Pro athletes’ salaries don’t reflect effort put in

March 23, 2010 — by Cullan McChesney

Today’s headlines proclaim the insurmountable debt, soaring unemployment rates and the general state of disorder this country is in. Yet in spite of all of this, athletes in the NBA, NFL and MLB are still making inordinate sums of money.

The average baseball player makes roughly $3 million a year (not including endorsements) and trains between four to six hours a day. In contrast, a typical pro distance runner can expect to make only $20,000-$40,000 from sponsors and winnings, with the absolute top runners maxing out at around $400,000. This is still a good salary, but when you consider that pro runners workout far more often and more intensely than most others, it seems unfair that athletes in some sports get paid more than others.

The simple explanation is market appeal. Obviously, millions of more people watched the World Series than watched the Ironman World championship last year (it’s likely that relatively few people even know what the Ironman is.) And even though the gap in salaries is outrageous, it is the gap in respect that is the biggest problem.

Pro runners, bikers and swimmers get far less recognition than someone like Alex Rodriguez, yet they work infinitely harder to achieve their goals. We as a country idolize stars like A. Rod and Tiger Woods and without a doubt they are exceptional athletes, yet the amount of blood sweat and tears they put in pales in comparison to those who do endurance sports.

There used to be a time back in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s when more Americans idolized someone like track star Carl Lewis or runners like Bill Rodgers or Steve Prefontaine. No doubt, the number of people who still know any of those names is dwindling. It’s almost as if hard work doesn’t mean anything anymore and the only thing that matters is appearance and how “marketable” someone is regardless of their morale fiber.

Case in point: Tiger Woods. Woods, at his peak, was making over $100 million a year. Now all of America knows that he crashed his SUV and cheated on his wife countless times, but at one time, everyone thought Woods was the ultimate athlete, dominating, kind and charitable.

I consider two-time world Ironman champion Craig Alexander to be one of the best athletes walking the face of the earth today. Sure he won $100,000 for winning the world championship; however, that is not the issue. The issue is that few people outside of the sport of triathlon have heard of him and his accomplishments. The same goes for stars of sports like water polo, gymnastics, Nordic skiing and strongman events

It just goes to show that the number of sponsors and the amount of money one has does not reflect on the character of the athlete. If companies had an ounce of character, they would put deserving athletes like Alexander on billboards rather than frauds like Tiger Woods.

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