If you are a high level professional athlete in a major sport, you’ve essentially won the lottery. Sure, most of them work their butts off and they risk great physical injury, but the financial reward for playing a game is ridiculous.
Even for marginal players, if you are just a good guy who sets a good example, you can often ride the bench and still get a figure salary (See Chicago Bulls, James, Mike). I love my job, but if someone told me that I could get seven figures for playing ball and working out, I’d sign up right away. And beyond the pay day, the perks of an active athlete or one who is retired, but remembered fondly are amazing.
So when a guy like Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs gets arrested yesterday, it really makes me scratch my head. The dude has a $56 million contract and is driving with pot in his car. While NFL Commissioner Roger Goodel has been shameful in his handling of concussions by players, he has admirably made clear that if you get in trouble with the law you will be suspended.
Bowe ‘s trouble of course pales in comparison to Chicago’s very own Sam Hurd. He threw away his career by being a drug dealer. Now I’ve never been a drug dealer, but I would assume that the point in doing so would be to make money. Hurd was already making a ton of dough as an NFL receiver and when he was arrested he still had a few good years in him. Instead he sold cocaine and prosecutors are asking a Federal Judge to sentence Hurd to life without the possibility of parole. He leaves behind a wife and young child. Brilliant.
And it’s not just NFL players getting in trouble although those are the worst because their contracts aren’t guaranteed and their careers are typically shorter. Mike Leake of the Reds was making $425,000 a year when he stole some t-shirts valued at less than $100. His career survived his idiocy, but it surely cost him some money in the long run. Lamar Odom was caught driving drunk and allegedly using cocaine earlier this summer while trying to find a new team to sign him. That hasn’t happened yet. And just the other day, the goalie for the Colorado Avalanche was busted for kidnapping and assault. He’s just 25 and if he gets convicted he could be deported to his native Russia even if he avoids jail time. Even Jason Kidd, who made millions as a player, got a DUI after being named coach of the Nets. How dumb can you be? He survived professionally.
Nobody is saying that these guys should be perfect, but every league conducts a seminar at the beginning of your career that discusses the privilege of playing in that league as well as stories of people before them who have screwed up. No matter how bad your upbringing or how entitled you feel, how can you not have that little voice in your head that says “Wow, I’m in such a great position. I need to not screw this up.”
I’m not offering any solutions. It’s just a rant. The reality is that if teams kicked off drug users, DUI offenders, wife beaters, etc., they probably wouldn’t have enough competent players left to form a team.
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