MONEY Sports

How the Economics of Playing Football and Basketball Compare

That loud roar you heard this week was NFL training camp getting under way. With less than six weeks until the Green Bay Packers head to Seattle for a game against the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks, fans across the country are following every move of their favorite players and planning for their fantasy football draft.

We decided to take a look at some of the important markers in the life-cycle of a professional athlete. From sporting gear to concussion rates, the gallery below provides a snapshot of what parents have to pay to get their kids on the field—and how long players stay in the big leagues once they actually get there.

To put the numbers in a little bit of context we compared football’s costs to basketball’s.

TIME Sports

LeBron James Sends Cupcakes to His Neighbors to Apologize for Causing a Ruckus

A sweet gesture

As soon as LeBron James announced that he’d be returning to his native Ohio, everybody pretty much just went totally nuts. Cleveland Cavaliers reporters (and fans) swarmed his home in Bath Township near Akron, causing traffic jams and general chaos.

LeBron was aware of all this, and to apologize to his neighbors, decided to send shipments of cupcakes.

Each box included six “Just A Kid From Akron Cherry Cola” cupcakes and six “Homecourt Chocolate Chunk” cupcakes from a local bakery, ESPN reports. Both flavors were created specifically for James’ foundation. We’re a bit skeptical about a cherry cola cupcake, to be quite honest, but hey, it was still a nice gesture.

MONEY Sports

Could 25-Year-Old Rory McIlroy Be Golf’s Long-Awaited Savior?

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds up the Claret Jug trophy
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland holds up the Claret Jug trophy after winning the British Open Golf championship at the Royal Liverpool golf club, Hoylake, England, Sunday July 20, 2014. Scott Heppell—AP

He was the consensus choice as golf's "next big thing" even before winning the British Open over the weekend.

As a sport and a business, golf is stuck in a proverbial sand trap, probably the deepest and most difficult one ever encountered by the industry. Player numbers are on the decline, especially among young people, and golf course closings in the U.S. are trumping golf course openings by a stunning ratio of nearly 10 to 1.

There is some hope, however, that golf will experience a renaissance, even among kids who are now too accustomed to instant gratification and too distracted by smartphones and social media to bother venturing outside to play baseball or go for a hike, let alone try their hands at the time-consuming, frustrating “old person’s sport” of golf. And one of the big reasons for this optimism is that today’s most exciting players also happen to be kids, and none more exciting than Rory McIlroy, the 25-year-old winner of the 2014 British Open.

OK, so a 25-year-old isn’t exactly a child. But he’s a kid compared with the prototypical gray-haired, 50-something golfer out on the links. And his success couldn’t come at a better time. McIlroy is part of a much-needed youth movement in golf, notes Jim Frank, a contributing editor to Links Magazine who has covered the sport for three decades. Joined by emerging superstars Rickie Fowler, who is also 25 and is known for cool clothes and shaggy Bieber-like hair, and incredibly talented young female golfers like Lexi Thompson (19) and Lydia Ko (all of 17), McIlroy is seen as a fresh injection of energy, excitement, and—dare we say it?—perhaps even hipness into the sport.

“He supposedly took the first selfie of a British Open winner,” said Frank. Hey, that’s gotta count for something.

Perhaps the biggest contribution of McIlroy and the rest of the youth movement—besides their unwrinkled, photogenic faces and a generally cooler appearance compared with the usual grandpas on the links—is that they’re changing the perception of how to play golf and when one tends to peak in the sport. “In the past, the assumption was that you didn’t really hit your stride until your 30s, after you’ve worked out the kinks in your game,” said Frank. “Today’s young players are really powerful, they wrench their backs and really hit the ball hard. And they’ve been playing so long that by the time they’re in the late teens and early 20s, they can dominate.” (They can also get injured; just look at how Tiger Woods’s body has fared in recent years.)

Nonetheless, the excitement, power, and youth that McIlroy and his peers bring to the game has to be good for golf, right? Sure, to some extent. But Frank believes it will take more than one charismatic, curly-haired Irishman to turn the tide.

“Are 14-year-olds sitting in front of a TV on a Sunday morning at 10 o’clock watching Rory McIlroy?” Frank said. The answer, of course, is no. While some parts of the golf world are trying to make changes to become more appealing to younger players and families, Frank believes that some retrenchment is still needed, and that the sport will always remain a niche activity, and one that always skews older.

When people in the business talk about rejuvenating the sport, they sometimes ask, “What’s the snowboarding of golf?” said Frank. “Snowboarding brought young people back to the mountains, and it helped save skiing.” Unfortunately, because a sizeable faction of the golf world has no interest in changing the game or doing much of anything to appeal to younger people, “there may not be an equivalent of snowboarding. But that’s the way we have to think of it.”

The big irony, Frank said, is that right now, when golf seems to be struggling so mightily in its attempts to attract new players to the game, there has never been a better time to play. “The equipment has never been better, and there’s great value for what you can buy fairly cheaply,” said Frank. “You can get on almost any golf course in the world, or join almost any club if you want. There are no lines, and there aren’t people behind you telling you to play faster.”

MONEY Sports

Tiger’s Back—But Golf Is Still In a Hole

digging golf ball out of bunker
Thomas Northcut—Getty Images

Tiger Woods has finally returned from injury and is playing the British Open this weekend. But is he back in time to save his sport from irrelevancy?

Tiger Woods is back on the course at the British Open this weekend, his first major tournament in nearly a year. Though he took home the trophy the last time it was played at Royal Liverpool, in 2006, he’s facing a tougher challenge this time, starting Saturday’s round 14 shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.

A Tiger on the hunt is always good for television ratings, but even the return of golf’s highest-profile player may not be enough to blast the sport out of its current hole. Golfer numbers are down. Golf equipment sales have been tanking. The number of golf courses closing annually is supposed to dwarf the number of new courses opening for years to come. “We really don’t know what the bottom is in golf,” Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack said in a conference call in June, attempting to explain why golf gear sales have fallen off a cliff. “We anticipated softness, but instead we saw significant decline. We underestimated how significant a decline this would be.”

What accounts for golf’s present rough patch? Here are a handful of reasons, including the curious case of Woods himself.

People are too damn busy. When someone asks how you’re doing, the response among working professionals and working parents especially is probably a kneejerk “crazy busy.” Studies show that leisure time has shrunk for both sexes, and that dads are doing more work around the house, though moms still devote more time to chores and childcare than their spouses. A so-called “leisure gap” still exists between mothers and fathers, and while dads tend to enjoy an extra hour per day of free time on weekends, they’re more likely to be watching TV than hitting the links. Fathers spend an average of 2.6 hours per week participating in sports (compared to 1.4 hours for mothers), which isn’t nearly enough time to play 18 holes.

As new dad Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal put it recently, speaking for dads—all parents, really—everywhere, “It is more likely I will become the next prime minister of Belgium than it is that I will find 4½ hours on a weekend to go play golf.”

A year ago, golf groups launched a “Time for Nine” campaign, pushing the idea that, because so many people can’t find the time for 18 holes, it’s acceptable to play a mere nine holes. The problem is that it looks like people don’t have time for nine holes either, lately.

It’s elitist and too expensive. There are plenty of ways to save money on golf, including booking discounted, off-peak tee times and finding deals on equipment. So golf can be affordable.

It’s just that, by and large, the sport has a well-deserved reputation for being pricey—think $400 drivers, $250,000 club “initiation” fees, and too many gadgets to mention. The snooty factor goes hand in hand with the astronomical prices and atmosphere on the typical course. As USA Today columnist Christine Brennan cautioned recently, unless the sport figures out a way to change course, “Golf is destined to continue to hemorrhage participants and further ensure its place as a mostly-white, suburban, rich men’s niche sport with plenty of TV sponsors who make cars, write insurance and invest money.”

It’s just not cool. In 2009, Jack Nicklaus lamented, “Kids just don’t play golf any more in the United States and it is sad.”

American kids today seem to be nearly as overscheduled as their parents. And like their parents, tweens and teens probably don’t have the time to regularly play 18 holes, what with soccer practice, saxophone lessons, and coding classes to attend to. Even if kids had more time, would they want to spend it playing an “old man sport”? When iPhones and tablets and Xboxes and Instagram are drawing their attention?

Among the suggestions offered by Golf Digest to increase participation in the sport, columnist Ron Sirak recommended that the USGA should fund caddie programs, and that private clubs should give four-year “scholarships” to junior players, with free lessons and playing privileges.

It’s too difficult. Pretty much every other sport on the planet is more immediately rewarding than golf. Take a snowboard lesson in the morning, and by afternoon, you can make a few turns down the bunny trail without falling (much). Golf is renowned not only for being frustratingly difficult for beginners, but even longtime players “enjoy” it as a frustratingly difficult hobby.

“The deep appeal of golf, once you get hooked, is that it’s difficult,” John Paul Newport, golf columnist for the Wall Street Journal, told NPR in May. “Normally when you play a round of golf, you step onto the green and that’s when all the intense stress starts. You know, this tiny little hole, you have to look at putts from many ways, you hit it a few feet past and you add up strokes quickly around the green.”

Newport was discussing a new golfing option involving 15-inch cups, a system created to make the game much easier and approachable, particularly for beginners. But don’t expect to see it anytime soon. In the description to Golf Is Dying. Does Anybody Care? author Pat Gallagher points to golf’s “resistance to productive change” as a big reason why participation has slumped dramatically. “While other sports have embraced new technology and innovation with open arms, traditionalists strive to protect the game of golf and keep it exactly as they love it—even in the face of suffering courses and shrinking audiences.”

Tiger Woods. Skeptics insist that golf isn’t dying. Not by a long shot. The sport’s popularity, they say, is merely taking a natural dip after soaring to unjustified heights during the “golf bubble” brought on by the worldwide phenomenon that was Woods. After the infidelity scandals and, more recently, poor play and loads of injuries from Woods, fewer people are watching golf on TV, buying golf gear in stores, and, you know, actually going out and playing golf.

So perhaps it’s not so much that golf is losing favor with the masses today as it is that golf’s widespread popularity a decade or so ago was something of a fluke. The decline in golf, then, would basically be the return of golf’s status as a niche game. “Golf courses were overbuilt, saturating major cities and secondary markets with ridiculous golf hole per capita ratios,” golf blogger David Hill wrote in a manifesto on why the sport, in fact, isn’t dying. “Tiger’s decline from Teflon coated Superhero to mere great golfer precipitated the bursting of the golf bubble. It’s as simple as that.”

TIME NBA

Poll: What Jersey Number Should LeBron James Wear: 6 or 23?

All hail King James

King James is returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he needs your opinion. LeBron asked his Instagram followers for their input: Should he wear number 6 or number 23? The championship player wore number 6 in Miami after leaving the Cavs, possibly resurfacing some resentment in Cleveland. Or will LeBron James choose number 23, the number he gave up to honor Michael Jordan?

Take the poll below.

TIME diving

Diving into a Different World Cup

This World Cup isn't about soccer. Divers from around the world display their acrobatic maneuvers in the biannual 6-day event, flying off springboards and platforms ranging from 3 to 10 meters

TIME Sports

Watch the 3 Best World Cup Goals in Flip Book Form

A delightfully whimsical blend of sports and art

+ READ ARTICLE

Feeling World Cup withdrawal? Relive the excitement with this gorgeous illustrated flip book depicting three of the tournament’s best goals. Though you might have your own opinions on which goals were truly the best, this artist settled on goals scored by Australia’s Tim Cahill, Colombia’s James Rodriguez and the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie.

TIME Sports

Watch This Woman Completely Own the American Ninja Warrior Course

The former Division 1 gymnast had to complete a "salmon ladder" and "spider crawl"

+ READ ARTICLE

Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to qualify for the final round of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior on Monday night, dropping jaws around the world.

The 5-feet-tall, 100-pound gymnast passed four intense obstacles that tested her upper body strength and her small frame to the maximum, including the “log grip” and the “salmon ladder.”

“I’ve seen greatness during my NFL career,” said ANW host and former NFL defensive end Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. “And I’ve been in awe of people, but I am really in awe of Kacy.”

“We are seeing one of the greatest competitors—man or woman—we have ever seen in America Ninja Warrior,” added his co-host Matt Iseman.

The hashtag #mightykacy trended worldwide on Twitter, and Catanzaro herself tweeted her thanks to friends and fans.

Catanzaro will next compete in the ANW final in Las Vegas.

TIME Baseball

Jeter, Trout Lead American League Over National League 5-3 in All-Star Game

American League shortstop Derek Jeter, of the New York Yankees, singles during the third inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, July 15, 2014, in Minneapolis.
American League shortstop Derek Jeter, of the New York Yankees, singles during the third inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game, July 15, 2014, in Minneapolis. Jeff Roberson—AP

The MLB All-Star Game ended with a 5-3 American League win over the National League, in which Mike Trout was named the All-Star MVP

(MINNEAPOLIS) — Derek Jeter soaked in the adulation from fans and players during one more night on baseball’s national stage, set the tone for the American League with a pregame speech and then delivered two final All-Star hits.

Mike Trout, perhaps the top candidate to succeed the 40-year-old Yankees captain as the face of the game, seemed ready to assume the role with a tiebreaking triple and later a go-ahead double that earned the 22-year-old MVP honors.

On a summer evening filled with reminders of generational change, the AL kept up nearly two decades of dominance by beating the National League 5-3 Tuesday for its 13th win in 17 years.

“I think let Mike be Mike. I don’t think people have to necessarily appoint someone to a particular position,” Jeter said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. I don’t know how much better he can get, but if he consistently does what he’s doing, then he will be here for a long time.”

Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer to help give the AL champion home-field advantage for the World Series.

No matter what else happened, from the start it seemed destined to be another special event for Jeter.

He made a diving stop on Andrew McCutchen’s grounder to shortstop leading off the game and received a 63-second standing ovation when he walked to the plate before his opposite-field double to right leading off the bottom half. He was given another rousing cheer before his single to right starting the third and 2 1-2 minutes more applause after AL manager John Farrell sent Alexei Ramirez to shortstop to replace him at the start of the fourth.

As Frank Sinatra’s recording of “New York, New York” boomed over the Target Field speakers and his parents watched from the stands, Jeter repeatedly waved to the crowd, exchanged handshakes and hugs with just about every person in the AL dugout and then came back onto the field for a curtain call.

“It was a special moment and it was unscripted,” Jeter said. “I was unaware of it.”

NL manager Mike Matheny of the Cardinals didn’t want it to stop.

“The guys on our side have the utmost respect for him and would like to have been standing out there for a little while longer,” he said. “I think Derek was the one that was uncomfortable with it.”

While not as flashy as Mariano Rivera’s All-Star farewell at Citi Field last year, when all the other players left the great reliever alone on the field for an eighth-inning solo bow, Jeter tried not to make a fuss and to deflect the attention.

Even during his clubhouse speech.

“He just wanted to thank us,” Trout said. “You know, we should be thanking him.”

A 14-time All-Star who was MVP of the 2000 game in Atlanta, Jeter announced in February this will be his final season. His hits left him with a .481 All-Star average (13 for 27), just behind Charlie Gehringer’s .500 record (10 for 20) for players with 20 or more at-bats.

While the Yankees are .500 at the break and in danger of missing the postseason in consecutive years for the first time in two decades, Jeter and the Angels’ Trout gave a boost to whichever AL team reaches the World Series.

The AL improved to 9-3 since the All-Star game started deciding which league gets Series home-field advantage; 23 of the last 28 titles were won by teams scheduled to host four of a possible seven games.

Detroit’s Max Scherzer, in line to be the most-prized free agent pitcher after the season, pitched a scoreless fifth for the win, and Glen Perkins got the save in his home ballpark.

Target Field, a $545 million, limestone-encased jewel that opened in 2010, produced an All-Star cycle just eight batters in, with hitters showing off flashy neon-bright spikes and fielders wearing All-Star caps with special designs for the first time.

With the late sunset — the sky didn’t darken until the fifth inning, well after 9 o’clock — there was bright sunshine when Jeter was cheered before his first at-bat. He was introduced by a recording of late Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard’s deep monotone. St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright left his glove on the mound and backed up toward second, clapping along with the crowd of 41,048.

“I tried to tell him to pick it up — let’s go,” Jeter said. “But he took a moment and let the fans give me an ovation which I will always remember.”

When Jeter finally stepped into the batter’s box, he took a ball and lined a 90 mph cutter down the right-field line for a double.

“I was going to give him a couple pipe shots just to — he deserved it,” Wainwright said. “I thought he was going to hit something hard to the right side for a single or an out. I probably should have pitched him a little bit better.”

After those in-game remarks created a stir on the Internet, Wainwright amended himself: “It was mis-said. I hope people realize I’m not intentionally giving up hits out there.”

Trout, who finished second to Cabrera in AL MVP voting in each of the last two seasons, became the youngest All-Star MVP, about 3 1-2 months older than Ken Griffey Jr. was in 1992.

Playing in his third All-Star game, Trout followed Jeter in the first by tripling off the right-field wall. Cabrera’s homer — just the fourth in the last six All-Star games — made it 3-0, but the NL tied it on consecutive RBI doubles by Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy off Jon Lester in the second and Lucroy’s run-scoring double against Chris Sale in the fourth.

Trout put the AL ahead for good with an RBI double in the fifth — a bouncer over third base against Pat Neshek, the St. Louis reliever who grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs and started his career with the Twins. Jose Altuve followed with a sacrifice fly off Tyler Clippard.

Raised in New Jersey, Trout saw a lot of Jeter and said all week he felt honored to play alongside him.

“Growing up I was setting goals to myself that when I get — if I ever get the chance to get — to the big leagues, that’s how I want to play,” Trout said. “And the way he carries himself on and off the field, how he respects the game — always hustling, it doesn’t matter what the score is. If they are down 10 runs, he is always running the ball out. That’s how I want to play.”

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