American football was once described as a cross between chess and medieval warfare. Given that we can now easily acquaint ourselves with the sport of football if, by some quirk, we don’t grow up knowing what it is, we might instead wonder what medieval warfare was like. The answer is now simple: it was like the battle for Winterfell in Game of Thrones Season Six, Episode Nine, which was presented last Sunday. (The episode’s title, “Battle of the Bastards,” I’ll avoid using so as not to have to explain it.)
Imagine a space traveler arriving on our planet after a voyage of some years. She lands during the daytime, near the United Nations in New York City, and when she steps from her ship she has to shield her eyes. She has been away from her sun, from any sun, for so long that she’s unaccustomed to daylight; space is dark, though dotted with a billion points of light. Soon she’s ushered indoors to meet a long succession of diplomats and functionaries. Sometime that evening, she steps outside again, knowing that the planet has turned. Looking up, she expects to see the familiar blanket of bright dots, though in new arrangements, for the sky looks different depending on where you are, and she hasn’t been here before; maybe she hopes to glimpse, in particular, a few of those 12 constellations that some humans believe rule their lives. She is shocked. “My god—where are all the stars?” she asks, for only a handful are visible overhead.
In a books column on the sports business in the May 16, 2016, New Yorker, Louis Menand mentioned this:
The entire industry rests on the labor of athletes. The number of athletes is actually quite small, but, as a class, they are not getting that much of the money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13,700 people make their living playing spectator sports in the United States (compared with, for example, sixty-nine thousand people who are actors). The median annual wage for athletes is $44,680.
Are those numbers correct? Prepare for a bit of head spinning.