MADDEN: Hard to feel sorry for athletes in recession

Daniel Madden

Sports are a way for us to escape reality. But the reality is that sports are a business, meaning the economy affects sports just like anything else. While the multi-billion dollar NFL still sets all-time attendance records, NHL teams seem poised to fold or leave town. The troubles continue since struggling big businesses like Ford and GM impact each league so much. They all also rely on ticket and merchandise sales, and teams feel the pains in these areas. Now players and coaches alike find themselves in the middle. But should we really feel sorry for players who no longer make millions? After all, millions of others are making nothing at all.

Let us look at some examples. Bobby Abreu is only making $5 million a year. Orlando Hudson gets a mere $3.38 million, and Adam Dunn brings in an anemic $8 million. The year before Abreu, Hudson and Dun made $16 million, $6.25 million $13 million, respectively. Should we feel sorry for them?

Becoming a free agent for the first time is like finding out your rich grandparents left you their entire inheritance. It opens up an entirely new world of opportunity and cash, until you find out that your brother is getting more money. This must have been how Abreu felt when he only got $5 million and his teammate Torii Hunter signed with the Angels for a $90 million five-year deal just a year before. And this is despite the fact that Abreu put up better numbers with the Yankees than Hunter did with the Angels last season.

The situation is similar to those of Hudson and Dunn. Both are proven players, and in any other year they would be earning a higher salary. At least these players do not complain about their current lower-than-expected salary. So maybe we should feel a little bad for them, since they became free agents in the wrong year.

If we feel sorry for them, then we should also feel sorry for all those free agents who got a les–than-big time contract, like Manny Ramirez. He only gets $45 million over two years. He says it is because of the poor economy that the deal is for that much. No, maybe it is because he is unreliable in terms of playing a full season. So no, his contract is fair. and we should not feel sorry for him.

But I want to find someone to feel sorry for because, in this world, everyone needs some love. Maybe Jim Calhoun. His is a different issue than the baseball players, but he still finds himself hurt by the economic downturn. We know he makes at least $1.6 million. And we now know that not one dime is going back to the state. Should we feel sorry for Calhoun because one reporter made him look like a jerk? This was not a political debate after all. This was a basketball press conference. The reporter put Calhoun in a tough position by asking if he was going to give part of his salary back to the state. It was unfair to Calhoun, who now mixes with the General Assembly’s higher education board worse than Stephon Marbury mixed with the entire Knicks organization. Maybe we should feel sorry that he has to go through this just because he got angry over money, the one thing everyone complains about.

How about a different coach? Larry Eustachy’s suffers enough with his dismal Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles’ record at 14-14 in a conference only known because of Memphis, but now he also lost $25,000. Eustachy, on the heels of Calhoun’s outburst and in response to the economic downturn, took what many say is the high road and willingly gave back his bonus to Southern Miss. Cavaliers Head Coach Mike Brown gave that much up criticizing referees.

Let us forget about Eustachy’s past controversy for a second and reflect on what this all means. He is probably just trying to save his job, which is equally important. After getting fired at Iowa State, he probably would not get another chance anywhere else. Controversy and bad records now follow him. His base salary is $380,000, and he gave up his bonus. Compared to Calhoun, he is a saint. He felt remorse for a poor record and gave back the bonus because he didn’t feel he deserved it in the first place. So, I feel sorry that he feels bad.

Basically, what this all means is that we should feel sorry for those Americans who have lost their jobs and have no salary. We should root for those who have had to take second and third jobs and still are not breaking even, not those complaining about million-deals. The point is that while the economic climate is upsetting, there are more important people than those we consider important in sports.


Daniel Madden is an undeclared sophomore from Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected].