Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about sports. And so we will look at Brian’s favorite sports, welcome, Brian. We’ll think about the differences maybe between American and European sport. What kind of problems and issues are in sport nowadays.
And his favorite player and what he would like to say to him or her. So, let’s begin. Brian, tell us more about you. You’re new for our podcast.
True. I’m new to BigAppleSchool, new to the podcast obviously. Born and raised in the United States, from Texas originally. And lived there for 33 years, found my way to Russia after teaching in the states for 11 years. And I love it here so far, everyone asked me about the weather. I love the weather!
That’s great, yeah. Exactly, it’s wonderful, I love it. So, give me more of that.
You could find a refrigerator or a freezer for you.
Well, we could, we could, and I’ve been told that if you move further North or just to go live in Siberia in a tent, I don’t know.
You could set up a BigAppleSchool in Yakutia.
And what are your hobbies and interests? Apart from the lovely cold during the winter.
During the winter, yeah. Well, I do enjoy sports quite a bit. I grew up loving football, basketball, baseball, and more recently I came to love soccer, more internationally than domestically in the states.
I really appreciate soccer, yet I don’t think it’s at the level that people tend to have here. But aside from sports – movies, books, music, traveling. I love traveling, it’s awesome.
Great. And where have you travelled to?
Specifically? 29 different countries, I don’t think I wanna list.
Wanna list your favorite then?
My favorite? Well I love living in Russia, but if I wasn’t here, probably Spain or Germany. So, Spain reminds me of Texas – not as hot! So, you know.
Wow! I’ve never been to America, not to the North America, I should say. I’ve been to Argentina a long time ago. But never been to the States.
Well I’ve never been to South America, so, you know.
I came a long way to go to Argentina. So, if we can just dwell a little bit on your hobbies, just for curiosity, for my own curiosity, and hopefully for the listeners’ – what are you favorite genres in movies and books?
Mystery normally, or science fiction, or some of my favorites. One of my favorite books is Lord of the Rings, just the entire series. I really loved…
Have you read Lord of the Rings?
Read Lord of the Rings, read Silmarillion, read the Hobbit. Which, you know…
Silmarillion, I think, is tough to read actually.
It is tough to read, but as a history lover, and I taught history in the states, really, Silmarillion fits well with those who’re in love with history, who want to know about Tolkien’s thinking and the layout and the background in all the stories, you need to know that, it’s not enough to just read Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
You’re a serious Lord of the Rings fan.
Well, I’m serious in the fact that I’m willing to read that book, I guess, but I never went with learning the languages or….
I have read the Hobbit, but quite a while ago I think, 6-7 years ago. So I don’t remember everything, but I loved it. I think the ending was much better than the films. To me personally.
Yeah that was terrible, to be honest.
Yeah, I think it didn’t have the drama, it didn’t hit me. There was drama, but it just didn’t hit me like in the book I felt moved by the ending.
In the film – no, unfortunately. I also read recently the full three books of Lord of the Rings. I had bought, I bought the book, all three books in its entire trilogy in one volume in America… Oh, sorry, not in America, in Australia.
They do, they really do. The name was Austria?
It was Australia. I bought it there. I got a good deal on it, and I read it recently. And I say you are quite serious because it took quite a bit to read it, it was a lot of stuff and a lot of extra details that fictional and history that is interesting, but it gave me a little bit of fatigue.
But so, let’s get down to our topic. Your favorite sports – so, do you like to watch or play your favorite sports?
Both. So, if I had a preference and I could only do one or the other even again, it would be play, because for me – yes, watching is enjoyable. You can sit there and enjoy the passion of the team and the roar of the crowd and the kinda get behind that comment goal of winning or whatever it is, scoring.
You know, running faster, or all those kind of things, but to be honest, the joy really is in play. You know, if you play the sport, it’s much more enjoyable than simply sitting and there and watching athletes on a field. So for me, playing is more fun, but I do tend to watch more often, because I don’t often have time to go out there and play, or people to play with.
Have you played any sports here?
No, I haven’t played anything yet here, although I see more and more people now that it’s warmer playing soccer outside or throwing a frisbee around or things like this, so I do want to get our there and play with people. But again, you have to know somebody or know a place to play.
So guys, if you’re listening, if you really wanna play sports with Brian, you can get in touch with him. And you can play soccer.
Of course. Football – you call it football. Yes.
Football. In the UK it’s football, but in the republic of Ireland it’s soccer.
I thought I would spring this on you. In the Republic of Ireland the most popular sport, or one of the mort popular sports is gang football.
How do I explain it? I’ve never played it, but I have seen it on television. In gang football you kick the ball, but you can also hold on to the ball.
No, it’s a football, it’s still with the ball, it’s kind of a mix between basketball and football.
Basketball and football. Okay, alright. We would call it basketball back in the day…
Yeah. So basically what you can do is, you can… I don’t know the rules, because I’ve never played it, but you can kick the ball and also handle the ball… It’s not a foul if you handle the ball.
But the goals are quite similar, if I can remember correctly. I think they’re quite similar to rugby. They’re sort of a mix between rugby and football, the goals. But you can handle it – it’s done on a pitch, on a football…
Pitch. The gang football. So yeah, and Irish people do have a word football for soccer.
I call it football because when I was in the states, my second language that I learned was Spanish, and in Spanish it’s football, so I just felt like if we’re being true to the game, the game is, to my knowledge, before this point, was only ever called soccer in the states.
Why would I want to use an American only term when I’m trying to speak to people overseas, when they’re not used to this term or know this term.
Right. So you’re kinda using their language, I guess, to talk to them. So back to watching football, we talked a little bit about playing. Who do you watch with and how?
Well, my family doesn’t really enjoy football in that sense, so I watch it with friends sometimes or alone. Or in a pub, or restaurant, or wherever I am, so…
With potato chips or crisps? Or, I mean, a beer? How do you…? What do you eat when you watch it?
Whatever, whatever I have on hand. I don’t really have like a tradition for that. I mean, if it’s the world cup or a championship game, if it’s a party, then it’s, you know, it’s more of a party food – nachos, chips, crisps, those fries kinda thing. But if it’s just me by myself, then whatever I have on hand. Sandwiches, chicken, you know. Food, just general food.
Have you drunk kvas, maybe that goes well?
Okay, so it’s kinda new experience for you. I’ll let you know later what kvas is.
It’s kinda like Russia’s version of coca cola, I think.
Oh, okay. Then I need to try this.
You should have a go. I quite like it actually, kvas. Have you ever watched British or European sport?
Well I’m gonna say I really enjoy European football, so yes, that’s what I prefer. I have watched a little bit of European basketball and that was different, because the rules are similar, but the game is much different in terms of how teams play together, what their strategies are.
And some were speeding over to the US basketball, but if I was to pick a European sport, then it’d definitely be football. And there’s definitely a difference between European football and American football.
It’s not anything, the level of competition is much higher in Europe, most players in the world wanna come here, even from the states, they wanna play in Europe. So, everything is faster paced, and you’re saying just much better played.
It’s what the best players play, in football you’re gonna watch them in Europe, you’re not gonna watch them play in the states.
I think.. I get the impression that, let’s call it soccer if we’re talking about America – I get the impression that soccer is not popular there.
It’s growing, it’s definitely growing there, and part of that is that some European players like Ibrahimovich are now choosing to end their careers over their… and then of course David Beckham one of the most notable in the states. But it’s definitely not at the level that basketball or American football is in the states.
Those things are still king, especially when they’re in season, but soccer in the states is definitely growing in popularity. And when you talk about it to people, they’re more going to know about what it is, than they did maybe 10 or 15 years ago.
But normally they would refer to European or British football over to what they refer to in the states when it comes to again the level of competition and talents.
So, is it actually more popular to watch American football and baseball, and basketball for Americans – is it more popular than watching European football? Or..?
Yes, this is definitely more popular, they’re much more popular. During the world cup – do people in America watch the world cup? Yes. Do they watch it at the same level they watch other things? No.
And once the US is out of the world cup or never in it, you’re gonna see a significant decrease in the viewership. But there are definitely circles, people that I know, there are places you can go where they definitely do still watch that.
It’s popular, but not the most popular.
Which is, I think, true for the UK, even though there are some people who really like to watch American sports, because basketball isn’t popular in the UK at all, and you can get a very different kind of sport if you watch American. It’s popular enough in the UK for some people. It’s an exclusive thing.
Well now they’re playing an American football in the UK, now they play a couple of games here and there, and they used to have this in Europe, which filled for a number of reasons, but, you know, they might make a round at that again, but I still don’t think you will ever eclipse or come close to what you have talked about championships versus Malaga or Bartleys or any of those.
Football in the UK is, honestly speaking… And I spent a little bit of time in England – it feels like a religion.
Football is unbelievably popular. I spent a little bit of time especially in Liverpool ,and I was staying near Anfield arena. Actually, somewhere between the two… Closer to Everton but Liverpool stadium isn’t far away. And wow, it’s popular! You can.. I mean, if you…
No, the same thing when we’re talking about American football and basketball, especially baseball, it really depends on where you are. Baseball people normally aren’t as enthusiastic, the fans not as fanatical I guess you could say.
But there have been reports of people in many cities being attacked for wearing the wrong jersey in a city people after sporting events were being taken to hospital, people being arrested for this kind of things.
Now there are definitely fans that are very passionate, and not just at a level… People would go to church or mosque or synagogue, and will skip services if there’s an important game on. So, I’m sure it’s that way in many places in the UK and even in Europe.
Yeah, well, I can’t speak for Europe, I don’t know, but definitely, especially in England – it’s so popular. And there are a few people who are a little bit too enthusiastic.
They’re not called fanatics for nothing. I mean, fanatical.
So we talked a little bit about American football. You know, the pattings and the helmet and all of that. And it is in some ways comparable to rugby.
But which is tougher, do you think?
Well I know a few people who play rugby, and they are very tough individuals I would have to say. And I’ve watched a little bit, not enough to say I’m an expert in any level, on rugby. But I’ve watched some rugby, and it does seem like a very difficult sports, although people in rugby normally aren’t running as fast.
The players do seem to be larger, so the aggression that you would see on a football field where someone’s running, you know, 40 yards in under 4 seconds, doesn’t happen in rugby as often. And normally the teams are much closer together, you know, uniformally across the field.
But at the same time you don’t regularly have players in NFL, college or any level that football leaving the field because they’re bleeding. That doesn’t happen as often.
And they have a lot more gear on, don’t they?
Right. And then I don’t know how injuries play out in rugby versus the NFL, NFL players, college players in football – they are regularly injured, they have leg injury, shoulder injuries, concussions are a big thing now.
Do they have concussions playing rugby? Because I don’t know if the players actually hit their heads together like they do in football. So…
I wouldn’t have for sure, but I’m pretty sure they… I would imagine that they try to avoid that.
I would tend to agree to that.
Cause they won’t get away with it.
Right, right, right. In that sense I would say that some things in American football are tougher. In general rugby would probably look like a more aggressive sport, unless you’re just watching.
They seem to all have like broken noses.
They kinda look like boxers, if you look at them after a match.
… and stuff. I kinda have a lot of respect for rugby players – maybe more so than for football players. Because I get a little bit frustrated watching the world cup and it’s not every team, not every player, but some players, especially when you get closer to the final – they’re falling over for what looks like on TV very little reason.
And when you compare that to rugby players who are like ‘okay, I just twisted my nose, I’m gonna play on, it’s alright’. You know, I have a lot more respect for the rugby players I think because of that. But I know it’s a strategy in football.
Right, right. In football/soccer that of course is because you wanna have a penalty kick, you want to get somebody carded or, you know, you just wanna slap the game for a number of reasons.
I don’t know, again, the rules that apply to rugby, so I don’t know if somebody complained of having a broken nose in rugby, if the game would stop or if they would be laughed off the field.
I think the culture in rugby would be like ‘what’s wrong with you?’
There is, you know, ‘the blood isn’t in your eyes’…
Yeah, your head hasn’t spinned off, let’s keep going guys.
Do people watch too much sport and not play enough? I don’t say it’s you, but in general?
I think that that really is just a side of things – people wanting to do what’s easy, right? And of course it’s hard to get a million people playing a sport at the same time, it’s much easier to get as many people to sit down on a couch or a chair or in the stands and watch 22 people play.
Right? And so, in that sense, I think it’s kind of a tragedy of having so many people. It’s not possible for everyone to play sport all the time. There’s not enough facilities for it. At the same time, I think that if people would play more sport and sit down less, that would solve a lot of problems with people.
They’d have better communication and I think it would solve issues in the community. And also people wouldn’t just be satisfied with sitting down anymore – people would want to be more active, so I agree – people watch too much and don’t play enough.
You know that you can play all the time, I mean, they’d be playing once a day, once or twice a week, you know – that’s definitely doable. And I think if more people did that, they would have a healthier life and be more satisfied for sure.
Okay. Are sports people overpaid? I don’t know how it is in the states, I’m sure that it’s a lot of money. I mean in the UK footballers are – it’s amazing how much they’re paid, and it just seems to be going up and up. Do you think in general sports people are overpaid? Is it a problem?
Overpaid? Well that’s really an economic question. We can talk about it for sure. I think if we’re talking about athletes being overpaid, that depends on if you’re looking at it from the perspective of how much do the owners/teams make?
And how much should their employees/players make? And also if it says more about our society and the value would place on entertainment, than we do on necessarily people in positions like engineers or teachers, you and I of course, or, you know, lawyers, doctors, accounts.
Should we value them more than sports people…
Right. And of course people aren’t showing up to a court proceeding and cheering – normally, not. They aren’t showing up in the gallery and cheering for result, or, you know, ‘Boo! You suck as a judge!’
Normally that’s not what happens, whereas we question referees’ ability to seek quite often. You know ‘You’re blind!’ So, are they overpaid? I really don’t know ow to answer that. I would say that I read recently, and this is an American thing, there’s a baseball player that signed a 10-year deal for over $300 million,
which I will never make that much in my lifetime, not even close to that. And so, you know, if I was to compare just on salary alone, value of that person versus my personal value, then of course I would say that I’m undervalued, right?
But again, nobody is paying me that much money, because no one’s playing that much money to study a language, or study history, or whatever it is you’re trying to learn. Because people would not pay that.
People would gladly pay a 1000, 2000, 10 000 dollars to watch Manchester United or, you know, FC Barcelona, or Real Madrid – they would gladly pay that money to watch them play, because they care about those things more. Does that mean that people care about the wrong things?
Well, I mean, people care what they care about. That’s kind of a morals and ethics question, which you can’t really answer. Are they overpaid? Sometimes. That really depends in the end if you’re looking at it from whose perspective, and then is it a problem that the government needs to solve?
Or is it something that people just worry about needlessly? And if you don’t like how much they’re being paid, don’t watch the sport, don’t go to the games! Right? Cause…
Don’t pay for the merchandise. I guess the money’s there. The money’s there, so they can pay them whatever they want. And it’s their choice. That’s how I would depend. So yeah, if you look at it from how much you’re paid.
Maybe people who asked this question, and I just took this question from what people usually ask, I think maybe people ask this question because they’re a little bit jealous.
Because how much they’re making.
I mean of course, who wouldn’t like to make 336 million dollars in ten years? Who wouldn’t like that? Of course it sounds like a nice chug of change. But at the same time, again, it depends on the job you’re in.
These people, the athletes, they do train, that is their life to train and play a game. And if you get hurt, let’s say, you pull a hamstring, or your shoulder doesn’t work anymore, they can lose that salary very quickly.
Whereas your mind – it’s something that normally you can keep intact, and you can control that a lot more. No one’s hitting you on the head with a sledge hammer every day, and then say ‘Make sure you go to work and go build rocket’, or teach those students, you know. So, at the same time…
Right. A very short career window. I mean at the most you’re talking about maybe 20 years, maybe if you’re lucky. Most players in the NFL last 3 years. So if they only play 3 years in the NFL – National Football League it stands for – not for long, because your career is so short.
So if they’re only playing for three years, and then they make 5 million, okay, that’s still 15 million dollars – don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice amount of money. But at the same time, most of those players don’t really save all of their money, and what kind of life they have afterwards.
It’s been known how many players went bankrupt after making an ungodly amount of money. Anthony Walker made 80 million dollars – doesn’t sound like a lot compared to that 300 million.
But 80 million dollars for a 7 year contract -and he went bankrupt, like how do you lose 80 million dollars? People win the lottery, and you have mega millions, and billions of dollars being hidden and people went bankrupt there too, so some people are just bad at managing money.
I don’t know. Are they overpaid? Maybe. Am I underpaid? Maybe. I don’t know. But I can live, I’m happy. If they’re happy – more power to them.
Fair enough. Any other problems that you can think about? Connected with sport. I’m sure there are a few.
Besides players’ salaries, I think when it comes to tickets, we can talk about that for sure – tickets are ridiculously expensive. It used to be, when I was a kid – way back in the day, when I was a child,
we could go to a game and, you know, you go to the movies and not spend too much money – that’s a matter of inflation, but tickets do get more expensive the more popular something becomes. Just like anything.
Maybe this is because they’re overpaid.
Maybe. But of course if the tickets prices are cheaper, companies are making less money and athletes get less money. And of course everyone likes to have more.
And it’s supply and demand because people are willing to pay extra price.
Correct. Again, if you don’t like something, if you don’t like extra paying, if you don’t like how much the tickets are – don’t go to the games! Very simple.
And in fact, that’s one of the issues that I do have with modern sports, and one of the reasons why I don’t really go to that many games outside of college games in the US, because college athletes are paid, they’ve been talking about playing what are so far called amateurs.
And ticket prices are an issue for sure. Injuries, again, that’s really for me specific to the National football league, American football. Concussions are a problem and a lot of players are complaining now.
Right. Why do I give my life really for a game? When in 10-15-120 years, I’m not gonna be able to remember, and.. yes. So there are many players now who are saying that I’m going to save my body by playing shorter careers, or by not playing full speed all the time, or by adding extra things into my contract for staying healthy. Those kind of things.
Are there any ways to avoid concussion? I mean, can I get a better helmet or just ban hitting heads together, or?
the NFL know these concussions happen too much, they even done quite a bit to alter the game, and many people feel like they’re destroying the game by the making these changes to things like the kick off,
when the ball is kicked down the field and players run full speed at each other, and you have these major impacts where these concussions in blind sight happen quite often. Well, you can take that away, but…
Right. But take that away – that’s part of the game, the game was invented with that, and so what do you want? Do you want to intentionally slow players down? Do you want to make it where the players have to wear more gear? But then of course if they just get stronger, then they can still run as fast.
So the goal in the end is to win and players and coaches are going to do whatever they can to win the game, and so I guess the NFL and other levels of football – they’re changing the game to make sure those things don’t happen, they can avoid as many injuries as possible.
But you can’t stop all injuries! It’s a game, but it’s a contact sport, and even in tennis, a non-contact sport, players have injuries, players have a rotating calf injuries, they injure their hamstrings. In basketball, a not nearly a contact sport, football is, and players still get injuries like that.
So, can you avoid injuries altogether? No. Can you make a game have limited injuries? Sure. Can you do that and change the game? I don’t know.
So, for purists, you wanna leave the game as close to what it’s supposed to be as possible, for someone who is caring more about the athletes – then you can make whatever design you need, so… I don’t know.
You need to have a balance.
It has to be entertaining, you have to win, but you need to look after your players.
And it doesn’t have to be at point of players dying, you don’t want people of the field not able to perform. So even if you don’t like the athlete, the worse thing is for athlete is not to be able to play anymore.
And there are athletes I don’t like at all, but still I don’t want to see them go down and say ‘Oh, that guy’s career was cut short by some freak accident’. Why end his career? You don’t like him? Fine. But he or she – they’re doing their best to perform, and at least give them some respect in that sense.
No. You don’t really go against some physical health, you may want them to lose the game- okay, great. Worth every shot. Go make the goal, fine. But let’s not say ‘I wish that person ripped their leg’, because I wouldn’t wish that upon you. And you probably wouldn’t wish that upon me, hopefully.
No, no. Who is your favorite sports person? Talking about sports people.
Well, Tim Dunkin played basketball for quite a while in the NBA, and I believe he had an 18-year career in the NBA, and to me, he personified what it meant to be an athlete. He went to work, he did his job, he doesn’t and did not ever boast about what he had done, his accomplishments.
He was always very much about doing what he could do for the team. And if he needed to play more minutes or less minutes, he was always willing to do that. And if he knew to take a smaller salary or pass the ball more and shoot the ball less, those things are things he did.
And I thought that he was a role model, because he just, like I said, did what needed to be done for the team.
Exactly. There’s never ‘me first’.
Right. Which can spoil him and maybe spoil.. It makes people look bad.
Not everyone thought he was entertaining. And that’s true. And people called him boring. But he had a boring career where he won championships in the NBA, so, you know, he had a pretty decent run at it. And I would certainly say that if winning is boring, then yes, he was one of the most boring people ever.
What would you tell him if you could talk to him?
I’d probably ask him what was the thing that kept him going when everything got more difficult. As a young person, it’s easy I think, to go out and do things that you enjoy. And then when it becomes a job, when it becomes work, that’s when it becomes hard.
You become older and your body starts breaking down, you can’t run as fast, you can’t jump as high, or if you’re talking about mental capacity, you can’t think as quickly, or adapt as on your feet as you want to.
What made him want to keep going? Why did he go for so long? Why did his career last as long as it did? What did he do mentally, physically, emotionally to keep himself balanced and motivated?
Okay, so if you’re listening, Tim, can you write the answer below? So that was all about sports today. Brian came along and talked about his favorite sports. The differences he has noticed between European football and American stuff, soccer in America.
What kind of sports he enjoys, how he enjoys them. And a little bit about the problems that we have in modern sport, which maybe have been there even for a while. So that was the craic about sport.