Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Football, Money, and Big Whiny Whiners

It's official. There's a lockout in place for the National Football League, the commissioner is only getting paid $1 a day, and the players filed to decertify their union in order to file an anti-trust suit against the owners. Well that's just great! This means a potentially long, dragged out process involving the courts. So it's looking like my beloved pastime might be shut down next season. Sigh...

A lot of people like to talk about where to place the blame for this unfortunate turn of events. Yup, me too! Apparently asking Mr. Obama was a bust. He said he had better things to deal with. So I decided to read the papers, online articles, and listen to the Freakonomics podcast for answers. What I found were equally aggravating excuses from both sides. The owners claim that the current pay structure is unsustainable for them, that they didn't spend millions upon millions of dollars to lose money. To this I say, there should have been a disclaimer or something telling them that there are always risks involved in any kind of investments. You'd think these billionaires would know that before they signed the last contract almost 2 decades ago.

As for the players, reading and listening to their side of the dispute proved to be equally irritating. Here are some common things they say when asked why they want more money:

"I worked hard to get to where I am, so I deserve this lifestyle."

"I don't earn that much at 500,000 when other players are making millions."

"I have to pay a lot of taxes."

Really? None of these seem to be valid excuses for fussing. If you want to describe yourself as God-given talents, act like it. Be thankful of what you have and be responsible with your money. There are a lot of even harder working folks out there who also "deserve" that lifestyle. Maybe the best thing to do instead of getting the players a raise is giving them some lessons in basic personal finance before they receive their first paycheck.

There are people, managers, executives, etc., at most people's companies who make many times other workers' salaries. That doesn't mean everyone else spend beyond their means to keep up. Well, they can, but the results will be the same as those football players who spend beyond their means. The difference is that most of us "average" folks have the will and the tools to pick ourselves back up by finding a side hustle or going back to school and start a second career path. Why should the NFL players be any different? Most of us (I hope) don't go to our employers to ask for a huge raise stating that we might lose all of our money in 10 years or that we might have short career time spans. That'd be ridiculous.

Okay, so they say that the average salary of an NFL player is "only" around $500,000, while the average career of a player spans 3 years. Short yes. But, to me, accumulating $1.5 million (minus taxes) before your mid-20s just means a long, long time to compound your earnings. If a player is not a "star," which most players aren't, the spotlights aren’t on them anyways. That's even more reason for them to learn to live modestly.

As for taxes, everyone who makes that much pays it, so factor it in! For a single person with a gross income of $500,000, the tax bill is probably around $150,000 in 2010. A large sum? Yes. But s/he gets to keep $350,000, almost 10 times the national average. Still a significant amount, I'd say. So everything really comes down to financial management, not whining.

The only thing I sympathize with is the potentially expensive healthcare costs these athletes face in their future. My dad was a semi-professional athlete a long time ago. He reminds me every time we watch any sort of professional sport (especially when someone gets injured) of how short an athlete's career can be due to unexpected injuries. It's part of the risk. In football, where getting tackled with 500 lbs. of force is a frequent occurrence, it's not hard to imagine how a player can have long term health problems. It surprises me how little it's been mentioned by the players, besides the tragic death of Dave Duerson. So maybe the discussion should be geared towards this topic.

Sure, maybe I just don't understand what it's like to be rich and famous, or maybe I'm jealous. But I still insist that It doesn't annoy me just because both sides are wealthy. What it comes down to is that I don't appreciate those who flaunt their incredible wealth in my face and complain about how little they have. Learn to fight for what's important (like healthcare), but also learn to be content and be aware that there are butt loads of others out there who aren't as fortunate.


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