Millionaires are made in a minute.
Maybe. The draft for the National Football League was this weekend, and I watched with morbid curiosity. I marveled at the statements made by both commentators and players that they had “prepared all their lives” for this one moment, when “all their lives” really are nothing more than two or three years.
Some will sign contracts worth upwards of $30 million in guaranteed salary over the length of their tenures with various teams, but those contracts will also include incentive bonuses, that could easily double the amount they are obligated to make.
And with one signature, their lives will change, and they will make more money than most of us dream. That is a true statement. Americans, with the advantage of a collegiate degree in various fields, will only (only) make $2.1 million over the course of their lives. It takes about two to five years for one professional athlete to make twelve times the amount the average American will make in about fifty years. In simpler terms, the average American would need to work about 700 years to make what these athletes will make in just five.
Which raises a myriad of interesting questions, but the biggest, of course, is questioning the value placed upon entertainment in these here United States. We are willing to pay much more to entertainers than we are to those who teach and train and lead. And with stadiums continuing to sell tickets for every seat, salaries for professional entertainers will continue to rise, so long as the entertained is willing to pay.
And even those of us not fortunate enough to attend a live event, we still pay to watch the televised games, and, by default, assist in paying the salaries of the entertainers. The amount of money we pay to our local cable companies is in something called shared revenue, whereby the National Football League receives compensation from broadcast companies which pay for the rights to broadcast televised games. Those monies, again, by default, come from our pockets in various ways — either by buying products advertised during the games, or by adding channels to our cable packages which broadcast professional games. We actually help pay the salaries of professional athletes every month whether we enjoy the sport or not.
Maybe, with economic problems here, extemporaneous money will drop considerably, but maybe not. Maybe, in tough times, people are more willing to pay for entertainment. At the birth of the industrial revolution, extra-curricular activities for families decreased when the amount of work increased with the development of factories. But when the pressures became too great for husbands and fathers, these men took their earnings to local taverns and spent money to waste time.
Capitalism has not evolved much in two hundred years. We still pay great amounts of money for escapes. So maybe the entertainers earn their keep, at least in the broader American culture. And maybe that is fair.
But the things we value, and the prices we are willing to pay for them, are worth closer looks. For all of us.