It happened over the winter months in baseball, and it happened again over the weekend in football. A debate as arduous as it is antiquated. We see the numbers thrown about pro athletes and what they’re due to make and it’s difficult to pick our jaws up off the floor.

We can’t fathom the idea that anyone, regardless of what they do, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

But when we really dive into the numbers, all of the revenue these athletes generate with their play and their likeness, it becomes crystal clear that they are fighting for their worth, not their avarice.

“Why do they deserve that much money, when so many go without”

I get where the instinct to be angry comes from. We all are grinding to get through the day. Most of us, while very content in our lives, are not living out the dream we played out in our back yards of playing in the World Series or Super Bowl.

Moreover, we’re not getting paid eight-figure salaries for, in essence, “settling.” Then you see someone else doing it, and it’s a perfect exemplification of a parent telling you “well, sometimes life isn’t fair.” That answer doesn’t feel any less crappy as an adult, but it is the reality.

People who are really good at something consumers want to see get paid handsomely to perform. If you could sell 70,000 tickets to watch you perfect those Excel spreadsheets, you probably wouldn’t think twice.

“All they did was be born big, fast and tall.”

While athletes, to some degree, have hit the genetic lottery, it can’t be discounted how much diligent mastery must take place for anyone to reach the pinnacle of a sport. And, like in most professions, it’s one thing to reach the top, but it’s another thing entirely to stay there.

The players we’re talking about when discussing these huge contracts have demonstrated an ability to not just be among the .00001% of gifted athletes, but to actually be the best among that group. They are the Zuckerberg, Bezos, and Gates of their line of work.

Sure those three were born with high IQ’s, but there was another differentiating factor that separated them from other tech CEO’s: A killer-instinct and competitive drive that was unmatched.

It separated them as the wealthiest among an already wealthy group.

“I Just can’t believe that anyone DESERVES 30 million dollars a year!”

Again, I understand on principle where you’re coming from. No one needs that kind of money (yes, even after taxes), to live a very comfortable life. In order to compensate for that, they are placed in the highest bracket possible by the United States tax code.

I’m looking at this from a “dollars in, dollars out” perspective, and I encourage you to do the same. The NFL reportedly makes 15 billion dollars in revenue annually, divided among 53 players on 32 teams. If divided equally among the 53 platers across 32 teams, all players would earn 8.8 million dollars a year. Even if you assume teams will only spend a modest 50% of revenue on talent, that would still have the average salary at 4.4 million.

In reality, the average NFL salary, even with the best players on inflated deals, is $2.1 million. Forbes reported in January that MLB spent less on players despite revenue growing. Take all of this into consideration, and the picture becomes clearer that the checks players are cashing are not growing at the same rate of those that owners are taking home.

Someone is getting the money for my $100 ticket and all my $9 beers. I’d rather it go to the people who I actually paid to watch.

“All they do is play a game”

Katy Perry makes $83 million a year. Kevin Hart collected $87 million and has a Nike deal more lucrative than most basketball players. The best entertainers make loads of money because we pay loads of money to watch them perform. As long as you feel you get your money’s worth, stop worrying about the pocketbook of some old guy who’s the sixth generation to inherit the team.

If anything, be mad at that owner for doing far less to earn his keep than the player who’s out on the field sustaining concussive head trauma to make less than 100% of their value.

This week, we’re going to enter another free-agency window, this time for the NFL. Before you go spouting off about how you can’t believe player-X is going to make an exorbitant sum, remember how long that player played in college making no money despite helping to bring in hundreds of millions to the university athletic department.

Recall how they were drafted third overall and was on the face of every poster, collector’s cup and jersey, yet saw zero return on that usage of their likeness.

Think of all the years, even after proving their worth time and time again, that their teams abused the franchise tag to keep them on one-year deals in case they sustained a career-ending injury.

Think, if only for a second, that maybe they’re not being greedy. Maybe they’re just making up for lost time.

Jake Logli, SportsFan 1330

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