Golfer Tiger Woods is the world’s top-earning sportsman, according to Forbes.
He is said to have earned $64-million from endorsements last year, most of it before his sexcapades became public knowledge. Although he was dumped by a couple of sponsors after that, his income would have to drop substantially before he gets pipped.
The next highest earners were soccer star David Beckham ($18-million), tennis player Roger Federer ($16-million), Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt ($14-million) and then basketball stars LeBron James ($13-million) and Kobe Bryant ($12-million).
The richest team brand is English soccer club Manchester United, which has a value estimated at $270-million. They edged out the New York Yankees baseball team, apparently worth $266-million.
If there’s one person who must surely be happy with these stats, it’ll be Woods’s wife Elin. Should she get divorced, she could become the world’s richest sports-earner without having ever played sport.
Serena Williams and Roger Federer both threw tantrums while losing matches at the US Open. It’s nothing new, of course, if you go back to the original “Superbrat”, John McEnroe.
I suppose that’s one of the downsides of professional sport as a whole. I can throw something resembling a wobbly on the golf course, and I can assure you my game will never be confused with a professional’s. But my abusive language is strictly directed at myself, never my playing partners.
I remember reading stories about former Springbok greats, like centre John Gainsford and eighthman Doug Hopwood, who played the amateur version of rugby union and who always competed like gentlemen. They really did believe that how one played the game was an important aspect of sport.
I’m not trying to be judgemental on modern sport – when there are millions of dollars at stake, players are going to have a different attitude – but it is worth remembering that there is more to sport that winning at all costs.
There was no shortage of great sport this weekend.
We had the Springboks beating the All Blacks (again!), Orlando Pirates winning the Charity Cup and Gerhard Zandberg taking bronze in the 50 backstroke (as well as a whole bunch of other events).
But the contest that stood out for me was the men’s 100 butterfly final at the World Championships in Rome on Saturday, won by superhuman Michael Phelps who produced a display of awesome power. In claiming eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics last year, it was the 100m fly that created the most controversy, when Phelps was awarded the title by one-hundredth of a second, even though it appeared to the naked eye that Serbia’s Milorad Cavic had edged it.
Their showdown at the weekend was about setting the record straight, and once again it was Cavic who took the early lead – Phelps wasn’t even third at the turn. But on the second lap the American transformed into a long-armed aquatic monster, closing down the gap so quickly that with about 15 metres remaining, he was in the lead.
Both Phelps and Cavic went below 50 seconds for the first time in the history of swimming. Phelps v Cavic is a great rivalry, probably one that matches Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal, or Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier. Unfortunately, they probably won’t face off again until the 2011 World Championships, and then the 2012 Olympics in London.
But it’ll be worth waiting for!