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It's all about balancing the books ... or is it?


"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network


I thought business was all about balancing the books, showing a profit or, worst case, breaking even. But that is only partially true in sports.

Oh, they do more than break even, for the most part, and, as they see it, they balance the books. That is not true, however, if one gets paid for a job well done, not one done on occasion ... or as it suits them.

When it comes to sports, athletes take the money in wheelbarrows, they shovel it in, grab it with both hands and fill bank accounts, vaults, safe deposit boxes, bonds, stocks and whatever and wherever they believe it will be safe for the immediate and future. They crow about short-lived careers and how little time they have to earn a livelihood. How many friends or relatives do you have who take in $15-20 million annually? How many years do you think you would need at that level to live happily ever after? Be still my beating heart!

When you are on the job, whatever that may be, is it safe to assume that there is an expectancy level of doing whatever your determined and designated function is 100 percent of the time? OK, unrealistic. How about 90 percent? How about most of the time? OK, that stands to reason.

Now do the math ... about $20 million for doing what is expected of you about 25-30 percent of the time in baseball, for example? We are, of course, speaking of coming to bat. It is not unfair to expect close to 100 percent in the field, however. But, no deductions for stupidity on the bases or errant play from a relief pitcher that loses the lead his teammates have struggled to achieve, or for managerial incompetency? There is so much money to be distributed that the books, for all intents and purposes, remain unbalanced from a practical point of view. And, these guys, the athletes, do not work every day of the year with a paid two-week vacation. They take respites for months.

Nice work if you can get it and, of course, have talent and agent to negotiate a lottery-won-style contract for you.

Look, it goes without saying that talent is to be rewarded whether theatrical, Hollywood, singing, writing, inventing, creating innovative Internet companies or being an athlete. Agreed and accepted. There just seems to be some disconnect when it comes to professional athletes who perform at a level below expectations or for which they have been handsomely paid.

I guess the justification is simple ... they are paid with the knowledge that their personal books will always be unbalanced ... they will receive more, much more, than is deserving and those brief moments of brilliance, the exultation that they provide from each of us who roots them on, the escape they provide from that which otherwise surrounds us with graphical highs and lows that look like the Grand Canyon justify the imbalance.

We see it all as a world we view but do not understand, about which we can do nothing, where money is passed around like some giant game of Monopoly and we help to pay the tab with ticket purchases, attire emblazoned with logos/team names/player names, memorabilia, food and drink purchases, parking and whatever else they can think of ... supplemented with Fort Knox numbers by TV rights. To get that winning season we actually cheer them on and encourage ownership to open their bank accounts mightily, build billion dollar stadiums, travel in corporate team jets and just enjoy the good life to its fullest while the cheerleaders go back to everyday lives in which they are called upon to perform at a much higher level on a consistent basis that is not the winning home run, interception, recovered fumble, last-second goal in overtime, triple-double every now and then.

Allow them their shortened careers compared to the rest of the world, but spare me the complaints about such a short period of time to earn a living. The word itself, living, denotes a style to which the rest of you have become accustomed, not the luxuriant lifestyle of the sports icons who are the heroes of baseball, basketball, football and hockey. How many of you have multi- million-dollar homes, a condo or two of similar value, automobiles that cost more than your present home and wardrobes that could be used to clothe half of your neighborhood?

But, you know what, the fact of the matter is that we, as fans, expect and accept it. We are not envious. We cannot do what they do. We enjoy what they do. It is the price of admission and they are entertainers for us. They perform and their imperfections are acceptable, we live with it. The games are over and we go back to dinner, HBO, Netflix's latest mailings, fun with the family and neighbors, replaying the game(s) verbally and then making a mental list of what we have to do on the job tomorrow, between now and next week?s games ... when it starts all over again.

Point? The financial books will always be balanced but the playing ones never. The athletes will presumably attempt to do their best, fail at times and never be made to pay for lack of performance until, maybe, during negotiations next season. So we forgive them their foibles and fumbles, societal transgressions, attitudinal problems and greed. It is what we do. The game is more important than the elements, the result which transforms our lives the next day or week. The game is the discussion point, the contract the basis for disagreement. World events become secondary and near unknown. The news of the day centers about what the competition did and are we still in first place? Cynicism is not permitted and face or body painting, stripping down to your waist during a snow storm and freezing temperatures is the measure by which some of us are judged. The bigger the sign, the bigger the fan. Tailgating has become an even greater event than your daughter's wedding with, more than likely, more and better food being served in the parking area before the combat gets underway.

They are not paid to err nor to lose, but mistakes will happen and lose they shall. Contrary to your own position, where you are not paid to make mistakes, at least not too many of them, and, where sales are concerned, an account going elsewhere will not be cause for rejoicing in your department.

Whether they, your team, wins or loses, you take out the garbage for pick-up the next day. They fly home in a private jet to a waiting limousine or, at worst, their own Mercedes, Escalade, Audi or Ferrari. Their earrings cost more than you earn. But you cheer them on the following day, night or week ... or next season. They are your escape from reality and that is worth the price of admission, however you equate or add it up.

It is what it is. It will not change. The books are cooked in their favor and that of the owners, the leagues, the merchants of sports in every form. As far as they are concerned, they are balanced and you should be thankful that they bring you what they do.

Is it as simple as that?

You gotta be kidding!