My wife would argue otherwise, but I'd like to believe my teenage self emerges only once in a while. Every now and again, usually after hearing about a professional athlete signing a monster contract, I whip out my calculator in an effort to put the numbers into perspective.
The practice for me began in 1980, the year I turned 13, after Nolan Ryan signed with the Astros and became the first baseball player to earn $1 million in annual salary. Ryan was coming off a 16-14 season with the Angels when the Astros handed him a four-year deal worth $4 million.
It was a great deal for the Astros, who sold 377,905 more tickets for about $4 apiece in 1980 than they did the previous year. Do the math, and they picked up an extra $1.51 million in revenue after Ryan returned home. It was a better deal for Ryan considering he finished the season as Houston's fourth-best starting pitcher.
Knuckleballer Joe Niekro won 20 games that season. J.R. Richard had a 10-4 record with 1.90 ERA before a stroke in July ended his career. Righty Vern Ruhle (who?) had a career year with a 12-4 record and a 2.37 ERA. Ryan was 11-10 with a 3.35 ERA, allowing him to pocket nearly $91,000 per victory.
Ninety-one grand is more than double the median salary in the real world today. In professional sports, it's change in the couch cushions. Ten years later after Ryan signed, Robin Yount made $3.2 million for one season. Twenty years later, Kevin Brown made $15.7 million. Thirty years later, Alex Rodriguez made $33 million.
Over time, we have become numb to the numbers, disregarding trial commas and zeroes while casually throwing around figures and paying little mind to what they actually mean. Salaries climbed so high that it's difficult for average people who live paycheck to paycheck and sweat over the mortgage to comprehend.
Imagine punching a clock for $820,000 an hour, which is what Clayton Kershaw did while pitching for the Dodgers last season. Kershaw made $34.5 million while going 12-4 in 21 starts last season. He was on the disabled list for more than two months with back problems, likely caused by carrying bags of money to the bank.
Kershaw earned $2.875 million per win, or $1.64 million per start, or $231,543 per inning or $77,181 per out. Granted, Kershaw worked more than two hours per day, or roughly the time needed for him to reach his average of seven innings, every fifth day. He tended to his body between starts, after all.
But even if he worked out every hour of every day for a full year last season, he would have made $3,938 an hour or about $66 per minute. In other words, he was paid $31,506 every time he slept for eight hours. By slamming down a bowl of cereal in five minutes, he picked up another $328.
Let's not forget about meal money on the road, which was $105 per day for major league players before it was chopped to $30 per day in 2016.
No wonder why Kershaw received a $1 million raise for this season. After all, how is a man expected to eat while earning enough money – in one year – to pay for 138 houses at $250,000 a pop? Kershaw is the highest-paid baseball player this season, but history shows his place atop the list is fleeting.
And that brings me to one Steph Curry, who last week signed a five-year extension for $201 million to remain with Warriors. The easy math has him making more than $490,000 per game over a full season. The reality last season was he often watched the fourth quarter in blowouts and averaged 33.4 minutes per contest.
If he logged the same number of minutes in 79 games again this season, Curry would make $15,235 per minute, or $254 per second, he was on the floor. He might actually play fewer minutes next season while pocketing nearly 3½ times what he made this year with the Warriors signing shooting guard Nick Young this week.
Forbes estimated that LeBron James made $55 million in endorsements alone, which was $3 million less than Roger Federer pocketed away from the tennis court, in 2016. Soccer star Cristiano Ronoldo made $93 million in salary and endorsements, enough to make me dislike the sport even more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of American workers in 2016 was just more than $44,000. Unlike Curry, they worked in the fourth quarter of their shifts. Then again, they don't have 21,000 people paying $40 apiece on average to watch them perform their jobs.
Is there a saturation point?
In 1931, two years after Wall Street crashed and America was in the heart of the Great Depression, Babe Ruth made $80,000 for a second straight season while playing for the Yankees. His salary fell in the years that followed and wasn't matched until Joe DiMaggio signed for $100,000 in 1949 and the same amount in 1950.
Thirty years later after DiMaggio, and five years after Catfish Hunter was given a $1 million signing bonus on a five-year hitch worth $3.2 million, Ryan became the first player to earn an annual salary of $1 million. Thirty years after Ryan, A-Rod was making 33 times that amount.
Whether any of them are worth the money is a different argument. The market determines player salaries. If the money isn't going to them, it's going to the owners. The last time I checked, people don't spend $50 on tickets to watch billionaire owners sit in luxury suites. It comes back to simple laws of supply and demand.
Right about now seems an appropriate time to mention that Marcell Dareus made $1 million per game before he was suspended for four games, returned grossly out of shape and finished with a grand total of 24 tackles and 3½ sacks in 2016.
You know who paid for that? You did. I did. It falls on us.
Every person who buys a ticket, purchases merchandise, orders television packages and covers sports contributes to soaring salaries. People buy products from companies, who in turn dump money into sports for advertising. It hasn't changed since Lou Gehrig landed on a Wheaties' box in 1934, and I suspect it never will.
My youngest son is 13 years old, the same age I was when Ryan first made $1 million for one season. He told me about Curry signing his extension with the Warriors. I shook my head before telling him, during his lifetime and possibly during mine, some athlete would make $100 million for one season.
Whip out a calculator, kid. It comes out to $273,972 per day, $11,415 per hour, $190 per minute, or $3.17 per second across 24/7/365.
Better yet, work on your jump shot.