Commentary: Sports salaries through roof

By RON COLBERT  |  June 20, 2003 at 12:17 PM
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WASHINGTON, June 20 (UPI) -- I saw a survey in USA Today this week about NFL salaries. I should not have been alarmed by what I read, but I was -- slightly.

It said the highest-paid player in the National Football League last year was defensive end Michael Strahan. Did you know that? He even made more bank than Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, who gets raves from most people but is an average player, I think.

How does a defensive lineman make that kind of money? Also, neither McNabb nor Strahan has ever won anything, like maybe a team title, but they make money than some Third-World countries combined. And I'm only talking about TWO football players.

What about high school basketball star LeBron James? Reportedly, he will get nearly $100 million from the shoe company Nike over the next few years, and he hasn't even signed a pro contract or been drafted yet. Word is season tickets sales for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who already have said they will make him the No. 1 overall pick at the June 26 draft, have shot through the proverbial roof.

What about Kevin Garnett of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves? He makes more money than the law allows but likely will never win anything because his team doesn't have enough money to pay decent players to put around him.

And what about the purses in golf and tennis? This year, for the first time, both men's and women's singles champions at Wimbledon each will win $1 million. This is in a sport where interest has waned, and that says it politely.

This is insanity. How can anyone make a case for this stuff with a straight face?

I wonder how long it will take Cavalier fans to turn on James? I wonder how long it will take Coach Paul Silas to realize that he's only a pawn on James' team and his sideshow? I think not too long.

We just had the lowest ratings ever for an NBA championship series. That was on top of declining numbers for the NHL, and the always low numbers for sports like soccer, lacrosse, and horse racing, which did get lucky this year because there was a chance for a Triple Crown winner. And, unfortunately, I haven't even mentioned the lack of overall interest in women's sports.

I think there has been a decline in sports interest and popularity to some extent, but not for the reasons you might think.

Player salaries are unbelievable, and as long as they are, there's going to be a fan backlash. People are tired of paying -- or, not being able as the situation goes, to pay -- outrageous ticket prices to see mostly average, spoiled overpaid athletes who act like prima donnas who don't want to be bothered.

They are tired of pay-per-view television events. How does that benefit the blue-collar folks who can't pay and decided they won't anymore? It doesn't, and the so-called moguls in sports better wake up and realize it before the wells run dry. They've already dissipated.

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