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In defense of pro athletes


It's Christmas blockbuster movie season. I'll see The Polar Express with Tom Hanks, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events with Jim Carrey, and Spanglish with Adam Sandler. And I'm telling you, if those movies stink, I'll be so angry that I'll head to the Oscars in February and throw beers at each of those guys. I'm not taking that garbage any longer, especially with the money they make.

Look, I work 168 hours a week, scratching and clawing just to put food on the table for my family while Hanks, Carrey, and Sandler get about $25 million per picture. A typical film takes one to three months to shoot. For roughly 90 days of work, those guys make nearly 20 times what the average American grosses during a career. For that kind of money, their movies should be Oscar-worthy every time. I won't stand for mediocrity. In fact, I resent it. I'm prepping my beer cup for launch.

By now, most people have seen the footage of Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest heading into the Detroit crowd last month to assault a fan who threw a beer at him as he lied on the scorer's table. When I watched the replay with a few people, they were disgusted that a rich pro athlete would do such a thing.

Clearly, the scene was revolting and I certainly don't condone it. Many experts concluded that the altercation occurred because fans are sick of paying to watch rich divas have tantrums when things don't go right. And they want to do something about it, such as throw beers at them.

"They should walk in my shoes," says the fan, who earns a speck of income compared to players. "They don't know what it's like in the real world."

Perhaps they don't, or perhaps they just forget how it was when they were growing up. Most pro athletes weren't born wealthy.

However, what I mainly wonder is why people complain more about pro athletes' incomes instead of the incomes for established Hollywood actors, who make much more money and don't work as long or as hard as pro athletes.

Artest, for instance, made just $5.2 million last season. Hanks made $27 million last year, Carrey $66 million, and Sandler at least $25 million.

The pro athlete has the riskier job. He must win every game to earn the fans' and bettors' appreciation. When he loses, he's apparently not worthy of any income, and certainly not the income he's entitled to as stated in his contract.

In Hollywood, box office is the only thing that matters. Hanks, Carrey, and Sandler make the money because people go see their movies, even if they stink.

The pro athlete is accessible to the public each night he performs. He can receive cheers, boos, or beer cups on any given evening. The Hollywood actor is insulated from the public for the most part, except for walking the red carpet for those ingratiating award ceremonies where fans sit hours in a grandstand just to see what they're wearing.

The pro athlete plays four to six months and trains the rest of the year to maintain his standing in the league. The Hollywood actor, of course, trains for his roles too, but his standing directly relates to the box office, and there are no stats, wins or losses, touchdowns, or points scored to judge how well he's doing.

And the pro athlete plays 10 years if he's lucky. The average NFL career lasts just under four years. The Hollywood actor can earn a lifetime of roles as he grows older. The pro athlete has to get everything he can during the short amount of time he can play.

The pro athlete's body breaks down, and he's in for years of discomfort when his playing days are over. I once saw pictures of an NBA player's feet, and they weren't anything you want to see while eating dinner. If the pro athlete has used steroids for any length of time, he's likely facing additional complications.

The Hollywood actor has stuntmen to do the grueling physical work, while he's in his trailer munching on caviar and champagne.

So you should begrudge Hollywood actors more than pro athletes. But that will probably never change.

Oh well. I don't think they sell beer in the Oscars grandstand anyway.