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Sports and Salaries Lets Get Real

April 20, 2001
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Related Topics: Compensation Design and Communication, Featured Article
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With the dawning of spring comes many things -- daylight savings time; rain,flowers and birdsong; uncontrollable sneezing; and the rebirth of the nation'spastime. However, along with baseball come baseball players and theirpocketbooks.

    The overblown salaries of baseball players today should cause us to pause andask questions. Why, in an age when hardworking individuals are struggling tomake ends meet, are there grown men playing a game that pays them millions ofdollars? Why do we stand by and let it happen? Why do we feed this nationaladdiction of sports heroism? Why am I the only one who cares?

    Does it concern anyone else that America is now laying off thousands ofworkers at the same time that Alex Rodriguez begins the baseball season with acontract that will pay him $252 million over 10 years? Shouldn't we all beconcerned? When it comes down to it, we're really all to blame for thisout-of-whack financial sense. Yep, I said we.

    Any one of us who patron baseball games, buy team merchandise, and pay theridiculous $4 for a hotdog at the stadium are fostering the unnatural and highlycontagious disease of overblown salaryitis. While it pains me to admit it, I tooam guilty of the offense. There's something about the peanut dust clinging to myhands and the way spending $7 on a beer can make the most basic of domesticstaste like the purest of brews. Once per season I have to make my way to theballpark to breathe in the dust from the infield.

    Can I justify my actions? No. Every year the urge to see the boys of summerplay some long ball overwhelms me and I give in. Yet, the more I think about it,the more irrational and ridiculous my actions seem. And the same could be saidfor all of us who patron baseball games and feed into the mindset that it's okayand normal to pay people millions of dollars to play a game.

    Can you picture yourself justifying to your CEO how you offered a potentialemployee $252 million for an average of four hours of work a day for fivemonths? No? Me neither. No one in his right mind in the HR world would ever dosomething as crazy as that.

    Or would they?

    Look at all those crazy dot-com companies who offer newemployees gamerooms, swimming pools at work, and brand new sports cars. The companies had themoney to spend (obviously), but should they have done so?

    Companies, like professional sports, flex their monetary muscles by spendingexorbitant amounts on new recruits, believing this was the only way to wooprospective employees away from competitors. Also, they believe it is the onlyway to keep current employees away other companies. Are we surprised to see thebusiness practices of professional sports bleeding over into the corporateworld? We shouldn't be.

    Which leads me to the $252 million question: Why do we accept and even expectthe huge salaries paid to professional athletes?

    Maybe we shouldn't. Instead of letting the sports world lead our nation'seconomic mindset, we should create a new trend and let the business realminfluence the way people think of money and salaries. And when I say businessrealm, I don't mean those dot-coms that flooded society with over-compensatedemployees. I mean the real business world, the one most of us work in.

    So here's my idea. Instead of paying players great sums of money for littlework, professional sports should take a page out of the HR manual at anybusiness -- a lot of work for little money. That's the way the world really works.

    We'd like to pretend we work for companies that would pay us handsomely andallow us to take every Monday and Friday off, but this isn't a movie. It's life.I'm sorry to have to be the one who breaks the news to you, but those types ofjobs don't exist.

    The majority of people know (that is to say we working stiffs out there) thatit's damn tough work to hold down a 9 to 5 job. We have to show up for work dayafter day, week after week and two weeks' vacation, which half the time we feeltoo guilty or are too busy to use. Yet, we still patron functions that pay theiremployees millions of dollars, rubbing in our faces that we will never make asmuch for doing so little as those professional athletes.

    So while the boys of summer go out there and play a game, I, on behalf of allthe other poor working schleps out there, feel justified in my tirade thatplayers are overpaid and under worked. Workers of the world, unite! Professionalathletes of the world, get real jobs.

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