On your marks, get set, pay


Does watching live sport bother me? Recently there has been some fuss in the USA about NFL football players making a protest by going down on one knee. Well I have a protest... and I am on both knees praying for some sanity. I have just returned from a Thanksgiving week in Washington DC. During that time I was kindly treated to a basketball match with the Washington Wizards and an ice hockey match with the local Washington Capitals. The seats for the basketball cost my host $275 each and the ice hockey an eye watering $375 each. OK, in each case a hot dog and beer were included in the price. In addition my son wanted a shirt of the Washington Capital’s (ice hockey) leading scorer. A snip at $225! Now this poor love is only paid a piddling $16m a year basic so needs those shirt royalties. He is a pauper compared to his football colleagues who can earn ten times that! Yup there are players with $200m contracts... and the market happily pays for it. And to add insult to injury the salaries now require endless commercial breaks to pay for all this. It means a game with an actual playing time of just over an hour can last a decade to play out (well, at least over three hours). To put all this in perspective the result is some season tickets costing $50,000 a year. Now slap my ass and call me Sally but spectator sport was meant to be enjoyed by everyone. At these prices, it is now clearly the preserve of the über-rich. Whatever happened to “jerseys for goalposts and an orange segment at half time”? I am all for the free market but not for the market free-for-all. Salaries for sports stars are eventually paid for by you and I. If I object as a shareholder to some CEO being paid $ gabillion why can I not as a Sky subscriber protest that a bouffant haired soccer star is being paid £2m a month... after tax. Now I know this line of talk is going to make me very unpopular with gilt furniture manufacturers in Cheshire or diamond ear stud suppliers to the NFL in the USA but guys... you are overpaid over compensated over indulged and the real world is way over the rainbow.

...and another thing

At least these guys get paid rather than the suits keeping all the loot. Not so in college football. There, no player gets paid. But everyone else makes millions! The biggest baddest football college game in the USA is the tussle between University of Alabama (Roll tide) and neighbour Auburn University (War Eagle). The University ground where the match took place this year (25th November) was Auburn. For those of you in the U.K. who have trundled off to watch little Billy play footie against the nearest University and you stand on the touchline shouting support and occasionally sticking out an umbrella to trip up the opposition, let me put this game in perspective. Auburn University football stadium holds approximately 90,000. Yup. Bigger than Manchester United and twice the capacity of Chelsea.

The football coach for the University of Alabama is the highest paid Government official in Alabama at a basic $5m a year! Broadcasting the game is a TV monster fest with money flying in from advertising… and yet the players are paid zip.

Let me add another dollop of insanity to this madness. So there you are at college. Instead of your head in a book (sorry, showing my age, I mean gawking at a computer) you spend four years in football practice.

This might involve endlessly sacking (tackling) other players, hauling weights like an ox up and down the football field, chewing off an opponent’s finger that gets inside your helmet, and chugging beer. The bonus is a smorgasbord of cheerleaders.

But ultimately all for what?

Less than half a dozen of the fifty or so players from these two Alabama teams will turn professional. You got it. 94% of those students who gave up good grades by spending every spare hour at football practice have wasted their time. So big bad Brad, the University Football star will end his days pumping gas during the day and an ageing prom queen at night!

On the other hand if your little Timmy has a right arm that can rocket out a football or curve a baseball like a banana, he will certainly earn more money than any accountant, doctor or lawyer. And he can keep you in your old age!

Play ball!

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