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April 13, 2009 10:42 AM   Subscribe

How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke

By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (130 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this a couple of weeks ago and was taken aback by those stats. Not being a sports fan, I always assumed that the various stories about this athlete gone broke or that one were just random and/or apocrypha, with more than a little twinge of racism about them. Instead, it turns out to be the dominant paradigm. Damn.
posted by briank at 10:48 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being a professional athlete used to be a way to make a living. It is now a way to live. Therein is much of the problem.
posted by wabashbdw at 10:51 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


This happens to a lot of flash-in-the-pan actors, musicians and models, too. When you hit it big young, you have no perspective on how lucky you got and that you may not, in fact probably will not, be able to rebottle the lightning. Spend like water.
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


So the bottom line is, a bunch of young, not-too-smart people get a bunch of money, and end up getting rooked while they are focused on something else. This is my tangible lack of surprise.

Honestly, I'm finding it hard to build up a huge amount of sympathy, partially because I don't particularly like athletes in the first place, and partially because the story of sudden riches that get quickly squandered is a story that's been repeated time and time again, with only a few differences in the details. Give young people a ton of money, and odds are that it's going to go away quickly, making other people wealthy in the process.

I'm honestly not sure what we're supposed to do other than shrug and say "oh well."
posted by happyroach at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


What briank said.

One quote (lightly paraphrased) from the article that stuck with me: 'Financially speaking, the most dangerous thing that can happen to an athlete is divorce.'

Also: "Michael Vick went broke in prison. How did that happen?"
posted by box at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2009


I saw a documentary on NFL players. The degree of disability the majority of the obscure worker bees (Defense Lineman, Offensive Linemen - the unsung heroes) are left with when 'retired' is astounding and the NFL does really nothing for them. So they essentially are dumped into life with no skills and a severe disability. Look at how little most kids who are just normal know about managing their finances when they graduate from college. Throw a couple million dollars a year at these kids with no lessons on how to use it and they would probably end up down the same road.
posted by spicynuts at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


About five years ago, Hunter says, he invested almost $70,000 in an invention: an inflatable raft that would sit under furniture. The pitch was that when high-rainfall areas were flooded, consumers could pump up the device, allowing a sofa to float and remain dry.

Well, it sounds mostly like the athletes are mostly not hiring investment advisors when they get their money, and are instead relying on family to do the right thing or their own investing know-how. I mean, an floatable sofa?! I am reminded of Ask Metafilter anytime someone comes on with "... I just inherited a lot of money ..." -- everyone tells them "Go see an accountant." and these sports players need to get into the mindset of doing the same thing.

But then, try convincing a supposedly-near-invincible 20-year old that he needs to get a financial advisor.
posted by barnacles at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2009


That article mentions a few possibilities. One big step, I think, would be for the NCAA to insist on real financial education for college athletes.
posted by box at 10:55 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


So when exactly should "these kids" be expected to take responsibility for their own actions?
posted by Brocktoon at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2009


Professional sports are fail.
posted by kldickson at 11:01 AM on April 13, 2009


One big step, I think, would be for the NCAADepartment of Education to insist on real financial education for college athleteseveryone.
posted by DU at 11:01 AM on April 13, 2009 [47 favorites]


Thanks for fixing that for me, DU. Seriously.
posted by box at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just to save everyone some time and "effort," here ya go:

A: Jocks are dumb!
B: Nerds are weak!

Carry on. If you must.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:05 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This appears to be Muhsin Muhammad's house, if anyone is interested.
posted by pokermonk at 11:07 AM on April 13, 2009


"Outrageous!"
posted by greensweater at 11:08 AM on April 13, 2009


I read the first four pages of the article to see if I could muster up some sympathy. No luck.
posted by diogenes at 11:09 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joe Lisboa: C: Snark is tired!
posted by leotrotsky at 11:10 AM on April 13, 2009


Last year I posted an New Yorker article about Lenny Dykstra's business empire and his magazine The Players Club, which would feature financial advice for pro athletes to replicate his success. Looks like the replication went the other direction.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:10 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


So when exactly should "these kids" be expected to take responsibility for their own actions?

Who is saying that they shouldn't?
posted by dirigibleman at 11:11 AM on April 13, 2009


D: I agree, which is why I want to preempt the tired, tired "sportz iz stoopid" nonsense we get on here from time to time, so ...

E: I agree! (see "D")
posted by joe lisboa at 11:11 AM on April 13, 2009


One big step, I think, would be for the Department of Education to insist on real financial education for everyone.

Yeah, seriously. You can look at this story as "Ha ha, those athletes are idiots" or you can think about what happens to all the people who have no clue about finance that don't make millions of dollars a year. Plenty of non-athletes make significantly more money than they actually need to spend every year and end up in debt when they should be saving for retirement. With the future of Social Security in jeopardy and pension funds being dropped in favor of optional 401(k) accounts, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if we keep going in the direction we're going there are going to be a lot of broke retired people with no one to take care of them.

In the case of sports athletes, what they should be doing is setting up a pension-like system that everyone who belongs to their unions has to pay into. The sad fact is that unless something like that is required, most people aren't going to save as much as they should on their own.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:12 AM on April 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


Also: "Michael Vick went broke in prison. How did that happen?"
posted by box at 10:53 AM on April 13


Feel-good link of the day. \(^_^ )/
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:13 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Honestly, I'm finding it hard to build up a huge amount of sympathy, partially because I don't particularly like athletes in the first place

is it that you dislike it when other people participate in athletic activities, or is there a social or emotional expectation you have when it comes to athletic people? if it's the former: why? if it's the latter: what are we supposed to do with this infromation, that you don't care if a class of people you don't like experience financial ruin?
posted by shmegegge at 11:18 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


infromation, indeed.
posted by shmegegge at 11:18 AM on April 13, 2009


It's a great article; thanks for posting it here.

Well, it sounds mostly like the athletes are mostly not hiring investment advisors when they get their money, and are instead relying on family to do the right thing or their own investing know-how.

This is exactly the problem, both from the article and from personal experience/observation. Magic Johnson is a kazillionaire. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was broke for a very long time, and is still nowhere near kazillionaire status. They both played on the same time at roughly the same time. When Magic came into the league, Kareem was already arguably the NBA's biggest superstar, and had appeared in a few movies.

The difference? Magic hooked up with a guy named Lon Rosen, who last I heard, had become the guy running the sports arm of the William Morris agency.

Kareem squandered his money on this and that, and had a messy divorce. And then his house burned down. Good guy, excellent thinker and author. Not so hot with the money.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:19 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Good guy, excellent thinker and author. Not so hot with the money.

Also, he didn't think to have the lasagna instead of the fish.
posted by Spatch at 11:21 AM on April 13, 2009 [22 favorites]


"The house in Malibu, the cars, the diamond phone, you gotta sell it all, baby. You're broke."

"Broke? How could I be broke? I have six million dollars in the bank"

"Yeeeaaahhhh....remember how you bought the Six Million Dollar Man?"

"Hell yeah! ... Ohhhhhh."

"And then he ran away ... nobody's catching him."

Cinn-a-mon .... ssssssssinamon.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


The NFL, in contrast to most other professional sports, can cancel a contract instantly upon serious injury. While some kind of injury does occur in 100% of players every season, I can see how it would be hard to have in your hand a hard-won 3 or 5 year contract, and still focus on the it-could-end-any-minute clause.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:29 AM on April 13, 2009


Oh, and the other shocking thing about when a player goes broke is the amount of free services they get from the team while they're part of the team.*

Need a house? The team has a real estate agent.
Need a car? The team has connections with various dealerships.
Need a lawyer? The team will help you.

I guarantee you that if any young hotshot player went to the team and said, "I have NO CLUE what to do with all this money," the team would throw out the red carpet to help him, if only to ensure he doesn't fuck it all up and end up in the papers.

* Of course, the second you're no longer with the team, you can go pound sand.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2009


I personally experienced a version of this young-people-get-rich-quick story, at Google during the IPO. I think most of the Google folks have had better luck with money management than the athletes in the linked story, although it's a bit early to know and people mostly don't talk. One big help was the way the company educated employees about investment options. There were a lot of investment banks and advisors circling the chum, it was a big help to get some alternate viewpoints to the slick sales pitches.
posted by Nelson at 11:31 AM on April 13, 2009


I think a lot of us consider athletes hideously, obscenely, criminally, immorally overpaid, and this is why it is hard for us to muster sympathy for the fact that they don't get to keep money that they neither earned not deserved in the first place. Show me a teacher who is bankrupt and I'll start crying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 AM on April 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


You'd think if almost 80% of your former athletes are falling on hard times after leaving the league, the NFL would put some effort into doing something about the problem. At Google I know people leaving as millionaires are forced to take some financial courses on investing and finding investment professionals to look after their matters.

I can't believe the NFL lets this problem continue like they do, I suppose they're too busy making as much money as possible off current players.
posted by mathowie at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Of the 9,000 players that have retired from the NFL since 1960, less than five percent receive disability benefits.

"The story John Guzik tells about his body is one you're likely to hear from any 70-year-old man who once played in the National Football League. He's had back surgery, in part because there's no cartilage left between many of his vertebrae. His neck doesn't move anymore, so he turns his entire torso to see behind him when he drives. His right knee has been surgically repaired. His teeth have been broken. His nose was busted three times. He once played a quarter-and-a-half of a college game with a broken arm. A shattered ankle ended his NFL career.

Like many players from his era, Guzik, who is in pain every day, receives no pension or medical care from the NFL because his career lasted fewer than four seasons... players of his era are in dire straits, with broken bodies, no medical, little or no income, and no help from either the NFL or the NFL Players Association."


"Vikings center Matt Birk sent a letter that was express-mailed and delivered to every NFL player right after Thanksgiving. He asked they donate a portion of their game check from the Dec. 21st games to Gridiron Greats, the charity that benefits former players in need.

There are 53 players on each team. There are 32 teams. That's 1,696 players.

According to Jennifer Smith, the executive director of Gridiron Greats, as of Thursday a total of 10-15 players have sent in checks in response to what they were calling Gridiron Guardian Sunday.

The response was not 10-15 players per team. That's 10-15 players total. That's not even one player per team. "

posted by netbros at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Another statistic: 90% of MetaFilter is still mad about high school.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2009 [55 favorites]


Personally I'd hire two money managers, offer them 5% bonuses and tell them each that there's another guy, and if he makes more after a year it's goodnight to you. I'd get them to give me 5% of my net for blow and speedboats. But, I can't catch footballs good.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think a lot of us consider athletes hideously, obscenely, criminally, immorally overpaid, and this is why it is hard for us to muster sympathy for the fact that they don't get to keep money that they neither earned not deserved in the first place. Show me a teacher who is bankrupt and I'll start crying.

I don't get this; it's not like the team owners steal your money to pay the players. They use their own money and it seems to me they can do whatever they want with it.

It's not like you're donating all your spare cash to pay teacher's salaries, is it?
posted by Justinian at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Show me a teacher who is bankrupt and I'll start crying.

*raises hand, awaits sweet, sweet tears*
posted by joe lisboa at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


See him on TV
any given Sunday
win the Superbowl
and drive off in a Hyundai?
posted by sciurus at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2009 [8 favorites]


I don't get this; it's not like the team owners steal your money to pay the players. They use their own money and it seems to me they can do whatever they want with it.

It's more of a complaint about how we prioritize things as a culture. I'm also not a fan of movie actors getting nine million dollar salaries.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


... and by "tears," of course, I mean "fat bank." Paypal is in profile, thxbye.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2009


Personally I'd hire two money managers, offer them 5% bonuses and tell them each that there's another guy, and if he makes more after a year it's goodnight to you. I'd get them to give me 5% of my net for blow and speedboats.

Unfortunately, the one guy is Bernie Madoff and the other is that Standford guy.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:42 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, I can't catch footballs good.

Or sentences, either.
posted by dersins at 11:42 AM on April 13, 2009


Hey, I'm a journalist, so I am teetering on the edge of bankruptcy myself. I got tears for you, but no money. Sorry.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:42 AM on April 13, 2009


They need a college ranking system for post-pro athlete failure. Then UCLA can brag about how their Program's former-pro athletes only had a 69.5% bankruptcy rate, whereas the University of Florida ended up a stunning 94% bankrupt, and Texas A&M is toeing the line at the national average of 78%. Stick it in the US News & World Report. Then let's see how serious colleges get about educating their athletes.
posted by jabberjaw at 11:46 AM on April 13, 2009 [18 favorites]


I hear ya, AZ. Much love, nonetheless. I think the point about social priorities is an important one, but it tends to create this false dichotomy in threads such as this. I'll shut my yap now and let folks attempt to stay on topic.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:46 AM on April 13, 2009


i've been thinking for a long time that pro sport should be an essentially monastic persuit. you can get all the money you want and all the sponsorship you can handle, but until you retire it's saffron robes, study, celibacy and hard work. the money is held in trust and the ladies, well, they'll have to wait until you're forty.

i don't think my idea is very popular though...
posted by klanawa at 11:49 AM on April 13, 2009


Adding to the inclination to withhold sympathy:
How to limit paternity obligations is a challenge for pro athletes. Former NBA forward Shawn Kemp (who has at least seven children by six women) and, more recently, Travis Henry (nine by nine) have seen their fortunes sapped by monthly child-support payments in the tens of thousands of dollars.
You have one child that you've got to pay child support for - OK, that's a mistake. You have seven? That's irresponsible to the point of self-destruction.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't get this; it's not like the team owners steal your money to pay the players. They use their own money and it seems to me they can do whatever they want with it.

Actually, I live in one of many cities that used taxpayer funds to build stadiums for these guys to play in and make money in, so yes, it has in fact been taken from me (and others) and given to the sports industry.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:52 AM on April 13, 2009 [10 favorites]


I think a lot of us consider athletes hideously, obscenely, criminally, immorally overpaid

At least sports are more or less a meritocracy. In order to make millions of dollars throwing a football you actually have to be better at it than the millions of other people who could take your place. Not too many jobs are like that.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:54 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't get this; it's not like the team owners steal your money to pay the players. They use their own money and it seems to me they can do whatever they want with it.

Screw that, nobody should be paid on that kind of level. It's unjustifiable, particularly when they blow it in such ostentatious ways.
posted by knapah at 12:03 PM on April 13, 2009


I think a lot of us consider athletes hideously, obscenely, criminally, immorally overpaid, and this is why it is hard for us to muster sympathy for the fact that they don't get to keep money that they neither earned not deserved in the first place. Show me a teacher who is bankrupt and I'll start crying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:33 AM on April 13 [+] [!]


Emotionally true, but largely ignores the fact that the reason athletes are "____-ly" overpaid is because sports make an "______" amount of money. Professional athletes are signed, perform, and the owners then make a great deal of money back on that relative investment.

As the child of public school teachers, I can assure you the work is far more important and difficult, but there's just no economic model which would support that kind of payment (that is until college). People like to watch/pay for sports so people who play sports get paid a lot. It's simple and dependent on our interests.

So basically I'm saying I don't get it. We can rail against the obscene amounts athletes get paid but the collective we would stop having to watch and pay for them. Which won't happen. So why get angry that is something that is a function of the economic model?

And no this is not analogous to wall street people being overpaid.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 12:07 PM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dammit. I really need to re-read/edit before I post. Ignore grammar problems.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 12:08 PM on April 13, 2009


This all sounds like an argument for socialism to me. An argument I agree with.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:10 PM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Jesus Christ, people. No one is asking you to move around some of the extremely limited amount of sympathy in your emotional stores, and spend it on professional athletes at the expense of teachers, or journalists, or nuns, or the urban poor, or young professionals buckling under 100K of student debt.

Can't this just be sad on its own terms? Can no one see how plunging (mostly) relatively uneducated and (mostly) inexperienced kids from (mostly) poor backgrounds into a world of wealth and privilege for a short period of time (so that they can entertain us) can be fraught with peril? That they might not be prepared for?

Yes, I feel bad for the lucky few who get to be professional athletes and who lose/squander/surrender/are robbed of their wealth. I really do. And you know what? My perspective on the relative suffering of others? Totally intact!
posted by kosem at 12:11 PM on April 13, 2009 [74 favorites]


Can't this just be sad on its own terms? Can no one see how plunging (mostly) relatively uneducated and (mostly) inexperienced kids from (mostly) poor backgrounds into a world of wealth and privilege for a short period of time (so that they can entertain us) can be fraught with peril?

Yeah. How dare we?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of us consider athletes hideously, obscenely, criminally, immorally overpaid, and this is why it is hard for us to muster sympathy for the fact that they don't get to keep money that they neither earned not deserved in the first place.

This is, of course, understandable. to a degree. I'd be inclined to say that professional athletes are overpaid, as well. and if it were my money that paid them I'd pay them much less.

but what we're ultimately talking about is a much larger problem than "what athletes get paid." what we're talking about is a culture that pays top dollar for its entertainment, by getting it for free. I am, of course, talking about advertising. I pay for an athlete's salary every time I buy a budweiser. (full disclosure, I do not buy budweiser if I can help, and I can always help it. this is not because of athletics, however, so...) This is because budweiser pays an ad agency to get sports fans to buy their beer. and the ad agency pays for ad time on sports programs. and the sports programs pay the NFL (I think. At this point, my understanding of the money chain gets fuzzy. if someone else knows more or better than I do, please chime in.) for the right to broadcast games, and the NFL pays the team owners, who pay the athletes etc...

If the atheletes get X money for playing, it's because X+Y goes to the team, and the team pays X to the players. The team owner gets X+Y because the NFL gets X+Y+Z from the networks, etc... When it comes down to it, the total of all that money comes from Budweiser, Ford, Axe, and other companies' product sales, which comes out of our consumer pockets.

I'm belaboring the point, and going on about the obvious, I know.

The point is, you can't really assign a point in that chain where anybody makes money in that equation because they deserve X dollars for X performance measure. J.J. Abrams doesn't make a lot of money because Lost is the best show on television (I'm not arguing one way or the other about the quality of the show), he makes money because it is the highest rated among the statistically unrepresentative viewing sample of Nielsen households, and that means a statistically dubious number of people are supposedly viewing the ads. Some car company is willing to pay top dollar to put ads on that show, therefore. In order to keep that rating, ABC is willing to pay the actors more when they renegotiate their contracts, on the hunch that these unrepresentative nielsen viewers would react badly if their favorite star of the show got killed off.

I don't want to tell you how YOU should feel, but in the end I can't fault any actor or athlete for getting a piece of a weird ass pie like that, especially if, in the end, the guy who writes his check is willing to do it.
posted by shmegegge at 12:18 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't get this; it's not like the team owners steal your money to pay the players. They use their own money and it seems to me they can do whatever they want with it.

Screw that, nobody should be paid on that kind of level. It's unjustifiable, particularly when they blow it in such ostentatious ways.
posted by knapah at 12:03 PM on April 13 [+] [!]


Why not? Why shouldn't an athlete be paid that kind of money? Or a movie star? I can assure the financial data backs it up. People like see X star play. People like seeing X movie star in a movie. They then go to see that event/movie.

So really, I'm just asking what's so wrong with people getting paid that much?

*I mentioned before this is not analogous for what happens on wall-street or other particular business arenas, where you pay for a service or advice instead of an experience or escapism, where the rules of financial responsibilities don't apply as concretely.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 12:19 PM on April 13, 2009


It's more of a complaint about how we prioritize things as a culture. I'm also not a fan of movie actors getting nine million dollar salaries.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:40 PM on April 13


We prioritize things as a culture as an aggregation of how people prioritize them individually. People want entertainment. They wanted it in ancient Rome, Soviet Russia, and here. Taxpayer-funded stadiums are voted on by the people. The people want them. I was not a fan of late 90's dot-coms that let their employees take naps and play foosball on the shareholder's dime. What can you do.

People are complaining about teacher salaries. Yes, teachers should be paid more, but would paying the current teachers more money translate into students who were better educated? Is the problem that the people who have the teaching jobs now are paid to little, or that we aren't paying enough to attract the right, different set of people to become teachers?

Can no one see how plunging (mostly) relatively uneducated and (mostly) inexperienced kids from (mostly) poor backgrounds into a world of wealth and privilege for a short period of time (so that they can entertain us) can be fraught with peril?

Yeah. How dare we?
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:17 PM on April 13


The alternative is that they remain uneducated, inexperienced, and stay poor their whole lives.

Class warfare really is going to be the defining characteristic of this period, isn't it? Too bad it will end up like every other class war.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:20 PM on April 13, 2009


How much do the top 0.1% of teachers make?
posted by rocket88 at 12:21 PM on April 13, 2009


Remember, too, that most of the guys in the NFL are not stars–most of them are not even starters. They may make a few hundred thousand a year for a couple of years, and then they are finished, with no practical work experience outside of playing football, and maybe a disability to boot. It's not that hard to go broke under those circumstances.
posted by Mister_A at 12:22 PM on April 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


So basically I'm saying I don't get it. We can rail against the obscene amounts athletes get paid but the collective we would stop having to watch and pay for them.

So basically I'm saying I don't get it. We can rail against the obscenely low pay public teachers get paid but the collective we would have to start using public schools and--uh oh.
posted by applemeat at 12:22 PM on April 13, 2009


Speaking as a teacher, my career will last as long as my brain still works. Yes, I don't make a lot of money, but I also won't have to deal with any sort of long term health issues as a direct result of my career.

Also, I would have had a hard time dealing with millions of dollars when I was in my early twenties - and I was a pretty well educated guy even then.

I think the comparison of professional athletes to lottery winners in the article is an apt one. The problem isn't that athletes are stupid, per se. Its that, like so many people, they don't understand how to properly invest their money. Or who to trust with their money.

That all said, all of the money these athletes makes finds its way either back into the economy in the form of short lived business or into the hands of criminals who know better how to manage their finances. Basically, their inability to manage their money well is creating jobs for people and con-artists alike. In that sense, they help the economy more than, say, Bernie Madoff.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:23 PM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also, I think the only thing Metafilter does worse than sports is circumcision.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:25 PM on April 13, 2009 [9 favorites]


Remember, too, that most of the guys in the NFL are not stars–most of them are not even starters.

This is a very important point. If I rode the bench in the NFL for five years out of college at the league minimum, I would have a lot of money in the bank---primarily because my parents would have steered me in the right direction, and because I'm me.

Also: behind the average, bench, low-salaried, short-term players stand thousands of athletes who nourished dreams of a pro career-- those unrealistic dreams stoked by coaches and boosters and ADs who more or less structured a system in which education and preparation for life after college athletics is an afterthought.
posted by kosem at 12:31 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]



Remember, too, that most of the guys in the NFL are not stars–most of them are not even starters.

This is a very important point. If I rode the bench in the NFL for five years out of college at the league minimum, I would have a lot of money in the bank---primarily because my parents would have steered me in the right direction, and because I'm me.

Also: behind the average, bench, low-salaried, short-term players stand thousands of athletes who nourished dreams of a pro career-- those unrealistic dreams stoked by coaches and boosters and ADs who more or less structured a system in which education and preparation for life after college athletics is an afterthought.
posted by kosem at 12:31 PM on April 13 [+] [!]


Well said, but the average NFL career is even less at 2-3 years.

Also, the problem people don't mention is that these athletes aren't just getting suckered, but instead often support large, relatively poor families. Good and decent people who struggled financially and now the good son/daughter has finally started earning professional money. They turn around and help their families accordingly. There is nothing malicious about any of this, it's function of their starting point.

It's not just x salary, but x salary often divided by 8-10 people in the close family (and yes, some of which can be vultures, but it is often not the case)
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 12:37 PM on April 13, 2009


We should just stamp out professional sports! And enjoying things! BOOO PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES!!!

Ok, can we talk about the post now?

This is really a job for the somewhat-ineffectual player's union. Gene Upshaw did a lot to bring this about, but that isn't to say he wasn't up against stiff opposition from the franchise owners.
posted by basicchannel at 12:38 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, I think the only thing Metafilter does worse than sports is circumcision.

You've never seen a MeFi thread related to obesity, have you?
posted by billysumday at 12:40 PM on April 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


I didn't get all the way through the article (I'm neither a big sports fan nor very interested in financial stuff), but I was surprised at how much of what I read was covered by Real Housewives of Atlanta. Between Sheree's bitter divorce, Lisa's husband trying to find a spot on a team after an injury, DeShawn's husband possibly retiring, and the frequent spend-a-thons I can see how most professional athletes end up in such dire straits. I feel kind of dirty admitting Bravo taught me something.
posted by lilac girl at 12:41 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"So they essentially are dumped into life with no skills and a severe disability."
Product of being oversheltered. On the one hand you do need camaraderie and team cohesion, on the other hand, it's socially incestuous so a lot of players don't really know much outside football. And that's by design, for a number of reasons really.

Y'know, all this lack of sympathy for the players....it's the fucking owners that are screwing you to get a stadium made. What, it's the athlete who's "overpaid" when there's some guy signing his - and everyone else's - check? Odds are most of those guys would play ball for free. Lot of people play semi-pro ball, club sports, etc.
Seems to me the players are getting pretty well exploited and cast aside broken. No one deserves that just because they want to play sports. Oh, but they have big muscles, what bastards. They deserve to be crippled and in pain and ignored the rest of their lives. How dare they take advantage of their natural abilities and interests and spend years dedicating themselves to the refinement of their athleticism when other people...y'know, don't. Or do that with something else but get paid less.
Then too - someone weak gets pushed around - loads of sympathy. Oh how wrong it is for someone strong to push someone weak around. Someone not so bright gets pushed around, exploited - F'em. They have it coming.

The same social symptom that prioritizes watching athletic contests or blockbuster movies and paying outlandish sums of money has the same root as the colleges that don't demand responsibility (or give a legitimately useful education) and leaves ex-pro athletes on the curb - the purveyors. And those types of people exploit everyone.
Teachers are probably marginalized because there's no way to leech money off them.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:42 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Also, I think the only thing Metafilter does worse than sports is circumcision.

Empirical data is needed. First we need to pit MeFites against various amateur-level sports teams, and secondly, we need some folks to volunteer to let MeFites circumcise them.
posted by sciurus at 12:52 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


But, I can't catch footballs good.

Or sentences, either.


Clearly nothing gets by you.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:54 PM on April 13, 2009


See, for me, the mind-boggling thing isn't the income, it's the consumption:

"Perhaps the upper limit on spending was set by the famously profligate Shaquille O'Neal, who—according to a document obtained by the Palm Beach Post during O'Neal's canceled divorce filing in January 2008—spends a total of $875,015 each month, including $26,500 for child care, $24,300 for gas and $17,220 for clothing."


We hear the same stuff about other entertainment-biz people. Hey, they're entitled to make and spend whatever they want, and O'Neal apparently dumps a scary amount on charitable things as well, so yay for him, but Jesus, how does anybody spend that much money, regardless of how much is coming in? I'm pretty gifted at pissing away the cash, but I'd have to stay up 23 hours a day and work myself into exhaustion to do that. But then, I guess these folks have lots and lots of consumption-helpers.

No matter how young, or stupid, or deprived, or weak-willed, or surrounded by sycophants, or ill-informed about money you are, at some point, doesn't a THIS IS JUST FUCKING OFF-THE-CHARTS NUTS self-preservation instinct have to kick in? Somewhere deep in your lizard brain, somebody has to realize that, say, a $2,000 pair of boxer shorts is ludicrous and dangerous to your future well-being.

Also, as a lowly edumacator, I swear that if somebody gives me $500,000 right now, I'll make it last and never ask you for another fucking dime.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


This really just brings into sharp relief a problem that plagues most people in the United States--until recently, we were insufficiently good at saving. Investing? Vick probably would have lost even more if the money was entrusted to investment banks. By stealing from him, his friends and advisors may have actually saved him something... if only he can recover.

That said, when I am drafted into the NFL or MLB, I'll spend 75% of my income on women and booze and waste the rest.
posted by Hylas at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


No matter how young, or stupid, or deprived, or weak-willed, or surrounded by sycophants, or ill-informed about money you are, at some point, doesn't a THIS IS JUST FUCKING OFF-THE-CHARTS NUTS self-preservation instinct have to kick in? Somewhere deep in your lizard brain, somebody has to realize that, say, a $2,000 pair of boxer shorts is ludicrous and dangerous to your future well-being.

It seems like one of the major points of the article was that a lot of these people just didn't have the time or interest to pay attention, and they often don't realize what's going on. They're busy with a very intense, stressful job, and they assign the task of managing (and spending) their money to someone else.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:00 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


On the economics side, professional sports provide entertainment, serve as a focus of interest, and meaning to millions of Americans.

Each team has, what, 5 million fans, right? Each willing to personally part with say $100 a year. Not to mention the advertising revenue their "eyeballs" are worth.

Pro sports have the same value as movies, music, computer games since the point of life is to enjoy it, and millions of Americans enjoy watching pro sports.

The money is on the table, and it's good that the players get as much as they do. No doubt they should get more of ti.
posted by mrt at 1:05 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


One big step, I think, would be for the NCAADepartment of Education to insist on real financial education for college athleteseveryone.

Isn't the economy in bad enough shape already?

But yeah, as someone pointed out above, most of these guys aren't starters, and their entire working career is pretty limited. They often don't get the best of educations, what with their schools mainly interested in how they play, and when they're done with the football, they're not real likely to be in great shape to go do anything else, either. I don't actually like athletes much myself, and don't watch sports, but still...poor suckers.

Do the numbers work out better for basketball or baseball? Seems like they could, with the different kind of injuries (not so many head and back injuries).
posted by dilettante at 1:18 PM on April 13, 2009


Huh. The link from this comment mentions that Vick had a financial advisor of some kind. References from Elton John and Willie Nelson, apparently.
posted by dilettante at 1:24 PM on April 13, 2009


Kareem squandered his money on this and that, and had a messy divorce. And then his house burned down. Good guy, excellent thinker and author. Not so hot with the money.

Listen, kid - I've been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I'm out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.
posted by benzenedream at 1:25 PM on April 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


MetaFilter: I can't fault you for getting a piece of a weird ass pie like that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:39 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do the numbers work out better for basketball or baseball? Seems like they could, with the different kind of injuries (not so many head and back injuries).

The debilitating, lifelong injuries are pretty much only found in the NFL. Worse, as it's been mentioned above, NFL contracts are not guaranteed. Hurt your knee? Apart from paying for your rehab*, it's over. Hope you bought some insurance, kid.

Fun fact: Know who pays for professional athletes medical bills for on-the-field injuries? You do. It's considered workers' comp, the same as a guy that drops a wrench on his foot in the factory.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:44 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


$24,300 for gas

The fuck?

You could drive an Abrams tank to work and still not have that kind of a gas bill. That's over $800 a day for Christ's sake!
posted by Bonzai at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]



ANECDOTE!


Let's not pretend that spending wildly is some facet of human behavior relegated to the poor and uneducated. I knew a lot of folks who made a ton of money in the san fran dot com bonanza (all educated, middle-class to rich) and proceeded to spend their money like drunken sailors... Including one who constructed an indoor whiffle ball court.

Needless to say, few of them have retained the money they made in those years. So the class-related bent that the conversation has taken thus far (I'm just as responsible for it) might not be the most fair or accurate.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:50 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The money is on the table, and it's good that the players get as much as they do. No doubt they should get more of ti.


I don't know about the US, but in European soccer, a large number of clubs are in financial problems, due to high wage bills. Small clubs have to spend big if they want to have any hope of matching the big clubs, and even some big clubs are getting sucked into it. The game would be a lot better if players incomes could be limited somehow (a salary cap isn't likely, because you'd need all the major leagues in different countries to agree, and they wouldn't).
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:51 PM on April 13, 2009


salary cap isn't likely, because you'd need all the major leagues in different countries to agree, and they wouldn't

I believe Brussels has also ruled this would violate anti-trust rules. Professional sports in the US have explicit exemptions from rules against collusion.
posted by JPD at 1:54 PM on April 13, 2009


"That article mentions a few possibilities. One big step, I think, would be for the NCAA to insist on real financial education for college athletes."

"OK, hoss, this first number is how much the school makes from having a marquee player like you on the roster. That zero? That's how much you get paid. And remember, a college education is only worth what effort you put into it."
posted by klangklangston at 1:55 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The game would be a lot better if players incomes could be limited somehow (a salary cap isn't likely, because you'd need all the major leagues in different countries to agree, and they wouldn't).

How about revenue sharing? American football has done a great job of maintaining parity between the teams in part by sharing television revenue across the league. Of course, this is in part possible because the somewhat unusual one-game-a-week structure of the sport makes every game a significant TV event....
posted by mr_roboto at 1:59 PM on April 13, 2009


To be fair to athletes Toronto Life ran an article some years back about how the "rich" family next door was probably actually broke. This same thing happens to lawyers, doctors or anyone who spends a lot to pursue a higher social status. I feel bad for these guys and they make some dumb decisions (all those investments in super high-risk small business startups) but they're no different from lots of other bankrupt people.
posted by GuyZero at 2:00 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about revenue sharing? American football has done a great job of maintaining parity between the teams in part by sharing television revenue across the league.

Yes they have. But it took an incredibly forward-thinking person to get it started, it was started in a sport with a natural TV advantage (breaks between plays allow for commercials), and it worked right from the beginning; there was never a hitch that made anyone think twice about it.

The argument against revenue sharing, though, is threefold:

* It can enrich your competition at your expense. Team A is helping Team B defeat them on the field, thereby stealing away Team A's eyeballs and the money those eyeballs provide.

* There is no guarantee that revenue sharing will work to enhance competition. Team A can share revenue with Team B, but Team B could go out and pay exorbitant salaries to players that suck.

* There is no guarantee that the money transferred through revenue sharing will actually be used to improve competition. Team A shares money with Team B, who doesn't spend it on player salaries at all. Instead, they just pocket it (see Bengals, Cincinnati). This is why most major sports include a salary floor, a minimum output, along with a salary cap.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:08 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"OK, hoss, this first number is how much the school makes from having a marquee player like you on the roster. That zero? That's how much you get paid. And remember, a college education is only worth what effort you put into it."
posted by klangklangston at 1:55 PM on April 13 [+] [!]


I know you're being reductive for humor, but it really ought to go further than that. Also, the idea of a student-athlete is not a joke, although, sometimes it seems like it.
posted by basicchannel at 2:11 PM on April 13, 2009


Whether the colleges are interested in educating these athletes is besides the point because (particularly with the extremely long season of basketball) there really isn't any time to adequately hit the books after accounting for practice, games, workouts, team meetings, eating, sleeping, etc. When also considering that the better players are only in college for a year or two, it becomes clear that there isn't any way these kids are gonna be prepared to handle the amounts of money they'll make.

I don't think the athletes should be absolved of all responsibility for their finances, but I also don't think its too much to ask for the universities to implement a type of Athletic G.I. bill: for every year that you participate in a varsity sport we will provide free tuition for a full semester, redeemable anytime within 10 years after playing.
posted by wabashbdw at 2:14 PM on April 13, 2009


shmegegge: is it that you dislike it when other people participate in athletic activities, or is there a social or emotional expectation you have when it comes to athletic people?

Make that, I don't care much for professional athletes, especially the overpaid ones in America. between the overpayment, the hype about them, and the poor general care they receive, I tend to think of them as very fancily curried sacrificial lambs. Now, if those star athletes were instead paid five-figure salaries, and had much of the remainder put in assorted pension, insurance and medical plans, I'd be a lot more sympathetic. But as it is, they seem pretty much designed to be disposable, so why care about when they go broke, since that's what's supposed to happen?


Kosem: Can't this just be sad on its own terms? Can no one see how plunging (mostly) relatively uneducated and (mostly) inexperienced kids from (mostly) poor backgrounds into a world of wealth and privilege for a short period of time (so that they can entertain us) can be fraught with peril? That they might not be prepared for?

Yes, I feel bad for the lucky few who get to be professional athletes and who lose/squander/surrender/are robbed of their wealth. I really do. And you know what? My perspective on the relative suffering of others? Totally intact!


Hey, at least they GOT to have wealth, fame, and all that for a while. They got to buy their $2000.00 pairs of underwear, and all the other elements of a material lifestyle most people can only dream about. So even after they squander their money they're better off than 99.99% of the rest of the population.

So no, I'm not going to feel much sympathy, because they did have it made, and even after they lost it, they were still on top for a while.
posted by happyroach at 2:25 PM on April 13, 2009


> The money is on the table, and it's good that the players get as much as they do. No doubt they should get more of it

For reals. 90 comments, and not one complaining about the amount of money (which is usually orders of magnitude larger than the players' share) the owners and executives make?
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:25 PM on April 13, 2009


Just a note on the whole teachers vs athletes & lack of priorities topic:
I'd estimate my entertainment (tv, movies, sporting events) budget for my household is under $2,000 a year (with TV and season tickets to college FB the big ticket items). Contrast that with my property taxes, about half of which goes to the local schools, and it's clear that education takes a much higher priority in my life. I doubt I'm an abnormality here, and that as a whole the country spends significantly more on education than it does on entertainment. The reality is that there's just many more (paid) teachers than entertainers.

There's two main things at work here. Distribution of wealth among each group, and scalability of each profession (which is clearly related to the distribution issue).

The distribution between each professions is not the same. The top 0.0001% of athletes/actors probably make 99% of the wealth, while the top 0.0001% of teachers maybe earn 5x the national average. We could pay teachers the same as athletes and actors, and we'd probably save a large fortune. Unfortunately, the bottom 90% of educators wouldn't be able to live on what the bottom 90% of athletes earn.

From the scalability point of view, if you're a great educator, you can influence a couple of hundred kids a year. If you're teaching my (hypothetical) kid, that would be worth thousands of dollars to me. Unfortunately, averaging out this payment in relation to teachers/students, and teachers will never make millions. Now if you're a great athlete, and people are willing to pay a few dollars each to watch you play, it's just an economy of scale. It costs no more effort to play in front of 10 million than it does to play in front of 100. So athletes and actors can make substantially more than a teacher, but I don't see how that means the public needs to get their priorities in order.

Sure, some people spend an obsessive amount of time and money on their favorite team, but they're much more likely to be the exception. For each fanatic sports fan who spends thousands on following a team, I bet there's 10 people who spend even more trying to ensure their child receives the best education possible.
posted by ShadowCrash at 2:32 PM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]



Redistribution of wealth.
posted by notreally at 2:36 PM on April 13, 2009


Make that, I don't care much for professional athletes, especially the overpaid ones in America. between the overpayment, the hype about them, and the poor general care they receive, I tend to think of them as very fancily curried sacrificial lambs. Now, if those star athletes were instead paid five-figure salaries, and had much of the remainder put in assorted pension, insurance and medical plans, I'd be a lot more sympathetic. But as it is, they seem pretty much designed to be disposable, so why care about when they go broke, since that's what's supposed to happen?

...

Hey, at least they GOT to have wealth, fame, and all that for a while. They got to buy their $2000.00 pairs of underwear, and all the other elements of a material lifestyle most people can only dream about. So even after they squander their money they're better off than 99.99% of the rest of the population.

So no, I'm not going to feel much sympathy, because they did have it made, and even after they lost it, they were still on top for a while.
posted by happyroach at 2:25 PM on April 13 [+] [!]



No offense meant, but those statements are remarkably bitter and solipsistic.

At first many of your comments seemed to be outright criticizing the surmised rich/athlete lifestyle and its reflection of American culture, but after looking at this I get a sense of intense resentment towards those who have experienced a lifestyle that you have not. How can you be so critical when in an odd way those qualities seem to be your goal? Or at least your definition of happiness?

*I'm not trying to be declarative or assumptive here, just deductive.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 2:44 PM on April 13, 2009


One of the best descriptions of what happens to someone who becomes rich and famous as a young adult--not even that rich, for that matter--comes from Stephen King's The Stand, very early in the book, when Larry Underwood, who has just had a hit single, throws a party--just one party--and ends up deep in debt to a drug dealer, and has one of his friends sit down and give him the equivalent of a bucket of ice water in the face. I would not be too surprised to find out that King (who apparently had quite the drug and alcohol problem himself, at least up to the mid-late 80s) got some version of that speech himself after he started pulling in the top coin for his books.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:53 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


A fool & his money are soon parted. Isn't this the whole point of all the trappings of wealth. I'd feel bad for the guy or girl who spends half his salary paying off his sports car or her designer clothes habit. I'll never feel bad for yahoos like these that make them think they need such crap.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:59 PM on April 13, 2009


re: the $24,000 for gas.

He probably time shares a private jet. Aviation fuel ain't cheap. I suppose he could actually own a Gulfstream outright with the kind of cash he pulls in.
posted by Justinian at 3:00 PM on April 13, 2009


Seems like a whole lot of hating going on here. If we substituted, I don't know, say, touring musicians, would the same fury and schadenfreude apply?

As to teachers - bad comparison. Athaletes either can or cannot move that football down the field. If not, they're out. A teacher by contrast, can be a lousy piece of work from day one, but may well spend decades in the sinecure - without, I might add, the statistical certainty of broken bones that a football player can expect. Therefore, many more would be teachers than would be athaletes. Naturally the price goes down.

NB however that there are superstar college professors who can make pretty nice money indeed, and the tenure and the bennies. Some even teach undergraduates.

(For what it's worth, I have no interest in sports and have many relatives who are in academia)
posted by IndigoJones at 3:04 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


As one of the millions of unemployed and uninsured in the US, I'm really feeling for all of these former multimillionaires who had to sell their mansions and yachts to make their unbelievably extravagant ends meet. If only they received more sage financial advice from the giant financial services corporations who serve the ultra-ultra rich in this country (and make the rest of us pay for their mistakes)!

Terrific FPP. Can't wait to see the next one! Will it be on why American Idol winners don't actually go on to be important, influential figures in music history?
posted by inoculatedcities at 3:13 PM on April 13, 2009


Seems like a whole lot of hating going on here. If we substituted, I don't know, say, touring musicians, would the same fury and schadenfreude apply?

Reminds me of a conversation I had once ... a college athlete was accused, but not yet convicted, of a crime.

Her: They shouldn't let him play in the next game.
Me: Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty?"
Her: It's different.
Me: But what if it were, say, the lead violinist of the school orchestra, and he was arrested before the next concert. Would you say he couldn't play, too?
Her: It's just different.
Me: How? Both of them are performing free of charge for the school's benefit.
Her: Shut the fuck up.

I went on a lot of bad dates in college.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:16 PM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Athletic G.I. bill: for every year that you participate in a varsity sport we will provide free tuition for a full semester, redeemable anytime within 10 years after playing.

Which they would undoubtedly do at the expense of other scholarship programs. Exactly why is someone who played basketball 10 years ago more deserving of a free ride to college than someone applying for some other type of scholarship, e.g. need-based or merit-based?

It's easy to say that the universities "should" do this and "should" do that, but in order to do that you ought to say exactly where you think the money should come from.

Most college sports programs, even elite ones, aren't profit centers. In 2001, only 6% of D1-A programs made money after taking into account college and government subsidies.

Schools in many cases have spent tremendous amounts of money in order to give athletes a chance at going on to the majors (of course the schools have their own reasons for doing it, but that's what it works out to); I can see no reason why someone who, through irresponsibility, poor planning, or even just bad luck, ends up squandering that opportunity should get a second try at the expense of some other student. If they want to go back to school after their athletic career runs its course, they can go through the same application process as any other adult student.

And if the only reason they got into school the first time was because of their athletic skills, then I have zero sympathy for them. I don't think athleticism in the absence of academic potential should get you into college at all, much less twice.

I have no hate for athletes or pro sports generally. It's entertainment, they're entertainers; I find their salaries no more or less offensive than movie stars'. But using colleges as training camps for pro athletics distorts academic institutions and makes them dependent on funding sources that are at best peripheral, and at times directly opposed, to their core mission.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:43 PM on April 13, 2009


The California lottery has two payment options: cash value or 26 annual payments (but approximately twice as much money total).

Maybe the NFL can write their contracts this way. Take your money all at once or get twice as much and be able to support your family into retirement.

Of course if they have 9 kids from 9 different women, then all bets are off.
posted by eye of newt at 3:49 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The link from this comment mentions that Vick had a financial advisor of some kind."

You know who else had a financial advisor? Mike Tyson.
(Mike: "Okay, well why are you giving him 50% of your money then?")
posted by Smedleyman at 4:02 PM on April 13, 2009


Lacking Subtlety: No offense meant, but those statements are remarkably bitter and solipsistic.

At first many of your comments seemed to be outright criticizing the surmised rich/athlete lifestyle and its reflection of American culture, but after looking at this I get a sense of intense resentment towards those who have experienced a lifestyle that you have not. How can you be so critical when in an odd way those qualities seem to be your goal? Or at least your definition of happiness?

*I'm not trying to be declarative or assumptive here, just deductive.


Not bitter, it's too nice a day to be bitter. And solipsistic? Look who's posting to metafilter.

I actually don't have any resentment towards those guys who made it big (at least for a while) in sports. I mean, they got what they wanted, good for them. I just don't have a lot of sympathy for them, and frankly, don't see why they need any. You persist in seeing their cup as half empty; I look at it, as "Hey man, you got to have a full cup of the best stuff, AND you got to drink half of it! Yay!"

I have some sympathy for the guys who received serious injuries, because I know what it's like to have a long-term injury. But as for the guys who just spent their money? They got to make a bunch of money doing what they liked, AND they got to spend it. And now they get to go on living the rest of their life, with the memory of what they had and some great stories to tell people. But feel sorry for them? Why? Seriously, why should I feel sorry for someone who got to be rich and famous for a couple years?

But hey, if you really want, the next time I pass a former football star begging the street I'll give him FIVE dollars as a sign of my intense respect and admiration for his work. That's four dollars more than I give the former child actors.
posted by happyroach at 4:50 PM on April 13, 2009


It's more of a complaint about how we prioritize things as a culture. I'm also not a fan of movie actors getting nine million dollar salaries.

What? Why shouldn't somebody who EARNS nine hundred million dollars for a movie get 1% of the gross of that movie? Why the fuck not? It's not a zero-sum world.

This type of thinking makes no sense what so ever. And it's completely hypocritical.

Are some people paid disproportionally to the amount "work" they actually produce? Sure. But successful popular actors who reap billions for studios are not among those people. Wall Street? Sure. They are parasitical to the system. In that take more than they generate. As do many CEO's.

But an athlete, or an actor or, say, a playwright like you, who sells his/her talents to millions of consumers becuase they WANT it? Nothing wrong with that. And given what we know about human behavior you know there is a 90% likelihood you'd take that same cash in a hot second if it was offered to you. Shit. I know I would.

Anyway. You got the moral calculus exactly backwards condemning the "players." You wanna issue a moral indictment? Issue it to the people, the consumers, who are willing to pay too much for something that has such little direct and material value to humanity. And amongst those people my friend is you. And me. And everybody here.

And unless you wanna have a stroke don't even think about the blood suckers in the board rooms who don't sweat one drop and make orders of magnitude more than the performer/player/writer.
posted by tkchrist at 5:08 PM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


In my first real job, I had several pro athletes as clients. Most of them managed their money responsibly. Some did not. One in particular came to my desk one day about a hold on his paycheck. There were five figures hitting his account on a weekly basis. His average balance was lower than mine. We talked about it, but he said he had expenses. Payments to make, jewelry to buy, a posse to cover. I asked him why he wasn't putting something away, but he wasn't hearing it. SI.com tells me he last played in 2003. Hope he's doing alright.
posted by Eideteker at 5:49 PM on April 13, 2009


Every year the NFL runs a rookie symposium intended to educate incoming players on the potential pitfalls of their newfound wealth and celebrity. It also has a continuing education program to help players complete their college degrees and offers . The lessons might not sink in with every player, but you can't say the league doesn't make an effort.
posted by stargell at 6:07 PM on April 13, 2009


I was gonna say, and offers a program for post-career planning as well. Not to shill for the league, but opportunity is there for players willing to seek it.
posted by stargell at 6:09 PM on April 13, 2009


Emotionally true, but largely ignores the fact that the reason athletes are "____-ly" overpaid is because sports make an "______" amount of money.

And that's why I think it's obscene that it costs tens, and even hundreds, of dollars for a single ticket to a game, and nearly ten bucks to see a movie.

The only reason sports and movies make a "______" of money is because we consumers are screwed to the wall on ticket prices. Bend over and take it, or don't go.

I don't go.

It's also more than obscene that these sports franchises and movie production companies get millions of dollars of my taxpayer money to build stadiums and build sets on location. WTF?
posted by five fresh fish at 6:33 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I was once upon a time a professional musician (obviously not a successful one), and most of the cats I played with, no matter how hot they played, were dumb as sticks when it came to money.

So just think back to that one song from that one hit wonder that you love so much, and remember their situation is not any different. They had a talent, a limited one that did not extend to financial management, and now the guy who wrote and performed the song you first got a girl's shirt off to is living broke in a tornado-bait trailer. These guys' situations are no different.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:56 PM on April 13, 2009


In my first real job, I had several pro athletes as clients.

If you can't name names, then it didn't happen.

I used to work with a guy who went on to a short-lived NFL career with no notable achievements. At the time when he was entering the draft, my bosses couldn't wait to get their fangs into him and eventually did. Judging by his lack of intellectual pursuits, I can only imagine how that [financial] relationship is holding up these days.
posted by jsavimbi at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2009


Kadin2048 wrote: Most college sports programs, even elite ones, aren't profit centers. In 2001, only 6% of D1-A programs made money after taking into account college and government subsidies.

Amongst the large and middling schools, it's not that, say, football isn't a big money maker, it's that they spend the football money on other programs, too, like lacrosse and soccer that make essentially nothing. Or they build gyms for the students or whatever.

Or they subsidize a failing basketball team with the football team or vice versa.

You get my point.
posted by wierdo at 7:11 PM on April 13, 2009


Amongst the large and middling schools, it's not that, say, football isn't a big money maker, it's that they spend the football money on other programs, too, like lacrosse and soccer that make essentially nothing.

This was one of the effects of Title IX. You can't just fund your money-making men's football and basketall teams. You have to fund all the women's teams as well. Note: I'm not saying this is a bad thing.
posted by Justinian at 7:30 PM on April 13, 2009


In divorce proceedings, of course, husbands routinely lose half of their net worth.

Did this casual statement just fly right past everyone else? My jaw dropped.

How to limit paternity obligations is a challenge for pro athletes.

Condoms should help for starters.
posted by different at 7:32 PM on April 13, 2009


In divorce proceedings, of course, husbands routinely lose half of their net worth.
There's really no excuse for this, even though an athlete from the wrong side of the tracks might not know anything about investing or whatever, they really ought to have learned about scandalous women and gold diggers in high school. All the girls are one of the biggest benefits of playing sports in high school, after all.

Doesn't excuse the NFL for failing to encourage players to get pre-nups, though.

Also lol at the schadenfreude over athletes going broke but then getting petulant over some hypothetical downtrodden soul with the genius foresight to go into student-loan debt because they thought they were going to be making big bucks with a fuckin' education degree...
posted by hamida2242 at 8:08 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Amongst the large and middling schools, it's not that, say, football isn't a big money maker,

Except that's exactly what the statistic disputes. Only 6% of D1-A programs have (well, had in 2001) a net income, once you subtract the amount invested by the college and the government in the program. That's not the same as saying "it made a lot of money but we re-invested it." Only 6% have positive ROI to begin with, to say nothing of where the money gets spent at the programs that are in the black.

I'm not disputing that sports programs make money at some schools — quite at lot at some, no doubt — but it's not that many.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:10 PM on April 13, 2009


Are you saying sports teams are a net deficit on the educational institutions?

If that's so, it's ridiculous. How the hell is a nation to compete economically if it doesn't make actual education, aka not sports, the number-one priority?

There's a place for sports, to be sure. But at a cost to an educational institution? Nuh-uh.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:32 PM on April 13, 2009


Except that's exactly what the statistic disputes. Only 6% of D1-A programs have (well, had in 2001) a net income

Then you're saying that about 110 college presidents are absolute fools just throwing good money after bad, decade after decade.

Nuh-uh.

The 6% stat breezes past a very important point, and that's, even if all college sports programs were a money-loser, they are a loss leader for the college itself for incoming admissions and donations. It's controversial, but there's a lot of numbers out there backing up the power of the Flutie Effect.

Don't kid yourself. College sports (well, football and basketball) are HUGE money-makers that subsidize other sports. And if the program isn't turning a profit when narrowly measured as an individual aspect of a university's entire budget, it's also advertising meant to nab incoming freshmen and alumni donations not calculated as part of the athletic department's individual budget.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:52 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


On the topic at hand, it always disappoints me to hear of yet another case of sports professionals not getting their collective act together to ensure their best interests are met through retirement. Why on earth are they repeating the same mistakes?

I'm also surprised some enterprising Wall Streeter hasn't come up with the idea of gathering up all that player money into a private mutual fund. The shitload of money they've got, they could do really well with a good investor of the Warren Buffet style. This Idea (C) Five Fresh Fish, patent pending.

another article on the topic.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:54 PM on April 13, 2009


Also, I think the only thing Metafilter does worse than sports is circumcision.

somewhere a genius is inventing the game of brissball to keep everyone happy

---

In divorce proceedings, of course, husbands routinely lose half of their net worth.

oh, bullshit - if that had been true, i'd have only gone half-bankrupt
posted by pyramid termite at 9:24 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Except that's exactly what the statistic disputes. Only 6% of D1-A programs have (well, had in 2001) a net income, once you subtract the amount invested by the college and the government in the program

You guys seem to be talking across one another. weirdo is saying that football makes net profit to support the athletic program. Kadin2048's statistics seem to refer to the entire athletic program, not just single big money-making sports, like football or basketball.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:53 PM on April 13, 2009


Understood that athletes choose their path with little chance of getting to the point where they have serious bucks (regardless of how wise or not they are with it), but I respect the fact that it is a serious grind to try to get there.

My nephew pitches for a good college/good college baseball team, has very little chance of taking it further, simply enjoys doing it. I was a little taken aback to learn how much time is invested in training/fitness.

As an aside, he does have smart parents, has a good head on his shoulders so he stands a strong chance of being smart with his money if he somehow pulls off a pro career (or otherwise).

The kid's also making great grades... and relates that he's not wanting for female attention when he goes to the beach and takes his shirt off.

Gawd I feel old.
posted by ambient2 at 11:32 PM on April 13, 2009


In divorce proceedings, of course, husbands routinely lose half of their net worth.

Did this casual statement just fly right past everyone else? My jaw dropped.


It's not really surprising. Talk to any financial advisor and they will tell you that divorce is one of the most common ways to destroy an individuals wealth.
posted by afu at 4:08 AM on April 14, 2009


Henry's child support payments are crazy. 9 kids by 9 different women, at least one costing $3k/month. If all 9 have the same agreement, Henry is on the hook for 27k/month, or $324,000/year (after taxes). That's all fine and good when he's playing for a multimillion dollar contract, but seems completely unsustainable once his career ends.

I'm not saying he should be paying less, or that it's not the result of some really bad decisions on his part. I'm just amazed by the sheer magnitude of it.
posted by ShadowCrash at 7:22 AM on April 14, 2009


This same thing happens to lawyers, doctors or anyone who spends a lot to pursue a higher social status.

Yep. I worked for a dentist who was close to 70. He hated his wife but could not afford to get divorced. He was tired of working and wanted to quit so he could play golf all day, but he could not afford that either. Why? It was because he had, over the years, routinely invested his money in ways that turned sour. I remember a pistachio farm investment that instead of making money, required money due to drought or something. Really, everything this guy touched turned to shit. It would have been much, much better if he had simply lived on his income and put money away in a savings account.

I laugh at the idea of a salary cap for athletes (and I dislike professional sports as much as anybody on MetaFilter) but I think the players, actors, singers-- the faces of entertainment--should receive the lion's share of the money. Do you think there should be a cap on the money earned by writers? Should publishers redistribute the money made from all books sold to the majority of writers who don't make millions?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:34 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know, I was once upon a time a professional musician (obviously not a successful one)

Come on, Ringo. We know it's you.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:15 AM on April 14, 2009


These are pretty much the major reasons I didn’t pursue athletics and why I married a woman based not on her looks. Not that I didn’t get astonishingly lucky on that score (my wife is gorgeous) but my head hurts when I try to balance our check book as it is, so marrying someone with real character and substance is important. And, really, damned hard (I did, in fact, go the whole wide world to find her). Finding that relationship in the first place (one that works for both of you) is hard. On top of that it requires maintenance that isn’t possible if you’re supremely dedicated to something else. So not all the women may be gold diggers (not that anyone is saying they were). There are a lot of divorces in military families as well. It’s hard when the person you married isn’t there. Whether they come home with a big watch and a sea kit or cuts and bruises and an athletic bag, they’re still there to go, not there to say. It takes a special kind of person to deal with that and believe in the future relationship past the absence of now. And, really, who’s to say the guy isn’t at fault for never really getting to know and spend time with his wife. And it’s all made worse if kids are involved.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:49 AM on April 14, 2009


Kadin2048 wrote: Except that's exactly what the statistic disputes. Only 6% of D1-A programs have (well, had in 2001) a net income, once you subtract the amount invested by the college and the government in the program. That's not the same as saying "it made a lot of money but we re-invested it." Only 6% have positive ROI to begin with, to say nothing of where the money gets spent at the programs that are in the black.

A sports "program" includes all of the sporting activities at the university. Any college that regularly (or even occasionally) gets TV time in one or more sports makes a killing on it. That killing goes to support athletic scholarships and the less popular sports.

The sad thing is that a school like the University of Arkansas can utterly dominate track and field for three decades and barely get any recognition (or money) for it compared to its middling football team that gets TV time regularly.
posted by wierdo at 7:06 PM on April 14, 2009


I have had seversal conversations with friends and co-workers about what kids should be taught either in high school or college -- and it's all basic stuff.

How to plan a week's menu, shop for it, and prepare some food. How to keep get to know your income by keeping a spending journal, and how to plan your outgoing money by writing a bare-bones budget, and now to balance a checkbook (not that anyone carries a checkbook any more). How to do your laundry (don't laugh!) and how to sew on a button. How to dress in a professional manner, and how to write a reasonable essay of one page. The five most likely reasons that your car won't start.

There's a lot of "knowledge economy" skills that kids have these days, and a lot of basic life skills they lack. And I'm not complaining about young people being on my lawn: I was pretty useless for a while, myself, but I pulled up my socks and figured out how to do all of the above.

The new American National Service program should be a year of mandatory retail or food service employment for everyone, followed by a free year of college in which the above skills are included.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:54 AM on April 21, 2009


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