Monday, March 8, 2010

Score: Jocks 51,000,000, Jobless 0

A letter from a reader named Sharon Roberts appeared in Sunday's Arizona Republic reacting to two stories that had been the the paper a few days earlier. One story was about a local company that had closed, eliminating 520 jobs; the other was about the Diamondbacks signing Justin Upton to a $51.25 million contract.

"Just exactly when did our American values go astray? Five hundred twenty Phoenix residents lose their jobs in one fell swoop, thousands have lost their homes, 10 percent of the American population is out of work, businesses are in bankruptcy, and the United States owes billions to foreign countries. And the Arizona Diamondbacks pay one 22-year-old over $50 million for six years to maybe catch a baseball. Huh?"

I understand the reader's frustration and I have heard the same in my own household. My daughter Katie, who wants to be a teacher, often rails about the fact that teachers (who matter to society) make peanuts compared to jocks (who don't).

Ah, if only it were that simple.

As with most other things in society, it's a what-the-market-will-bear deal. It's also about supply and demand.

Yes, a teacher is more "important" than a ballplayer. But have you ever heard of somebody buying a $50 ticket to see a fourth-grade teacher teach?

Yes, we need teachers more than we need ballplayers. But there are only 750 major league ballplayers in the entire world. There are millions and millions of teachers - and thank goodness for that.

The same goes for firefighters, police officers, medical researchers ... you name an important job, and, yes, we need those people more than we need jocks and actors and rock stars.

Importance to society has nothing to do with anything, and I think Sharon Roberts of Arizona is smart enough to know that. She was just letting off a little steam.

I mean, if only the real important people got the big bucks, bald sportswriters would be the highest-paid men on earth!


  1. Great post, Mike. I always appreciate your rational response to these kinds of things. It's not fair that jocks get paid so much, but folks have to understand that there is a reason behind it.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. but still you know what she means...we have witnessed the largest increase in the divide between the rich and the poor in this country since the robber barons of the 1870s and is never good for society to exist like that...exactly how many millionaires and billionaires does american need before we step in and provide parity..oh sorry

  3. they might be able to hit a pitch coming at them at 100 mph, but they probably have very poor penmanship...


  4. There may only be 750 major league ballplayers, but given the massive entertainment market of this nation those 750 ballplayers, along with the rosters of other professional sports, support a large number of secondary and tertiary jobs. We’re talking about not only the support staff for the teams, but also the people who work in the media, the people who manufacture equipment for all levels of play, the people who market merchandise, and many others. For example, cable companies are able to increase their prices and employ more people in part because their sports channels bring in revenue.

    I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong. But the tentacles of professional sports extend deeply into our society, and extracting those tentacles would come at a steep price as doing so would negatively impact so many different industries to varying degrees. The flow of money filters its way down to countless people at a many levels.

    If people want to get angry, I’d suggest getting angry at the hundreds of billions of dollars given to faceless megabanks that act merely as fiscal conduits and add little real value to the cost of a transaction. At least professional sports provide a service people want.

    Folks who pay to enjoy these sports do so because they believe the entertainment value they are receiving is greater than the value they’d get by holding onto their money. I’d much rather see $50 million go to an athlete that people want to see than to a Wall Street banker who makes 1’s and 0’s move on a computer.

  5. warning "off topic"

    did you write the ap story from vegas? about the cubs that is? i can't really tell it is you when yah ain't being funny

  6. No. I was at the Cubs-Reds game in Mesa. Here's a link:

    I only write the home games from Mesa.