David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!

"The more you know about your training, the better you'll be." 




Sports injuries don’t always just happen.

 “This is some of the most expensive human real estate in the world," said Leslie Saxon, a cardiologist and the executive director of USC's Center for Body Computing.

She was referring to athletes like $72 million-man LeBron James, who famously cramped up in Game 1 of the NBA finals this year. Saxon believes that if James had been training with sensors that could detect his biometrics, he might have predicted the cramping and avoided it (though it would have been tough to predict the failure of the AT&T Center's air conditioner).

"There are early warning systems when you're about to cramp up," Saxon said. "The more you know about your training, the better you'll be."

Biometrics and sensors are quietly making inroads into many sports to detect vital signs while athletes train and even play. Saxon originally set out to prevent dangerous heart conditions from felling elite athletes by predicting when these events would happen. But the study of biometrics is evolving into a tool that can maximize performance, extend careers and even become a revenue stream for athletes. Stats like shooting percentages and RBIs aren't enough—now we're looking inside athletes' bodies, at respiration levels and heart rate BPMs.

Professional and college teams across the U.S. and around the world, including the World Cup winning German soccer team, the Pittsburgh Pirates and dozens of others, are using biometric tracking devices. It goes beyond the "Moneyball" obsession with complex sports analytics to "bio sports stats" that give managers and athletes more insight than ever into performance. And its impact is felt off the field too, letting fans know that, for example, when Pirates outfielder Travis Snider steps up to the plate, his heart rate can climb up to 180 beats.

The biometric trackers, which run the gamut from small electronic devices that fit in compression shirts to something resembling a stick-on tattoo, can monitor heart rate, breathing, perspiration, lactic acid and other vital signs. They can contain some combination of accelerometer, radio, GPS unit, magnetometer and gyroscope.

With enough data, trainers can predict what will happen to an athlete based on previous events. Trainers of the German national soccer team can tell if a player is getting sick or fatigued if their heart rate remains elevated compared to what it was when they did the same drill previously.

miles run by U.S. Mens National Team player Michael Bradley in the 2014 World Cup

Average number of games missed due to player injury for NSW Waratahs Rugby team

Trainers have also embraced biometrics in sports with high injury rates like rugby, which loses each player for an average of 2 games per season. The New South Wales Waratahs rugby team in Australia, for example, suffered separated shoulders and torn knees that can leave eight players on a 35-player roster on the bench for a typical game. In 2013, 18 players suffered 24 injuries, which cost the club roughly $2.7 million dollars and contributed to a ninth place finish.

Desperate to keep its roster healthy, the team turned to IBM as a technology partner to bring the lessons of cloud analytics to the sweaty struggle of the rugby field. The company used its data expertise to track the Waratahs players' biometrics on the field using tracking units beneath their uniforms for practice and games, and their diet and sleep regimens off it.

From each of the 119 data points that measure everything from force of tackles to calorie counts, IBM then uses predictive analytics to help trainers better understand what's injuring their players. Anecdotal evidence is promising; the team has dominated opposition this season, topping Super Rugby's Australia Conference for the first time in team history with a point differential of more than 200. Moreover, only six players had suffered nine injuries as of playoff time.

"We thought the majority of injuries just happened," said NSW Waratahs Athletic Development Manager Haydn Masters. "Now we know we can prevent them and predict them."

The same biometrics data that can prevent injuries is also some of the most personal data imaginable: a record of an athlete's every heartbeat, their speed, and their ability to withstand blows. USC's Saxon sees enormous possibilities in that data, both for people who want to study it and for the athletes.

"A lot of the issues with athletes is that they become these cultural figures and then when they're done, they're done and they're discarded," Saxon said. "Biometrics is an additional way to compensate the athlete."

The emerging adoption of biometrics promises to not only enhance performance and lengthen careers, but also promises to be an immortal record of bodies in motion in the form of data, giving fans a look at how their favorite athletes' bodies work—and a way to understand how they play the game.



“Shelling out for relief arms on the open market is an inefficient and often perilous strategy”


November 14, 2014


By Andrew Simon

As the Royals showed this year, a dominant bullpen can go a long ways. 

Then again, Kansas City didn't build its group of shutdown relievers through free agency, and for good reason. Shelling out for relief arms on the open market is an inefficient and often perilous strategy, especially when it comes to closers. 

So yes, clubs should proceed with caution as they look to this year's class of bullpen options. But that doesn't mean there won't be good buys among them, whether it's paying top dollar for a ninth-inning expert or a relative pittance for a reclamation project. 

Here's a breakdown of some notable relief pitchers available this offseason:

Luxury Items

David Robertson, RHP, 29

Thanks to a strong season as Mariano Rivera's replacement in the Bronx, Robertson will not come cheap and is tied to Draft-pick compensation after turning down the Yankees' $15.3 million qualifying offer. Robertson, who converted 39 of 44 save chances, now has the "proven closer" label on his resume but already was an elite reliever for three seasons before that. He's thrown 60-plus innings each year since 2010, with a 2.51 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If any reliever in this class has the credentials to justify a sizable long-term deal, it's Robertson. 

Andrew Miller, LHP, 29

He doesn't have Robertson's track record, as a former No. 6 overall pick who flamed out as a starter before converting to the bullpen in 2012. But Miller's work in that role, particularly this past season, is eye-popping. A 6-foot-7 southpaw with a 95 mph fastball and a wipeout slider, Miller held both lefties and righties to a sub-.500 OPS in '14, while finishing second to Aroldis Chapman by striking out 42.6 percent of his hitters. He also cut his walks per nine innings in half from the year before, finishing at a career-low 2.5. That sort of performance could get Miller a chance to close, but either way, he's going to score a big pay day.

Buyer Beware

Pat Neshek, RHP, 34

He was an All-Star and a tremendous story in 2014, appearing in more than 45 big league games for the first time since '07 and posting a 1.87 ERA after signing a Minor League deal with the Cardinals. Crucially, the sidearmer moved away from his extremely slider-heavy approach and re-established his sinker, bumping its velocity up to 91.2 mph. But for an older pitcher with a spotty track record, there should be enough question marks to give teams some pause: Was Neshek's career-low 4.3 percent homer-to-fly-ball ratio, less than half of his overall mark, a fluke? Can he sustain his great '14 numbers against lefties (.541 OPS), or is his true role more of a right-handed specialist? Was his second half (3.41 ERA) much more indicative of his talent level than his first half (0.70)? 

Casey Janssen, RHP, 33

He has closer experience, with 25 saves last year and 90 in his career over eight seasons with the Blue Jays. Yet after a stellar three-season run in which he posted a 2.46 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 6.8 hits and 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, Janssen produced some troubling signs in 2014. His fastball continued a precipitous drop, falling from 90.8 to 89.8 mph, and his strikeout rate cratered from 8.5 to 5.5 per nine innings as his hits shot up from 6.7 to 9.3 per nine, despite a modest .273 BABIP. A rough second half pushed Janssen's ERA to 3.94, and at age 33, teams will have to wonder if he's worth late-innings money. 

Luke Gregerson, RHP, 30

His consistent track record of success as a setup man over his six big league seasons has put him in position for a lucrative multi-year deal. Gregerson has stayed mostly healthy, making at least 70 appearances five times, and he's posted an ERA of 2.75 or lower in four straight seasons. However, it's worth considering whether he would continue to enjoy that degree of success in a more hostile environment after spending five seasons in San Diego and one in Oakland. Pitchers tend to do better in their own ballparks anyways, but Gregerson's splits are stark: a 2.02 career ERA, .178 opponents' average and 0.3 homers per nine innings at home, compared with a 3.60 ERA, .253 average and 1.0 homers per nine on the road.

Rafael Soriano, RHP, 34

He hits the market again after two solid but inconsistent seasons with the Nationals, who removed him from the closer role late in 2014 after his seventh blown save of the season. Soriano certainly has more left in the tank at age 34 but has struggled to maintain the effectiveness of his slider and would be a big risk in a smaller ballpark. His fly ball rate last year was 12th-highest among all pitchers with at least 50 innings, but he gave up only four home runs, thanks to a homer-to-fly-ball ratio well below his career mark. 

Potential Bargains

Sergio Romo, RHP, 31

He might have a lost a little luster this year, when he posted a 5.01 ERA over the first three months of the season, leading the Giants to replace him at closer. But from that point forward, Romo was dominant, allowing two runs on 12 hits over 16 innings, walking one and striking out 20. He still throws a nasty slider, racks up K's (9.2 per nine innings) and limits walks (1.9), and his career-high total of nine home runs allowed looks like an outlier . At the very least, Romo remains a huge weapon against right-handed batters, who hit .172/.207/.321 off him this year. 

Luke Hochevar, RHP, 31

His 2014 ended before it began, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in March, making him a shaky bet to pitch a full season in '15, especially at 100 percent effectiveness. With that said, Hochevar remains an intriguing option after the former No. 1 overall pick executed a highly successful move to the bullpen two years ago. Leaning heavily on his four-seamer and cutter -- and gaining velocity with both -- Hochevar posted a 1.92 ERA and 2.96 FIP over 70 1/3 innings, striking out 82 and walking 17. His health obviously is a concern, and he likely won't repeat his .214 BABIP, but Hochevar could be a good upside play nonetheless. 

Jason Motte, RHP, 32

Here's a cautionary tale with regard to expectations for Hochevar this coming season: Motte returned to the Cardinals in May, a year after undergoing Tommy John, and looked nothing like the dominant closer he was in 2012. His four-seamer and cutter both lost about three mph, his strikeout rate got cut in half, batters hit about 100 points higher against him, and he produced a 4.68 ERA and 6.49 FIP over 25 innings. That's a scary combination, but it's also not unusual for pitchers to struggle in their first year back from that procedure. It shouldn't cost much guaranteed money for a team to take a chance on Motte regaining some velocity and stuff in Year 2, and if he does, the return on investment could be significant. 

Tom Gorzelanny, LHP, 32

Recovery from shoulder surgery kept him out until mid-June this year, but Gorzelanny was solid again for the Brewers in a limited sample, with a 0.86 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 21 innings. The southpaw has battled some injuries and moved back and forth between the rotation and bullpen throughout his career, but when healthy and pitching in relief, he's been solid. In 121 such appearances spanning 154 2/3 innings since 2010, he owns a 2.44 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Walks can be an issue, but Gorzelanny is tough on lefties (.231/.301/.360 career) and has the background to pitch multiple innings if needed. 



“prospects are the opiate of front offices”


On Cole Hamels, Anthony Gose, and the opiate of front offices


David Murphy THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2014,


Anybody who was paying close enough attention during the 2014 season has to agree with USA Today reporter Bob Nightengale's conclusion that Cole Hamels would welcome a trade away from the doldrums that have infected Citizens Bank Park over the last few years. The most telling sign came in early July, when the list of teams Hamels left unblocked on his no-trade clause surfaced from out of the ether. 

The list of seven teams included six big market clubs who could reasonably be presumed to have both the willingness to trade for starting pitching and the financial flexibility to accommodate a contract of Hamels’ size. The eighth was the Padres, who play in his hometown of San Diego. It didn’t take much of a leap to think that Hamels was making it as easy as he could for the Phillies to trade him. Everything about the lefty’s body language jibed with such thinking. After a couple of outings in which he pitched well but was left with a loss, he conspicuously declined to talk to the media. Again, it doesn’t take much of a leap to think that he did so because he knew he wouldn’t be able to muster a convincing amount of ambivalence to the media about his feelings about the state of the team.

So, yes, it doesn’t take much deduction to conclude that Hamels would welcome a trade. At the same time, over the course of his career, Hamels has had a highly-publicized education in the pros and cons of speaking one’s true feelings in a market like Philadelphia. And in a situation like this, there aren’t many pros when it comes to acknowledging to a fan base that one would rather be pitching in front of a different fan base next season. Even if the Phillies fan base would beg him to take them with him.

Coincidentally, a trade occurred yesterday that should reinforce the Phillies’ belief that a trade of Hamels is unlikely to be a silver bullet capable of slaying the beastly rebuilding process that they currently confront. The Blue Jays officially gave up on Anthony Gose, trading him to the Tigers for second baseman Devon Travis, who was rated as the No. 84 prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to 2014. Travis hit .298/.358/.460 with 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases at Double-A Erie last season, so Toronto got some value for him. But the fact of the matter is that Gose has yet to pay any dividends for either of the teams who acquired him in conjunction with the trade that helped the Phillies acquire Roy Oswalt in 2010. In 616 big league plate appearances, the 24-year-old Gose has a Galvisian .633 OPS. Brett Wallace, whom the Astros acquired for Gose in sending him to the Blue Jays, has a .704 OPS in 1,077 PAs and spent all of last season in the minors. Jonathan Villar, whom the Phillies also traded away for Oswalt, has a .629 OPS in 530 big league plate appearances.


The most valuable player in the Oswalt trade has been J.A. Happ, who has started 109 games in five-and-a-half seasons for the Astros and Braves. In fact, Happ has been more productive than any of the prospects the Phillies traded away in deals for Oswalt, Roy Halladay, and Hunter Pence, with the possible exception of Jarred Cosart, who has a 3.26 ERA in 40 starts despite a meager strikeouts and walk rates (5.5 and 4.0 per nine innings). Jonathan Singleton posted a .620 OPS in 362 PAs as a rookie last season. Domingo Santana went 0-for-17 in a brief stint in the majors before returning to the minors.

If religion is the opiate of the masses, then prospects are the opiate of front offices, and fan bases, and anybody else who yearns to believe in a greater baseball tomorrow. Make no mistake: the Phillies have little choice but to invest in this opiate, with the hope that they will stumble upon a decent batch. But history suggests that they will need to acquire plenty if they hope for one or two to pan out. That's why the Phillies need to entertain offers for every player on their roster, Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz included (in fact, Utley is probably the Phillies second most valuable asset behind Hamels, but with a shelf life that has been ticking for quite some time). It's why hitting rock bottom is often the quickest way to rebuild. The pitiful rate of return on prospects means a team has to cash in all of its chips in order to maximize its odds of striking gold. 

As for Hamels, it is worth mentioning that a trade for one or two or three of the Cubs' bonanza of prospects is currently viewed by some folks to be the golden ticket aboard the Rebuilding Express. And it is worth mentioning the last time we heard such talk, back in 2012, before Hamels' signed his contract extension, when the Rangers were viewed the way the Cubs are viewed today. The golden ticket back then was Texas' corner infield prospect, a kid named Mike Olt. He was a consensus Top 10 prospect. He had the ability to reach base. He had the ability to hit for power. Today, he has a .582 OPS and 113 strikeouts in 298 major league plate appearances. And a spot on the Cubs' bench. 



“Is this an irreversible trend (barring rule changes), or is it simply a cyclical dip?”


General Managers on the Current Run-Scoring Environment: Thoughts from Phoenix

by David Laurila - November 14, 2014

There is no disputing that offense is down. Teams are scoring fewer runs and hitting fewer balls over fences. Strikeouts numbers have grown precipitously. Some of the reasons behind those changes are clear. Others are more speculative. The bottom line is that the offensive environment isn’t what it was as recently as a handful of years ago.

The downturn begs two questions: 1. Is this an irreversible trend (barring rule changes), or is it simply a cyclical dip? 2. How does it impact roster-building decisions?

With the GM meetings taking place in Phoenix this week – yes, the weather was pristine – I decided to ask those very questions to a cross section of the decision makers. Not surprisingly, opinions varied.

Let’s start with the first of the two questions: Trend or Cycle?

Rick Hahn, Chicago White Sox: “There are elements like the strike zone and the velocity we’re seeing out of pitchers. Those have had a dampening effect. Defensive shifts have conceivably brought down the offensive effectiveness of some players. So, there are some tangible reasons to point to, but I do think part of it is just the cyclical nature of the game.”

Chris Antonetti, Cleveland Indians: “I’m not sure how far into it we are, but I think there are a number of different factors that have impacted the offensive environment in baseball. I don’t think it’s just a blip on the radar. I don’t necessarily see that dynamic changing if we don’t consider measures to maybe make some adjustments.”

Terry Ryan, Minnesota Twins: “No I don’t (think it is an irreversible trend). In fact, I absolutely don’t. Pitching is better, and sometimes you go through streaks where there just aren’t that many hitters coming up, or people producing on the offensive side of the game. I think that will correct itself.”

Doug Melvin, Milwaukee Brewers: “You have to be careful to make sure the cycles of offense and pitching are really that – a cyclical thing. There are probably some things affecting it a little bit, like bullpens and match-ups. The schedule is still a grind. There were also some good-quality hitters hurt over the course of this year – guys like Joey Votto – which affects offense. It could bounce back.”

Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers: “That’s a great question and I’m not sure I know the answer. In my estimation, the game is probably going to look at that topic. Right now, unless some things change, I think run production will continue to be down. I don’t think it will go down much more, but the trend will stay down from an offensive perspective.”

Michael Hill, Miami Marlins: “We evaluate trends, but I would say it’s more pitcher-driven than anything. It’s pitcher driven with power arms in rotations and power arms in bullpens. Who knows what that will mean long term?”


The second question — does the trend/cycle impact decisions-making? — also resulted in mixed views. GMs are typically coy when it comes to anything related to player-acquisition, but a few of them offered interesting perspectives.

Farhan Zaidi, Los Angeles Dodgers: “Just when you think you’ve identified a trend, it seems like things go the other way. It’s really just about building the most-balanced team. It’s not like we’re going to think to ourselves, ‘This team had success with guys who steal a lot of bases, so let’s go that way.’ We learn every season there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I don’t think we’re going to be overly dogmatic in our approach.”

Mike Rizzo, Washington Nationals: “I think you build a team depending on a lot of factors – talent level at the big-league level, talent level on the minor-league side, who’s coming up, the type of ballpark you play in, what the division looks like. All of those ingredients go into how you build a roster. We’re going to approach this season no different than any other.”

Neal Huntington, Pittsburgh Pirates: “Players in their mid 30s are players in their mid 30s. Very rarely do they suddenly get better, as happened with some in the 1990s and 2000s. Depth is important. You look at what Kansas City and Baltimore have done, having deep and talented rosters. They can rest players and not have a huge drop off. Youth and depth are absolutely crucial to roster building as we go forward.”

John Mozeliak, St. Louis Cardinals: “Your most knee-jerk reaction is to adjust to what you need now. You look at your offensive projections and how that’s going to translate into wins. But when you start thinking more long term, guys with a 1.000 OPS are rare. Our 2004 team had three – Edmonds, Pujols and Rolen – and those days seem so foreign. One thing you might start to see is a little bit more small ball and speed back in the game, teams trying to figure out a way to manufacture runs.”

Rick Hahn, Chicago White Sox: “You’re always having conversations about staying ahead of where offense, defense, and pitching are going. You want to be on the cutting edge, whether it’s acquiring undervalued players or players you can project to play a greater role based on their ability or the environment you’re going to drop them into. The conversations haven’t changed much, but the targets have altered in recent years. I think athleticism and the ability to contribute both offensively and defensively has become more important.”

Dave Dombrowski, Detroit Tigers: “You have to be cognizant of everything that’s taking place at a particular time. You analyze, and you have to decide how you’re going to use that information when building a club. Power is diminished, but how much more are you going to pay for somebody based on that lack of power? Where does that fit in with your philosophy of making contact? There’s just so much that goes into it.”



“everyone is making money — everyone except the eighteen to twenty-one-year-old kids who every game risk permanent career-ending injuries.”


College Athletes of the World, Unite

by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

When I played basketball for UCLA, I learned the hard way how the NCAA’s refusal to pay college athletes impacted our daily lives. Despite the hours I put in every day, practicing, learning plays, and traveling around the country to play games, and despite the millions of dollars our team generated for UCLA — both in cash and in recruiting students to attend the university — I was always too broke to do much but study, practice, and play.

What little money I did have came from spring break and summer jobs. For a couple summers, Mike Frankovich, president of Columbia Pictures and a former UCLA quarterback, hired me to do publicity for his movies, most memorably Cat Ballou (which was nominated for five Academy Awards).

In 1968, I needed to earn enough summer money to get through my senior year. So, instead of playing in the Summer Olympics, I took a job in New York City with Operation Sports Rescue, in which I traveled around the city encouraging kids to go to college. Spring breaks I worked as a groundskeeper on the UCLA campus or in their steam plant repairing plumbing and electrical problems. No partying in Cabo San Lucas for me. Pulling weeds and swapping fuses was my glamorous life.

Despite my jobs, every semester was a financial struggle. So in order to raise enough money to get through my junior and senior years, I let Sam Gilbert, the wealthy godfather of a friend of mine, scalp my season tickets to his rich friends. This brought me a couple thousand dollars. Spread out over a year, it was still barely enough to survive. I was walking out on the court a hero, but into my bedroom a pauper.

Naturally, I felt exploited and dissatisfied. In my first year, our freshman team beat the varsity team, who had just won the NCAA championship. We were the best team in the country, yet I was too broke to go out and celebrate. The more privileged students on academic scholarships were allowed to make money on the side, just not the athletes.

And unlike those with academic scholarships, if we were injured and couldn’t play anymore, we lost our scholarships but still had medical bills to worry about. We were only as valuable as our ability to tote that ball and lift that score.

Coach Wooden told us that there was no changing the NCAA’s minds, that they were “immovable, like the sun rising in the east.” I never personally encountered any players who cheated or shaved points, but I could see why some resorted to illegally working an extra job or accepting monetary gifts in order to get by.

The worst part is that nothing much has changed since my experience as a college athlete almost forty years ago. Well, one thing has changed: the NCAA, television broadcasters, and the colleges and universities are making a lot more money.

  • The NCAA rakes in nearly $1 billion annually from its March Madness contract with CBS and Turner Broadcasting.
  • The NCAA president made $1.7 million in 2012.
  • The ten highest paid coaches in this year’s March Madness earnbetween $2,627,806 and $9,682,032.

Management argues that student-athletes receive academic scholarships and special training worth about $125,000. While that seems like generous compensation, it comes with some serious restrictions:

  • College athletes on scholarship are not allowed to earn money beyond the scholarship. Yet students on academic scholarships are allowed to earn extra money.
  • The NCAA allows the scholarship money to be applied only toward tuition, room and board, and required books. On average, this is about $3,200 short of what the student need.
  • Academic scholarships provide for school supplies, transportation, and entertainment. Athletic scholarships do not.
  • Athletic scholarships can be taken away if the player is injured and can’t contribute to the team anymore. He or she risks this possibility every game.
  • The injustice worsens when we realize that the millionaire coaches are allowed to go out and earn extra money outside their contracts. Many do, acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars a year beyond their already enormous salaries.
  •  In this light, not only is the compensation inadequate to the effort and risk compared to academic scholarships, but there is a real chance that players may end up without an education, yet deeply in debt. Players who are seriously injured could technically make use of the NCAA’s catastrophic injury relief. This sounds fair and compassionate, except the policy doesn’t applyunless the medical expenses exceed $90,000 — which most claims don’t. If the student’s medical bills are $80,000, they’re on the hook for it themselves.

To protect against career-ending injuries, the NCAA also offersStudent-Athlete Disability Insurance. Unfortunately, this only pays if the athlete can’t return to the sport at all. But most injuries can be repaired to some extent, even if the athlete is no longer as good and gets cut from the team. Only a dozen such claims have been successful over the past twenty years.

Life for student-athletes is no longer the quaint Americana fantasy of the homecoming bonfire and a celebration at the malt shop. It’s big business in which everyone is making money — everyone except the eighteen to twenty-one-year-old kids who every game risk permanent career-ending injuries.

It’s the kind of injustice that just shouldn’t sit right with American workers who face similar uncertainty every day.

Unfortunately, those with a stranglehold on the profits aren’t likely to give up their money just because it’s the right thing to do. Instead, they will trickle some out in a show of fairness and hope that it’s enough to keep the peasants from storming the castle. That’s what happened in asettlement earlier this year, when college football and basketball players whose likenesses have been used in sports video games — generating millions of dollars for other people — finally received compensation.

The NCAA’s power is further eroding thanks to the push to unionizecollege athletes, a necessary step in securing a living wage in the future. Without the power of collective bargaining, student-athletes will have no leverage in negotiating for fair treatment. History has proven that management will not be motivated to do the right thing just because it’s right. Unions aren’t all perfect, but they have done more to bring about equal opportunities and break down class barriers than any other institution.

We’re angry when we see a vulnerable group exploited for profit by big companies, when executives rake in big bucks while powerless workers barely scrape by. We were furious when it was reported that Nike made billions in 2001, while at the same time employing, through subcontracted companies, twelve-year-old Cambodian girls working sixteen-hour days for pennies an hour to make $120 shoes.

We were outraged again in 2006, when the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School reported that about two hundred children as young as eleven years old were sewing clothing for Hanes, Walmart, JC Penny, and Puma in a factory in Bangladesh.

The children sometimes were forced to work nineteen to twenty-hour shifts, slapped and beaten if they took too long in the bathroom, and paid pennies for their efforts. According to the report, “The workers say that if they could earn just thirty-six cents an hour, they could climb out of misery and into poverty, where they could live with a modicum of decency.”

Thirty-six cents an hour.

While such horrific and despicable conditions are rarer in the United States, we still have to be vigilant against all forms of exploitation so that by condoning one form, we don’t implicitly condone others. Which is why, in the name of fairness, we must bring an end to the indentured servitude of college athletes and start paying them what they are worth.

The August decision by a federal judge to issue an injunction against NCAA rules that ban athletes from earning money from the use of their names and likenesses in video games, also included television broadcasts. This in itself could do much to bring about the end of NCAA tyranny.

The NCAA is appealing the decision so the case could drag out for years. In the meantime, the student-athletes continue to play Oliver Twist approaching the Mr. Bumbles of collegiate sports, begging, “Please, sir, I want some more.”





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