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Make Me Smart: Athletic Edition

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Outfielder Bobby Bonilla #23 of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga., on Apr. 4, 2000. Jamie Squire/ALLSPORT

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U.S. officials called for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner as her trial began in a Russian court Friday. Russia has been accused of wrongfully detaining the All-Star center for political purposes since her arrest in February, just one week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And there are plenty of questions surrounding the U.S. effort to secure Griner’s return. We’ll look at some of those concerns. Plus, the story behind the annual celebration of a memeworthy contract in professional baseball. And we’ll send you off into the Fourth of July weekend with a game of Half Full/Half Empty!

Here’s everything we talked about today:

We’re off for the Fourth of July on Monday. Join us Tuesday for our deep dive into capitalism and the environment. In the meantime, keep sending your comments and questions to makemesmart@marketplace.org and (508) 827-6278 or (508) U-B-SMART.

Make Me Smart July 1, 2022 transcript

 

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yes, I am ready. Jasper is scratching at his scratching post. So I guess we’re gonna do a show.

 

Andy Uhler: Make it happen, right? Yeah, why not? I didn’t have air conditioning for a week in my house. We can talk about that.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yeesh. That was in Texas?

 

Andy Uhler: It was about 107 Yesterday.

 

Kimberly Adams: Hi everyone, I’m Kimberly Adams, and welcome back to Make Me Smart, where we make today make sense in DC where it is not as hot as it is in Texas.

 

Andy Uhler: It’s pretty hot here in Texas. I’m Andy Uhler, in for Kai Ryssdal. Thank you to everyone for joining us for Economics On Tap, whether you’re joining us from the YouTube livestream, or you’re listening to the podcast. Thanks for being here.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yes. And so we’re going to have some news, a round of half full, half empty. But of course, first we have to start with the drinks. Andy, welcome. What are you drinking today?

 

Andy Uhler: Thank you. It’s so funny. I think the last time I was on here on a Friday with you, I told you – I think I was maybe a month in – but I told you that I was taking a year off, right? And so, so I’m about 10 months in now. But I have a – it’s called a Clausthaler. It’s an NA beer. It’s so funny, because when I started doing this, I was like, I gotta find the best NA beers. Because for me, and I think for a lot of people… Yeah, yeah, sorry. For me, there’s something pretty habitual, about you know, sitting down, watching the game, drinking a beer. And so I have a buddy here in Austin. It’s funny, there’s – believe it or not, an economics angle here. I have a buddy who’s a head brewer in Austin, and I go to his brewery once every couple of weeks, at least Austin Beerworks they’re great. And you know, last year, I would go and I’d drink a bunch of beers. I mean, you know, have a good time. And then I started hassling him about making non alcoholic beer, because well, that’s what I want to drink. And he started talking to me about sort of the dynamics of it. And I didn’t realize that you sort of have to be a really big brewery. And all of the big breweries are the ones who can afford the mechanisms and sort of the mechanics to make these non alcoholic beers. It’s apparently just a completely different system. So you have to have so much capital and so much money to make it happen. So that’s why you don’t really necessarily see a whole lot of craft breweries, brewing a lot of NA beers. There’s athletic brewery in Colorado that just does NA. So all of their equipment is just for the non alcoholic brews, but not a whole lot of craft brewers. And it’s because it’s so expensive.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So look at you, you’re making me smarter already. I didn’t know any of those things. So thanks. I am drinking scotch, because it was literally the quickest thing for me to pour. And I was like running to make it here on time. So I’m just going to be very slowly drinking the scotch. All right, let’s get some news in here. Andy, why don’t you start?

 

Andy Uhler: So I was just telling you, we were talking a little bit earlier, I’m so happy to be here on Bobby Bonilla Day. I need to wish you a Happy Bobby Bonilla Day. And you might ask me what is Bobby Bonilla Day, which is completely fair. So I’ll give you a little bit of a backstory. Bobby Bonilla was a pretty famous baseball player in the 90s, into the early 2000s. And what happened was he was with the pirates for a long time. He sort of made his money after being with pirates and having some success, because the Mets – the New York Mets signed him to a contract, and it was sort of his opportunity to get paid. What had happened was Bobby Bonilla’s agent turned it into essentially a contract over the course of 25 years. And so the Mets, it’s a really interesting sort of economic conundrum here, because the Mets were essentially deferring that payment, right? They didn’t want to pay him upfront a whole lot of money. They said, you know what, we’ll give you a million and a half dollars, $1.2 million, over the course of 25 years. How about that? And his agent said, yeah, sure. So Bobby Bonilla hasn’t played baseball in 20 years. And he still has a $1.2 million check coming to him every year on July 1, because of this interesting contract that he signed. And it’s because… it’s essentially an investment strategy, right? The Mets wanted to defer those payments, they wanted to invest upfront on different assets. So they wanted to have that capital. And they said, you know what, $1.2 million? Who cares. We’re gonna pay you that over the next 25 or 30 years that it’s a drop in the bucket. But what’s happened is, it’s sort of become a meme. That they’re still paying this dude who hasn’t played baseball in so long, a million dollars, every single year. It’s super interesting.

 

Kimberly Adams: That is interesting, although I will have to also – since we’re talking about days – acknowledge that it’s Canada Day today, which I learned from an incredibly entertaining tweet, where this guy who did a video showing as if, like, there was an American guy in his backyard and the Canadian guy in his backyard. And the American guy is getting ready for Fourth of July. And the Canadian guys is Canada Day is better. And they’re sort of going back and forth about what Canada has versus the US. And it’s very funny, and so happy Canada Day to all. But I want to just, I know this is a little bit of a hard turn, but I do want to acknowledge it today. Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who has been held captive, or arrested and held under detention in Russia was in court today. I guess it was yesterday now in Russia. And she faces 10 years in prison. Obviously, the US says she’s being wrongfully held. And the embassy officials there said that they’ve spoken with her. She’s as well as can be expected, and that “she asked me to convey that she’s in good spirits and is keeping up the faith”. So Miss Brittney Griner has been there since February 17. So yeah, that’s rough.

 

Andy Uhler: One of the super interesting conversations that I think a lot of folks, especially in the – and look, I don’t just talk about sports, I swear – but one of the conversations that folks are having in this space, which I think is a really interesting and important one is, look, if this were a really important NBA star, would the US be sending a whole lot more personnel and money and attention to make sure that this person gets sent home? It’s an argument we have to have, right. And it’s something we have to talk about, because that’s sort of the reality, which is kind of a shame.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, and as Kevin points out in the discord and something that you and I’ve talked about before, you know, the reason she was playing in Russia is because of the pay disparities here in the United States. And even the best of the WNBA players still feel this pressure to go and play in Europe or in Russia to make up the cash, to make a living. So hopefully, she gets home soon. So yes. Here’s one for Brittney Griner. And we should move on to the game.

 

Andy Uhler: I was gonna say you wanna play a game? I mean, we were just talking about a lot of sports, so we gotta play a game.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, we gotta play a game. All right, the game specifically is half full, half empty, hosted by the one, the only, the amazing, Drew Jostad. And the crowd goes wild.

 

Drew Jostad: One of the commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission has called for Google and Apple to remove TikTok from their app stores. Are you half full or half empty?

 

Kimberly Adams: I’m half empty, because I’m annoyed, because I literally just put TikTok on my phone last week. I finally broke down and I was like, Okay, I’m gonna do what the kids do and get on Toktok, and then it’s like, danger! I’ve obviously read all the stories about Tiktok and the different issues that have come up with the app over the years and, you know, spying for the Chinese government. But I thought perhaps that they dialed back the surveillance and everything like that. But who knows? I was listening to this particular FCC commissioner on Morning Edition the other day talking about this, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a ton of evidence that anything new is happening here. So you know, on general principle, is Tiktok pretty spy-y? Probably. But is there a particular reason to do it now? Meh, I’m gonna go half empty.

 

Andy Uhler: Well, I’m sort of half empty with you there too. Because, for very similar reasons, it seems like picking winners and losers, right? I mean, there’s surveillance, it feels like TikTok has just sort of gotten tagged as the one who’s working for the Chinese government. But, you know, when we think about different platforms and different ways that our data and our information is getting out, if you’re gonna pick one, it feels like you have to have that discussion again, about everybody else, about what your WhatsApp is up to. So I don’t know, I’m half empty with you.

 

Kimberly Adams: I mean, I think if you’re talking about privacy and our data going everywhere, it’s a question of, if your data is going to be everywhere and sold and passed around, do you want it being held by the Chinese government? Our government? Private corporations? Pick your poison. All right, what’s next, Drew?

 

Drew Jostad: Are you half full or half empty on Delta Airlines apparently having to offer $10,000 to buy people out of an overbooked flight?

 

Kimberly Adams: You know, I put this in Slack today, because I was stunned.

 

Andy Uhler: What are you guys talking about?

 

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, I was just surprised. Go ahead, Andy.

 

Andy Uhler: No, no, I was gonna say I’m half full. I mean, isn’t this – and it’s something I think that we talk about, or maybe we just talked about it in our little clandestine circles, it feels like overbooking flights is what happens, and it’s part of the business. And so there shouldn’t be repercussions for that, right? I mean, it feels like every analyst that I talk to whenever I do any sort of airlines story, it’s like, oh, yeah, no, that’s just sort of what they do. They just sort of overbook and then they deal with the consequences later. It’s like, don’t do that! Yo, come on.

 

Kimberly Adams: I mean, I’m gonna go half full, because I do think people should be compensated for not just the disruption, but also like, who knows what you’re asking people to miss. But I do question whether… what’s the calculation to where that makes sense? Like, how much money do you lose, you know, not compensating people and just cancel?

 

Andy Uhler: You mean if you’re the airline, if you’re Delta.

 

Kimberly Adams: Yeah, if you’re the airline, because like, you could just cancel the flight and rebook everybody on to other flights. And then you don’t pay anybody anything, right? Because that happens all the time. But $10,000 for eight people in the case of this, so that’s 80 grand. So they ran the calculation, that 80 grand hit was going to be less of a hit than I guess having to cancel the flight altogether. It’s interesting.

 

Andy Uhler: Do you think there’s… it is, and I also think about sort of the PR implications, right? Do you see this headline? Do you see this story and say, Oh my god, Delta is paying out people $10,000 for a flight!

 

Kimberly Adams: May as well book with them.

 

Andy Uhler: I guess, right?

 

Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna get booted off my flight, may as well get 10 grand for it.

 

Andy Uhler: Exactly. What’s next, Drew?

 

Kimberly Adams: All right.

 

Drew Jostad: All right. You know, we’re keeping tabs on the experimental menu items at Taco Bell. Are you half full or half empty on having a Taco Bell menu item with a massive 16-times-the-standard-size Cheez-It instead of a Tostada shell?

 

Kimberly Adams: Square rather than round. You’re in the land of Tex Mex, you go first.

 

Andy Uhler: I’m in the land of Tex Mex, which maybe not nullifies my… I mean, I’m half empty. It just sounds kind of goofy and kind of gimmicky. I mean, you know, actually, what’s interesting is that Taco Bell, I think, had a lot of success when they were doing Doritos tacos and things like that. Branding for them actually, branding partnerships has been pretty good. I’m sort of half empty because I think it sounds kind of grody. But I don’t know. What do you think?

 

Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna go half empty for like, health concerns.

 

Andy Uhler: Are you a Cheez-It heathen?

 

Kimberly Adams: No, but I also am not a cheese person. Although, I should say, I have been actively trying to find the Old Bay Goldfish crackers. So I like Old Bay seasoning. And they’ve made these limited edition Old Bay Goldfish crackers, but I haven’t been able to actually find them in the store. But people say that they are delicious.

 

Andy Uhler: Now is Old Bay…? That’s not Missouri. That’s up in the Northeast, right?

 

Kimberly Adams: No, that’s Mid Atlantic. That’s a very Mid Atlantic Chesapeake Bay thing.

 

Andy Uhler: Yeah. Okay. All right. Fair enough.

 

Kimberly Adams: All right, what’s the next one Drew?

 

Drew Jostad: Half full or half empty on cities and towns replacing their fireworks shows this year with drone shows?

 

Andy Uhler: So I’ll go here. And so Kimberly, I did some reporting on this for next week. And so I spent a little bit of time talking to fireworks experts, and also fire safety experts. One of the persons, one of the people that I talked to, she’s a fire safety expert and just a fire scientist. And she was talking about wanting to do laser lights shows, instead of firework shows. Because in the western states specifically – she’s in Colorado, but in the western states specifically, it really is so dangerous and so bad in terms of how dry they are and how little water they have out there. There’s a pretty solid argument for it. At the same time. I don’t think… I’m half, I guess I’m half full on the drones. Just because the problem is so bad. We have burned lands here in a lot of counties in Texas. It’s funny, my neighbor was just asking me, I just got here from Chicago about a month ago, and he was like, what do you do? Do you guys buy illegal fireworks? And do you shoot them off in your yard? I was like, well, you’re not really supposed to do that. Some people in Texas certainly do. And so, I don’t know, I’m sort of like, you know, there’s certainly some nostalgia for me with going and watching fireworks. But again, those seem like they’re a little bit different from folks just sort of, you know, setting off fire. Well, I don’t know, I don’t know, what do you think?

 

Kimberly Adams: I’m gonna go full. I mean, these fires are just so devastating. And it reminds me of one time when Amy Scott was on the show, and the make me smile I had was this guy also in Texas, who did this drone show in – I think it was Houston and put a QR code in the sky. And so if you hold up your phone on this drone constellation and scan the QR code, you basically got rick rolled.

 

Andy Uhler: Oh, nice.

 

Kimberly Adams: It was very entertaining. And I’ve noticed a lot of politicians like to do it also. And I suppose it’s a bit more cost efficient, because you can deploy the same fleet of drones over and over and over again and make that your business, whereas with fireworks, you blow them up and they’re gone. So.

 

Andy Uhler: I had a whole bunch of conversation about…

 

Kimberly Adams: Anne Reg in the chat mentions a good point. “I used to love fireworks. But after my dogs, my veteran friends, I just can’t anymore. And it’s so expensive.” Yeah, because this triggers PTSD for some people. And then animals don’t like it. I mean, luckily, Jasper’s deaf, he doesn’t care. You know, in my days of local reporting and local news, I remember doing a story interviewing vets about how to help your animals not freak out for Fourth of July.

 

Andy Uhler: I wanted to tell you too. I was in the course of that reporting I was talking about, because safe and sane is sort of the nomenclature about things that don’t explode and don’t leave the ground. And that’s sort of, it’s a category now of fireworks that are being sold by fireworks companies. And I sort of started talking to people on Twitter about it. And the attitude was very much “just don’t use any of them at all, if you’re going to use the safe and sane”. Because, you know, they just don’t think they’re very lame. At the same time, what one of the representative told me was, they are significantly cheaper. And so if you’re feeling some sort of inflation pressures, then buy a whole lot of these little safe and sane fireworks. You know, if you have little kids, it doesn’t really matter. They’re not gonna notice all that much of a difference. Yeah, exactly. But it’s interesting, I didn’t even think about the sort of economic ideas of, you know, buying a whole lot of fireworks can get pretty expensive. Just buy the safe and sane ones. Pretty cheap.

 

Kimberly Adams: We’ll still be watching the fourth fireworks. Drew’s like, Enough y’all, enough. It’s getting late. It’s Friday. It’s a holiday. Stop talking. All right, we will be off Monday for the holiday. And so we will see you all back here on Tuesday with a deep dive on – joyous of topics, capitalism and the environment. Some people…

 

Andy Uhler: And you know that I got two cents on Twitter with you guys about exactly what’s happening there. It’s basically all I think about and all I study. So. Oh man.

 

Kimberly Adams: I’m ready for it. We will take all of the sense that you have to offer because certainly we need it. You know, because a lot of people really feel deeply strongly that capitalism as a structure is what is driving climate change. And so we’re going to be talking about whether or not capitalism could potentially help us mitigate global warming or is it just a lost cause altogether?

 

Andy Uhler: So if that is a topic that has been on your mind, send us your thoughts and questions. Email us at makemesmart@marketplace.org, or leave us a voice message. We’re at 508-827-6278. That’s 508-U-B-SMART.

 

Kimberly Adams: Make Me Smart is produced by Marissa Cabrera. Today’s episode was engineered by Drew Jostad, who’s also famous. And the Senior Producer is Bridget Bodnar.

 

Andy Uhler: And this is the part where I’m supposed to go and tell you about the team behind this. I’m gonna let Kimberly do that, because I didn’t ask.

 

Kimberly Adams: It’s okay. It’s okay. The team behind our Friday game is Steven Byeon, Mel Rosenberg, and Emily Macune, with the theme music written by Drew Jostad. And our Director of On Demand is Donna Tam. Andy, I hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July and good times. Do you have the day off?

 

Andy Uhler: I do have the day off.

 

Kimberly Adams: Oh I see a dog! I see a dog now. Can you bring the dog? Hi Larry!

 

Andy Uhler: Of course, yeah, Larry was just hanging out the whole time.

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