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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pay to play, or pay for play, you decide.

“College athletes should be paid, so many people make money from their efforts.”  That is the common argument, and it is a good one.  Of course, there is also the investment of time, many of them work year round to hone skills, and discipline their bodies for peak performance.  Plus, they bring so much entertainment and joy to so many.  Turn on your television and watch as the drama unfolds, it is spectacle, anyone can see the interest shown by so many.  There are so many good reasons to pay college athletes it is becoming difficult to remember what the opposition is saying.  But, paying college athletes may stop short of equity.

What about the high school stud who can “carry the rock?”  Doesn’t he deserve a little something, something for his troubles?  How about that outside hitter who flies in, bird of prey like to smash that volleyball into the floor so hard it needs inflated.  And that kid averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists on the basketball team, where is his “fatted calf?”  These student athletes train rigorously, lifting and running, sacrificing time and sweat.  Further, their parents often pay for summer leagues, and personal trainers, all in an effort to gain that little bit of an edge, that one small advantage when it counts most.  Don’t they deserve compensation for their time.

Oh, sure, there are laws governing the allocation of government funds spent on education.  But, there are options.  Who hasn’t met the coach willing to sell a little bit of soul for a decent state tournament run.  There are always several coaches for each team, maybe a pool system.  Perhaps that is too mercenary, maybe the cost needs to cast a wider net.

Ask any high school coach or administrator, booster groups and graduates are an excellent source of renewable wealth.  Booster clubs love to be a part of things, and there is nothing that brings more joy to these hard working, God fearing souls than a winning record and a divisional championship.  Ah, to see the smiles on their philanthropistic faces when the trophy is paraded around the Elks lodge for all to see.

Another option, a particularly egalitarian method, would be to donate a portion of the ticket sales and concession stand earnings among the players.  What makes the concession sales alternative so appealing is the opportunity it gives for self expression.  For example, people could choose who they are supporting with each purchase. 

Customer:  “Give me two slices of pizza for # 11, a large Coke for # 24 and some nachos for #3, please.”

Concession Stand Volunteer:  “That will be $7.50, no $8.50 no $7.75.  Oh damn, has anybody seen the calculator?  Let’s call it an even $10.00.”

Not only would the student athlete benefit think of the potential profit for the school district.  Basketball will serve as our example here.  Think for a moment, it is a close game, the home team trails by two, time is running out on the clock, less than 12 seconds left, Number 4 inbounds the ball to number 32, who dribbles to half court, he runs into a double team and jumps up, passing the ball to number 43 in the corner.  Time is counting down, 2 seconds left, and the defense is running out towards number 43 (Jeff, if you are wondering) who squares up and launches a three point shot to win the game at the buzzer.  Think of all of the people mobbing the concession stand to buy popcorn, candy bars, lukewarm hot dogs, bottled water, anything to pay show their gratitude to Jeff, for his steely nerves and game winning heroics.  It will be like Black Friday, right outside the gym.  There is no need to stop there, though.

The world of amateur athletics is silly with coaches who feel like they are one good season from the glory and riches of the pro league, they so richly deserve.  It would be difficult to swing a blind referee’s white cane without hitting a volunteer dreaming of the big time.  Think of the potential, (and it would be relatively inexpensive at that age, a bargain, really) some kid dribbles the soccer ball through your entire U8 team, and the coach walks, very casually over and offers the kids $3.25 to switch teams for the rest of the game.  Does anybody else smell a dynasty?

Of course, there are going to be those who feel that money is too base, corrupting,  too “dirty.”  Truly, though, the money is really only secondary in importance, the real value is the lesson in dealing with success.  Learning to understand the value of talent, and learning to manage complex financial arrangements is the most important thing to teach children.