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It is the season of political debates, during which we are reminded by various fact-checkers that we shouldn’t believe everything we hear from the candidates. This is just in case the stupor into which we have been lulled is so deep that we might have been otherwise inclined.
Happily, fact-checking sometimes exposes the gaffes of people talking about sports as well as people talking about free walls and science that isn’t science.
That’s why I’m glad Timothy Burke at the sports site Deadspin was watching Sunday night’s NFL game, even though I wasn’t.
Since lots of people take sports seriously, and since Michaels has been talking about sports on TV for a long time, some number of football fans probably find him credible, and some subset of that number might vote.
To fill one of the few lulls in the action not devoted to selling insurance or beer, NBC showed viewers a photograph of the coaching staff of the 1975 Baltimore Colts. One of the fellows in the picture was Bill Belichick, currently the very successful head coach of the New England Patriots.
Belichick had told Cris Collinsworth, one of the announcers, that he was paid $25.00 a week for that Colts gig — $22.00 after taxes.
“That would be $8.00 today,” said Al Michaels, suggesting that the tax rate had risen almost 300 percent since 1975.
“Ho, ho, ho,” laughed everyone obligingly.
Except for Timothy Burke at Deadspin. Alarm bells apparently went off in his head. He did some research and found that taxes are much lower than they were in 1975. More precisely, they are lower for people making very little, and much, much lower for people like Al Michaels, who makes a lot.
In fact, according to Deadspin’s figures, Michaels would have paid about $2 million more in taxes in 1975 than he pays now.
It would be a simple case of not letting the facts get in the way of an opportunity for a wisecrack if nobody was inclined to believe people like Al Michaels. But since lots of people take sports seriously, and since Michaels has been talking about sports on TV for a long time, some number of football fans probably find him credible, and some subset of that number might vote. The notion that informed voters are necessary to the health of democracy dates back almost 250 years in these precincts. It follows that voters burdened with the misinformation in which Al Michaels was trafficking, albeit in pursuit of a chuckle, won’t be doing the homeland any good when they cast their ballots.
They won’t be doing themselves any good, either, but that’s a complicated matter best left for another day.
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