and $4 million in 2019.

Who has been watching the World Cup? I’ve got the cable TV box, which sits powered off for months at a time, programmed to record all of the games. Which ones are worth reviewing?

One thing that I’ve noticed is that “crypto.com” is an advertiser inside the stadium. How is this company different from what Sam Bankman-Fried was running? It is an exchange and holds crypto on behalf of customers and also issues its own coin? Wouldn’t users worry about being Bankman-Frieded?

I also noticed that Google is a huge advertiser. How is this consistent with the company’s commitment to social justice? Wikipedia says “Sexual acts of male homosexuality are illegal in Qatar, with a punishment for all convicts of up to three years in prison and a fine, … The Qatari government does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil partnerships, nor does it allow people in Qatar to campaign for LGBT rights.”

Volkswagen stopped advertising on Twitter because 1 in 100,000+ tweets contained some words that are sometimes used in an anti-2SLGBTQQIA+ context (stats), but it is enthusiastically advertising in partnership with Qatar.

Today was a sad day for the USA Women as the players whose income they are tapping failed to prevail over the Netherlands, a country with a smaller population than Greater New York City, my Dutch friend pointed out (he is not a fan; “soccer is traditionally a sport of the lower classes here”).

Why is the World Cup worth watching? The players don’t usually play together on a team, right? Each national team is hastily assembled from among city-affiliated teams, right? How can these games stir as much passion among fans as regular soccer games among European or Brazilian cities? What would happen if Fußball-Club Bayern München could enter the World Cup? Would the city team beat all of the national teams due to general coherence and experience playing together? Or are the national teams stronger because they assemble stars from many city teams?

One of the new stadiums from the official Qatari web site:

The site also has a guide to cultural norms:

People can generally wear their clothing of choice. Shoulders and knees should be covered when visiting public places like museums and other government buildings. Swimwear is commonly worn at hotel beaches and pools.

Qatar has a very family friendly culture. Children are welcome in almost all premises, including restaurants, malls, cultural establishments and fan zones, all day and late into the evening.

Public displays of affection are not part of local culture, but making new friends and celebrating together are.

How about cultural appropriation? Justin Trudeau would be safe here:

While international visitors and residents wear a wide variety of clothing styles, Qatari citizens usually wear traditional attire. Visitors are welcome to wear traditional Qatari clothing if they choose to.

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A Miami Dolphins game at Hard Rock Stadium

A friend whose teenage son is a fanatical Patriots fan indulged the boy and his brother with a trip to Miami to watch the Patriots-Dolphins game on 9/11. A mutual friend texted his opinion:

Football is a barbarous gladiatorial display which sacrifices black bodies on the altar of entertainment.

We were glad that we hadn’t invited him to come down from the Northeast.

My friends rated Hard Rock Stadium, entirely privately funded (compare to what New York taxpayers are doing in Buffalo), as superior to Gillette Stadium in the Boston exurbs. It took less than one minute to get through security and ticket validation.

The stadium is set up so that the home team has an enormous advantage. The “home” sideline is on the south side of the field, shaded by the south portion of the structure. So the home team in September is on the sidelines in “only” 90-degree heat. The visitors are on the north sideline, exposed to the direct Florida sun, and able to fry eggs on their helmets.

If you’re looking for backyard flag ideas, here’s what the Dolphins did for 9/11:

If you’re sitting in your $2,000/person premium seat and seized with a California-style passion for housing the unhoused, you won’t see any in-stadium messages regarding poverty or how say-gooders can help. If you’re passionate about 2SLGBTQQIA+, Pride, and the struggle for equality, you’ll be disappointed to see that there are no rainbow flags in the stadium. Those with a passion for social justice are not entirely ignored, however. One end zone bears the message “End Racism” while the opposite end zone reminds spectators “It Takes All of Us”:

Conveniently, as with waving a rainbow flag, ending racism does not require us to spend any money (except on NFL tickets!). Let’s hope that ending racism doesn’t require perfect hearing because every part of the stadium is loud. Music is played before the game and there is a literally deafening roar from the fans during the game. Calls from the referees are amplified, but difficult to understand (much harder than when seeing a game on TV). I wouldn’t take a noise-sensitive kid to the stadium.

We are informed that the Venezuelan economy is in tough shape, but there was a huge line of people at halftime for the $8 arepas.

Speaking of Venezuela, here’s a gal from that country who was forced into following the NFL and cheering for the Patriots by her fiancé (unhappy in the background as the Dolphins maintained their lead, ultimately resulting in a 20-7 victory for the Team of Party On over the Team of Science. 2.5 years of masks and “essential” marijuana did not help the Patriots win). She even had Patriot-symbol earrings.

Tip: try to eat before the game and don’t expect to be able to get any food or drink (other than from a water fountain) during halftime.

How about seats? We were in cheap ($200, including fees, purchased as “verified resale” a few day days prior) seats in section 317 and the view seemed good. Legroom is skimpy, however, so stay home on the recliner if you want to stretch out. You can see the half-empty premium seating section below. The customers for these seats in Miami are so rich that they don’t bother going to the Ticketmaster web site to transfer their $2,000/seat tickets. There were some empty seats in the nosebleed sections, but the super expensive sections had the lowest occupancy. Maybe it is time to vote in Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren so that these folks will be forced to pay their fair share?

Transportation? My friends were latecomers to the parking party and ended up in Lot #20 (buy in advance from Ticketmaster), which would be regarded as Siberia from the perspective of VIPs and season ticket holders. This is a 15-minute walk from the stadium, but the reward is that you get in and out without sitting in any traffic. Highly recommended. Another good option would be to park between the Sonic and Walmart at the SW corner of the stadium. The risk of being stuck in traffic seems a little higher, but nothing like it would be in the close-in official lots.

Inspired by stadiums in Japan that have no parking lots at all, but are instead built near train stations, I decided to join by taking the Tri-Rail commuter train from West Palm Beach. This is just like the trains in Norway, which I recently enjoyed, in that it rides on steel rails. After that, the similarity ends. Commuter lines in Norway run every 15 minutes; Tri-Rail runs every hour on Sundays (and was 30 minutes late, which means some passengers waited 1.5 hours in stations that don’t have bathrooms (the toilet on the train was broken and overflowing)). The Norwegian trains are clean and quiet. Tri-Rail has a ventilation system that overpowers the Florida heat, but at the cost of a huge amount of noise. Tri-Rail is so bumpy that it is tough to read while in motion; the Norwegian trains are smooth.

Because it is so noisy and expensive, even though I am passionate about ending racism I am not enthusiastic about returning with the family for a Dolphins game. If we did go, however, we would drive and park in Lot #20 or similar, aiming to arrive at least one hour prior to the game so as to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Part of the post-game survey:

There is no difference between Chinese and Samoan:

Go Big or Go Home on the income:

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What were your favorite parts of the U.S. Open tennis tournament?

I was disappointed that our fellow Floridian Frances Tiafoe did not win the U.S. Open.

The Science-following part of my brain was gratified that Novak Djokovic’s filthy unvaccinated Science-denying body was excluded by President Biden’s orders (not applicable to asylum-seekers, of course). It was also good to see that Stefanos Tsitsipas was punished with an early loss for his previously expressed lack of enthusiasm for the Sacrament of Fauci (see “Why So Many Tennis Players Don’t Want the Covid Vaccine” (New York Times, August 30, 2021)).

It was disappointing that Margaret Court wasn’t selected by ESPN to provide commentary. From Wikipedia:

Court has been a consistent critic of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage in Australia. In 2012, she opposed proposed same-sex marriage reforms. Court has been criticised for such statements by openly gay tennis players Billie Jean King, Rennae Stubbs and Martina Navratilova, and in 2012, an LGBT rights protest group called for the renaming of Margaret Court Arena.

Court was criticised in May 2017 after writing a letter to The West Australian decrying Qantas, the largest airline in Australia, for being a corporate supporter of same-sex marriage and saying that she would boycott the airline. … high-profile guests Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe paraded a banner calling for the Margaret Court Arena to be renamed in honour of four-time Australian Open champion Evonne Goolagong. In 2020, her Margaret Court Community Outreach charity was denied a Lotterywest grant for a freezer truck on the basis of her public statements on gay people.

Who better to start the much-needed dialog on these topics, which are important enough to the tennis world that the “This is Pride” banner was larger than the American flag at the Delray Beach Open (February 2022):

Out of principle, I watched only the open-to-all-gender-IDs ATP events that are, I believe, unfairly characterized as “men’s”. I don’t think that there is any requirement in the ATP Rulebook that a player identify as a “man”. I did not watch any of the “women’s” events organized by the gender-discriminatory Women’s Tennis Association. However, it would have been interesting to see a rematch between Serena Williams and beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking Karsten Braasch (“He was well-noted for … his habit of smoking during changeovers.”)

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The stateless players in the U.S. Open tennis tournament

I hope that everyone will tune in today to watch our fellow Floridian Frances Tiafoe compete in the marked-safe-from-Djokovic U.S. Open tennis tournament. There are a variety of questions raised by Tiafoe’s situation. We are informed by daily reports in the media and on Facebook that Florida is being crushed under the boot of the dictator Ron DeSantis. Books are banned. Pregnant people cannot get on-demand abortion care when they go in for reproductive health care after 15 weeks of being pregnant persons. Science is suppressed. Public schools are not allowed to “instruct” kindergartners in all of the rites of the nation’s established religion. A professional tennis player can live anywhere in the world and, certainly, could live in any of the 49 states that are not tyrannically governed by Ron DeSantis. Why is Tiafoe, with his $6+ million in prize money so far, still a Florida resident?

Another question raised by my casual searches for matches and times using The Google… what country or countries are Medvedev and Khachanov from? Google shows nearly every other player next to a national flag. Are we to understand that, contrary to international law, Medvedev and Khachanov are stateless?

According to Google, Tiafoe beat a stateless player named “Rublev” two days ago:

Readers: Did you also notice this unusual situation?

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Who is watching the Miami Grand Prix Formula 1 race this weekend?

For those who disagree with Michel Houellebecq (see If the dark days don’t have you in a suicidal mood…

Are you from Brittany?” he asked. “Yes—from Saint-Brieuc!” she replied happily. “But I really like Brazilian dance,” she added, obviously trying to absolve herself for her disinterest in African dance. Much more of this and Bruno would really get irritated. He was starting to get pissed off about the world’s stupid obsession with Brazil. What was so great about Brazil? As far as he knew, Brazil was a shithole full of morons obsessed with soccer and Formula One. It was the ne plus ultra of violence, corruption and misery. If ever a country were loathsome, that country, specifically, was Brazil. Sophie,” announced Bruno, “I could go on vacation to Brazil tomorrow. I’d look around a favela. The minibus would be armor-plated; so in the morning, safe, unafraid, I’d go sightseeing, check out eight-year-old murderers who dream of growing up to be gangsters; thirteen-year-old prostitutes dying of AIDS. I’d spend the afternoon at the beach surrounded by filthy-rich drug barons and pimps. I’m sure that in such a passionate, not to mention liberal, society I could shake off the malaise of Western civilization. You’re right, Sophie: I’ll go straight to a travel agent as soon as I get home.”

) the Miami Grand Prix is this weekend. ESPN will cover the qualifying at 3:55 pm ET today. The actual race is tomorrow. A rich friend got free tickets and took his young son to yesterday’s practice. Our text message exchange:

  • Me: What about parking?
  • Rich dad (there is no “poor dad” in any tale regarding Formula 1): Traffic nightmare. 90 minutes [from Miami Beach]. Took an Uber
  • Me: And that was for practice! A whole race is about 90 minutes. If horse racing is the sport of kings, this is the sport of people who love to sit in traffic jams. Now that you’ve seen it up close how much would you be willing to pay for a high quality grandstand seat [$4,000+ per ticket] for the race itself.
  • Rich dad: Zero. Would rather watch at home.

(His 4-year-old was smiling in the video snippet that he sent.) The good news is that it wasn’t as loud as the earlier generation of F1. Earplugs were not required except in the pits. My friend’s seats, about 3 stories above the track, were not plagued by ear-splitting noise.

European readers: Please sell us on the magic of Formula One!

Related:

(note that the tennis courts you see are used for the annual Miami Open; maybe they could space out the traffic and make the horrific logistics worth it by holding a tennis event at the same time as the F1 race? Go there in the morning to watch tennis and then stay for the car race)

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A $1.4 billion stadium for Afghans, Iraqis, and Somalis to watch American football

“After decades of decline, Buffalo boasts a ‘Refugee Renaissance.’ Can it last?” (Democrat and Chronicle, January 2022):

After reinventing itself as a haven for refugees, Buffalo seems poised for renewal. But with success comes higher rents.

Across the nation, the results of the 2020 census were the source of hand-wringing and political debate. But in Western New York, they were cause for unbridled celebration.

For the first time in 70 years, the city of Buffalo had grown.

The city’s modest 6% growth was trumpeted by officials as a pivotal triumph for a Rust Belt city that had become synonymous with loss. Hollowed out first by suburban flight and then the loss of manufacturing jobs, the onetime steel and iron powerhouse had hemorrhaged more than 50% of its population in the half-century since 1950. By the turn of the millennium, it also ranked among the most poverty-stricken in the nation.

The city’s turnaround came from a perhaps unlikely source: refugees from some of the most conflict-riven places in the world. After welcoming fewer immigrants than any city its size in the 2000 census, Buffalo has since re-imagined itself as a haven for new Americans from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq.

Over the past two decades, more than a quarter of the refugees who came to the state of New York arrived in Buffalo’s Erie County, even as native Buffalonians continued to flee to greener economic pastures. Since 2002, more than 16,000 refugees have resettled in Buffalo.

Higher rents as the price of prosperity

West Side homes that used to sell for $40,000 might now go for hundreds of thousands, said Beehag at the International Institute, straining the resources of agencies trying to find housing for refugees who may need months to find jobs. To house the around 500 incoming Afghan evacuees, agencies are relying in part on churches and universities for short-term housing.

Poverty rates in Buffalo have barely budged even as other economic indicators trend upward — leaving both refugees and longtime residents alike in danger of displacement, according to a 2019 analysis led by Adelman.

What do impoverished refugees “from countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Somalia and Iraq [and Afghanistan]” need from taxpayers? “Buffalo Bills Strike Deal for Taxpayer-Funded $1.4 Billion Stadium” (New York Times, March 28, 2022):

New York State officials have reached a deal with the Buffalo Bills to use $850 million in public funds to help the team build a $1.4 billion stadium — the largest taxpayer contribution ever for a pro football facility.

Under the deal, the state would finance $600 million of the construction costs, while Erie County, where the stadium will be built adjacent to its current home, would cover $250 million. The remainder would be financed through a $200 million loan from the N.F.L. that was approved on Monday, plus $350 million from the team’s owners.

“Taxpayers To Be Billed a Billion Dollars for Buffalo Bills’ New Stadium” (reason.com):

as Field of Schemes blogger Neil deMause parses in his detailed rundown of the stadium deal, the actual public subsidies probably exceed $1 billion—and that doesn’t account for things like interest payments on the borrowing that the state and county will likely have to do to finance the agreement. The fine print of Monday’s announcement, deMause notes, puts the public on the hook for $6 million annually for the next 30 years to fund upgrades to the stadium and another $6.6 million for the next 15 years to fund “maintenance and repair.” All told, that’s an extra $160 million in taxpayer funds pledged to the project beyond the $850 million price tag.

Related:

  • “Sports, Jobs, & Taxes: Are New Stadiums Worth the Cost?” (classic 1997 paper from Brookings)
  • “Sacking Taxpayers: How NFL Stadium Subsidies Waste Money And Fall Short On Their Promises Of Economic Development” (Heartland 2015): “Taxpayers funded more than half the construction cost of 12 stadiums from 1995-2013,” TPA says. “During that time, national median household income rose 0.3 percent across the United States, adjusted for inflation. In the dozen counties in which an NFL stadium was built using more than 50 percent public funds, however, median household income plummeted 5.7 percent during the same time. Twenty-six counties in America are home to an NFL stadium that received tax dollars between 1995 and 2013. In an astonishing 17 of those 26 counties, the median household income actually decreased in constant dollars after the stadium received public money for construction or renovation. Taxpayer-financed NFL stadiums didn’t just appear to decrease median income, they also apparently contributed to increasing the number of people living in poverty.”
  • “NFL owners approve sale of Bills to Pegulas” (2014): That payment would be for $1.4 billion. (i.e., if we don’t adjust for inflation, the cost to taxpayers, who will get nothing in return, will in the same ballpark (so to speak), as the cost to the owners)
  • “Celebrating Women’s History Month” (BuffaloBills.com), from a team that refuses to hire anyone identifying as a “woman” to be a player
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Eileen Gu plus affirmative action = path for billionaires to ski in the 2026 Olympics?

Originally-American Eileen Gu has been criticized by Americans for getting a Chinese passport and choosing to compete on China’s team at the 2022 Olympics. Let’s look at the BBC as a neutral source:

A San Francisco native who learned to ski on the pristine slopes of California’s Lake Tahoe, she is representing China, not the USA, in the Olympics – a move that has come at a sensitive time for Sino-American relations, and has inevitably placed Ms Gu at the centre of a global debate on geopolitics and representation.

Ms Gu has expressed support for movements Black Lives Matter and spoken out against anti-Asian violence in the US, but remained silent on issues like the mass internment of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang and the arrests of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

“There’s no need to be divisive,” she told news site The New York Times.

Why would Eileen Gu prefer to represent China? Here’s what New York-based The Guardian US adds to every article displayed in Apple News:

An erosion of democratic norms. An escalating climate emergency. Corrosive racial inequality. A crackdown on the right to vote. Rampant pay inequality. America is in the fight of its life.

Given a choice, what rational person would want to be associated with a country that is packed with enough haters to create so many problems? Gu has personally experienced the Asian Hate that my former neighbors in Maskachusetts bravely put up lawn signs to #Stop: “Eileen Gu calls out ‘domestic terrorism’ of Asian-Americans amid spike in coronavirus-related violence – ‘killing more Asian people isn’t going to kill the virus’” (South China Morning Post):

“This was in San Francisco – supposed to be the liberal bubble within California, which is the most liberal state, in the most liberal country in the world. This was supposed to be the safest place and I felt physically in danger. I grabbed my grandma and we ran out. I was so scared. That moment was definitely a reset because I realised how close to home it hit. That anybody can be affected just because of the way they look or their culture and heritage.”

The superstar athlete’s response to the carping of her inferiors (NBC):

At a press conference after her victory, Gu said she’s trying to be an example for young women and has no interest in the politics or social media debates.

“If people don’t believe me and if people don’t like me, then that’s their loss,” she said. “They’re never going to win the Olympics.”

(Side note: What is the “example for young women”? That their lives too can have value if they win Olympic gold? Also, how does Eileen Gu define the term “women”?)

Let’s look at another recent story and see if it can be combined with the above inspiring tale of a young person who escaped “corrosive racial inequality”, “rampant pay inequality”, and “a crackdown on the right to vote.” “Competing in the Winter Games, Without a Snowball’s Chance” (NYT):

One by one they zigzagged down the mountain, near the end of a line of nearly 90 racers in a snowy giant slalom, looking more like ski hobbyists on a weekend jaunt than world-class competitors.

Many of the skiers were first-time Olympians, brought together by one very pertinent thing they have in common: a shortage of snow in the countries they are representing in Beijing, including Jamaica, Ghana, India, East Timor and Morocco.

“I always say, ‘There is a first league, and there is a second league. We are, for sure, the second league,’” said Carlos Maeder, 43, who is representing Ghana and is the oldest skier at this year’s Games. “Maybe even the third league,” he added, chuckling.

Keenly aware that skiing has been dominated by athletes from richer, colder countries, the International Olympic Committee and skiing’s world governing body have tried to make the sport more inclusive through a quota system that lowers the threshold of qualification.

“I was never going to be competitive,” said Benjamin Alexander, a 38-year-old Jamaican skier and former D.J. He finished last in the giant slalom in a race on Sunday. “The people I was competing against started skiing at 2 and had their first race training at 4 or 5,” he said.

Mr. Alexander started skiing when he was 32.

The typical rich American is a reasonably good skier. The U.S. allows dual passports. East Timor might be happy to give an American billionaire a passport and a place on its Olympic team in exchange for a small (by billionaire standards) cash payment. If not the billionaire then the athletic child of the billionaire. What better way to experience the Olympics than as an athlete? (and, in fact, this year it was the only way for an American to experience the Olympics)

Readers: What could go wrong with the above scheme?

Related:

NYT reader comments on the New York Times article regarding affirmative action for athletes who are not good at winter sports:

I think we should add meat packing and fruit picking in summer heat to the Summer Olympics. Perhaps it will show the world the horrors the migrants are treated in this country.

I don’t think Americans fully grasp what it means to some of these countries see themselves represented in the games. Seriously, the privilege of the comments in this article drives me nuts. Travel the world and you’ll learn that yes, being American is itself a privilege in more ways than you thought you’d be able to comprehend.

(Norwegians have even more privilege, therefore, since they win way more medals?)

A better way to diversify the winter games would be to include more sports that can be learned without fancy facilities. How about snowshoe racing? It’s really just running (in snowshoes) and there are many poor countries with great runners.

This is same thing as space voyeurism at this point except Olympic voyeurism.

I was fortunate enough to watch the bottom tier skaters the other day, stumbling or falling, getting up and finishing with grace and gratitude. Pure joy to be there…and the greatest lesson from the Simones and the Mikealas of the world is that a champions bad day can be someone else’s lifetime achievement. Nothing makes someone more weak and vulnerable than to be crushed because of lack of perfection, it is they who are without hope or faith.

(Paul, Bay Area) How about we simply stop Winter Olympics until we fix the climate ? I love the Olympic Games, winter sports, but it is so incongruous with the climate trends that my heart is not in it.

Nobody is getting into Harvard who can barely read. Penn, maybe. At least back in the day.

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