Greed is the name of the game….the pro game anyway

A friend of my dad’s once asked me “So you coach kids? Is there a lot of money in that? Sadly Pete there isn’t. Like a teacher I affect the learning, discipline, determination and character of young children. I give them lessons and opportunities to learn, perfect and perform skills. I help formulate the future by today affecting the children that will be adults tomorrow. That’s not worth much.

We American’s like to be entertained. We like our TV and our Movies and we like to watch sports and remember the day when we used to do sports. Often the extent of the action in our lives is limited to watching make-believe heroes do their thing on a large or small screen; and sadly the extent of our own sports is watching someone else play a game.

Sports heroes are a curious group. They get paid an exorbitant amount of money to play a game. Granted their careers often last less than 10 years and their earning power diminishes after they retire. They may need to put some money away for that day when they stop playing and get out of pro-sports. What gets me is how pro athletes feel that it’s acceptable to complain about how hard they work to make their pay check. I am sorry, but I train athletes that work hard, attend school, have a family life and make absolutely zero dollars doing it. They do it because they love it. I have a hard time feeling bad for these people and their stressful job. Where is the satisfaction in the game?

I love how they feel that they are just like everyday working schmo’s, like us. Their whole life is based on the measly pittance they collect from each game. “I’ve got my family to feed.”  Says former NBA guard Latrell Sprewell on why he wanted to sign a contract extension or be traded after making $14.6 million during the 2004-05 season. It must be tough telling your kids that there is no ice cream after dinner because Daddy’s check wasn’t big enough to get stuff like ice cream.

“People think we make $3 million and $4 million a year. They don’t realize that most of us only make $500,000.” Says Pete Incaviglia, former Texas Rangers outfielder on why baseball players aren’t overpaid. Geez, Pete you might have to truck the kids to stay over at Latrell’s house in the winter if the furnace goes out (but don’t expect ice cream).

There is a big disconnect between the people playing the game and the people paying for the tickets. When we agree to pay $50 for a ticket we acknowledge that the players have a high value. My family spends $50 and all four of us to go see a Mallard’s game; and the players play like they love the game. It’s more enjoyable, more human, and we even get hot dogs and a pop.  Nobody makes what they think they should, when is the last time someone said “I get paid too much for what I do.”? Never. We all think we work hard and collect too little. So that’s a common complaint. In the grand scheme of things we should be weighing out the value of what we do for society? I will argue that the janitor in a grade school plays a more important role in society than a professional athlete. Maybe if they wore jerseys they’d get paid more.

What’s worse is that because someone can play a game we give them a free pass on poor character or poor education. Some were pushed through college without ever opening a book because they had a high percentage from the free throw line, or could unleash a fireball from the mound. When Chicago Tribune writer Sam Smith suggested that Miami retire Shaquille O’Neil, Shaq told reporters “Sam is an idiot—I-D-O-U-T—idiot.”  This one time player and current bazillionaire is an idout and we paid him off so he could play a game for us. We didn’t want to worry about the fact that he is going to go through life  not being able to communicate or even balance his check book. But don’t worry, I think he’ll be ok: his accountant does his books, his PR guy does his communicating and I’m sure he even has a full house staff to clean up his mess. He was a great player but he’s a helpless idiot and we allow him to be that way.

And Character: How about when Randy Moss was asked how he would pay his fine for unsportsmanlike conduct and he said ““When you’re rich you don’t write checks… it’s Straight cash, homey.” Or the miscarriage of justice that was OJ Simpson, Aaron Hernandez, or Michael Vick. They can play ball so we can excuse a few indiscretions. Let me say that until we demand more from our heroes we will always get less.

What is my point? Why complain about this overdone premise? Because people need to understand that when we accept this behavior and poor character from our sports role models we give up the luxury of complaining about how children in sports are too aggressive, unsportsmanlike or in so many ways less responsible than children in sports years ago. I hear people in our lobby complain how kids in a youth hockey league were so aggressive last night at the game or how kids nowadays don’t get sportsmanship. I beg to differ. They get it; they just see that sports fans don’t value it anymore.

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