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!