Imagine if you missed a call from one of your parents (or family member, significant other, friend…) and they left you a voicemail that sounded similar to the following:
“Hey, you’re probably busy, but I just wanted to update you on something. I was given a great opportunity at work today; all of my hard work is finally paying off!
Because I am one of the best at what I do, a larger company has offered me a temporary position with them. I will make 20 times my current salary at first, with the opportunity to make millions! If all goes well, people in my field and those who have interest in it will know my name.
There is one drawback though: there are some occupational hazards associated with it. I may lose several decades of time with you—I may not die earlier than expected, but my brain would be greatly impacted, so my (and your) quality of life would decrease significantly.
Anyway, just wanted to share this incredible news with you. We can finally do all of the things we’ve been working so hard for! Can’t wait to enjoy life to the fullest with you… while we still have the time.”
If it was me, you’d better believe I’d call them back immediately and plead for them to turn down the offer. I would book a seat on the first plane to Arizona no matter the cost. I would get emotional. I would get mad. I would wonder why my parents have mistaken this potential death sentence as an opportunity. I would wonder what changed to make them value money that much more than they value extra time with the ones they love, enjoying the beautiful things that exist in this life. (And, let’s be honest: by the time my plane landed in the desert, I would have figured out the mathematical intricacies of this “deal” and ask them how they could possibly think it’s OK to sell their lives for $??.??/day. I’m big on the dramatics, if you couldn’t tell.)
That’s crazy, right? Not really, actually, if you re-read that knowing it is my translation of NFL contract scenarios into layman’s terms.
As the discussion around concussions in sports (primarily football) is escalating with each passing day, you can’t avoid hearing reports and opinions on the topic. Since I work in sports (and have a very enduring dedication to “my” teams), I clearly can’t support an argument to end football, and that’s not what I’m aiming for. My bigger problem lies within the recurring theme in every feature story, article, or interview of former players that just keeps nagging at me: “We know what we’re doing. That’s why we get paid so much to do it,” that’s (almost) always the sentiment shared among athletes.
Some of their families, however, don’t seem to equate monetary wealth and declining health the way the gridiron gang do. There are countless articles and lawsuits that paint a horrifying picture of what the “occupational hazards” of professional athletics can do to a person.
I don’t claim to know how these athletes or their loved ones feel. I don’t claim to know what the solution to all of this is. In fact, I think this is more of a societal issue* than a sports issue, but I don’t know that I can elaborate my thoughts on the internet without upsetting too many people (bosses included). If all this post does is cause you to look at the issue from a different angle than you previously have, then I will have succeeded.
*Though this is an issue that can be evaluated from both a sports angle, as well as a societal one, I think the ratio of greed to sport may be 4:1 instead of 1:1 as some presume. Many athletes argue that they are putting themselves in danger in order to provide for their families for years to come; however, at some level, even that claim is still a desire rooted in greed. (And now I will stop talking for previously mentioned reasons.)