I was watching Kordell Stewart (my hero from 1994) in a debate with Skip Bayliss (sp?) on Cold Pizza the other morning. Stewart was asked: “what is the one thing you do NOT miss about being a professional football player?” He answered: “getting hit.” IOW, just constantly getting hit after hit all night long; not necessarily getting rocked, just slowly beaten down as the days, weeks, and months roll by. A Chinese torture of sorts.

Skip fired back (as he always done) in a hotheaded manner by saying (not exact quote) “he did not feel sorry for him since he got paid so handsomely.”

I thought this was a little uncalled for because Stewart was responding to a question, not stating a complaint on his own.

However, that’s not really where I’m going with all this. What I really wanted to address is the constant demeaning of high profile pro football players in the U.S. for the money they make. People always point out the salaries of these players and assume that their job is one of the best ones possible. They might be right about THAT. These athletes might have one of the best jobs anyone could ask for (assuming they love their sport) and are paid well when they are on top of their game.

BUT… …the real issue at hand is how these players came to receive such good pay.

Owners are looking for a sure thing when they choose a player. No different from any business manager/owner who looks for an employee who’s going to perform. But I really find it no less absurd that football players make millions of dollars while lawyers (or any professional. I like lawyers all the same), fresh out of law school, could make $100,000. By the time a professional football player has made his way to the pros he likely has over 10+ years of profession-specific “training.” A new lawyer has never actually practiced real law, but a football player has potentially been playing football since grade school.

Now an argument might be made about the different tiers of the sport and how the game changes from high school to college to pro ball and until one has played pro ball he has no experience. However, a rookie isn’t going to sit pretty unless he goes early in the draft. Most players aren’t Reggie Bushs or Vince Youngs; they’re the no names later in the draft and they are going to have to prove themselves again(assuming they even get playing time) before one of those sexy paychecks come in.

The NFL has the fortune of weeding out talent with two levels of unofficial, “unpaid” minor leagues. I think high school ball can qualify when one considers that some high school games draw tens of thousands of people and are featured on national television. And College football? C’mon man. DI ball is so intense that a spring scrimmage game (for Alabama) is going to be on ESPN. Freaking crazy dude. Most NFL stadiums’ capacity levels pale in comparison to Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, ATM, Ohio State, Ala, Auburn, Florida, etc. NFL teams don’t have to take a chance on a great high school player because they get to see (for free) if they falter throughout three (or four) years of college ball.

Now talking about college ball gets a ton of people fired up because they start pointing out how athletes get treated and how they get a free education, etc. That’s true, but they don’t have a choice if they have dreams of the NFL. Some of them might not have a chance in the world of making it to the big show, but the only way they will find out is playing college ball. There is no minor league for them to go to. This also ends up compromising the integrity of some programs since educators, coaches, boosters will start bending the rules to keep these guys rolling.

I’m not defending the unethical and (especially) disrespectful manner that SOME student-athletes conduct themselves with. I remember sitting in Entomology (yeah bug class) at TAMU a few years ago and getting absolutely furious with how unprofessional and disrespectful the football players could be to their professor and fellow students. I don’t think it helped that the team absolutely sucked at the time (posting the first losing season in a redonkulous number of years).

Essentially my point is this: a football player makes what he makes because of his value in relation to the NFL’s earnings. By the time he starts to actually see a paycheck he has been ‘training’ for nearly his whole life. An employer who hires a salesman, engineer, lawyer, etc takes risk when these professionals start their respective careers. On the other hand, a lawyer, salesman, etc. with 20 years experience is much less of a risk for a big paycheck, as is an NFL player with a few years of pro ball experience.

Does a football player deserve $250,000 for four hours of play time. Dunno. Does a lawyer deserve 300/hour for filing your divorce?

I guess people complain about every situation when it doesn’t seem fair. Nevertheless, there is no real reason to get hung up on one absurdity in an absurd world.

Don’t get worked up on the politics of the game this weekend. Underneath it all are two groups of men that are going to have a chance to live out their childhood dream. That cannot be said of too many people in this world.

Watch the Superbowl.

And all this from a guy (me) that doesn’t even like the NFL….