American Pharoah’s Saturday try for the first triple crown since 1978 has motivated me to learn the quirky spelling of Pharoah, different than Egypt’s timeless pharaoh. But that’s not all.
It also sent me back to 1978, the last time a horse, Affirmed, won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont in one year, to find the other big sports stories of that year. Rather than merely counting the years that have passed since then, here’s a more interesting method to measure how much has changed.
Allow me to show you the money.
In 1978 Gary Player won the Masters. In addition to a green jacket he won $45,000.
Compare that to Jordan Spieth’s $1.8 million payday for winning the 2015 Masters.
In January of 1978 the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl, earning a winner’s share of $18,000 for each player. The losing Denver Broncos got $9,000 each.
The most recent Super Bowl paid $97,000 to each of the winning New England Patriots and $49,000 to each of the losing Seattle Seahawks.
Chris Evert had a great season in 1978, leading the women’s tennis tour with $454,486 in winnings. Last season Serena Williams was the WTA leader with more than $9.3 million.
As for the Belmont, first-prize money of $110,580 went to Affirmed’s owner in 1978. Not sure what it will be Saturday, but the 2014 Belmont first-place check was $800,000.
Here’s the weird part. I was making next to nothing, minus taxes, of course, when I started working here at the newspaper in 1978. All these years later and my wife is still clipping grocery coupons. Oh, well, at least I’ve got a big-screen TV to watch the Belmont.
As for American Pharoah, I’ll believe it when I see it, even though there are only eight horses in the field.
Funny Cide finished third in a field of six at the Belmont Stakes in 2003 when a victory would have meant the Triple Crown.