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Friday, October 5, 2012

Commentary of ESPN 30 for 30: “Broke” – Part II

Peeps –
After careful consideration I’ve thought better of doing a three part commentary on ESPN’s 30 for 30: “Broke.” I mean, in honesty I don’t think any measure of conversation about this recurring issue will help and frankly it only further frustrates and humiliates those who have fallen victim to the cycle. So that said this will be the last post on this issue…
“Stand down!” Part two begins now…
Part one of our series laid the basic framework for the series talking about the known issue of athletes leaving the professional game and having nothing to financially sustain them. The proverbial question is always: “How did this happen?”
Here are some things to consider and although they aren’t excuses they are all part of the reason athletes end up financially challenged.
1.       Experience – Most don’t have experience handling this kind of money and usually they go from nothing to a multi-millionaire over night.
2.      Maturity – When athletes (for all sports) “turn pro” it usually happens in their late teens or early twenties…not the most mature time in any of our lives – planning is the last thing on anyone’s mind
3.      Keepin it Real – This may be more of a cultural thing, but “remembering where you came from” is a huge thing in the African-American community. So instead of what many call “Catholic guilt” many Black athletes carry their own version of not leaving their roots behind – which unfortunately always includes paying the way of all those who were close to him “back in the day.” There’s a type of “proving” that money and fame hasn’t changed you… the last thing you want to be known as is a “sell out.”
4.      Parent(s) – This may be the single most difficult issue for any athlete. For some, being able to “take care of momma” is a huge thing. Especially for the large majority of athletes who were raised by one parent (usually mom). What’s even worse is when momma expects her son to take care of her and really lays it on… how can he say no?
5.      “It Can’t Happen to Me” – In my humble opinion this is the biggest mindset change that needs to be made by professional athletes. Yes, it can happen to you…yes, there is an end in sight…yes; you need to make plans for life after your professional athletic career ends. In essence life is just beginning when that life if over.
6.      Education – Speaking of life after professional sports… did they even get a degree? What business professional skills do they possess? Can they do anything other than play sports?
7.      Baby Momma Drama – I refuse to even waste the ink explaining this one…in a word – DUMB.
8.      Poor Investments/Advice – Again, broke yesterday and multi-millionaire today. They have to invest in something… NEWS FLASH - all investments aren’t good investments. Unfortunately, those hired to protect the livelihood of the athlete are usually boosting their own livelihoods while sucking the monetary life out of the one they should be protecting…as long as they get their cut it really doesn’t matter. Whew! Cutthroat!  
9.      “Living the Life” – Along that same line, buying multiple homes, luxury cars, yachts, thousands on custom jewelry, clothes and spending thousands more in clubs in the VIP lounge with the entourage. Really… It doesn’t last forever… as Mike Ditka says: “Stop it!”
10.   “I’m Gonna Have a Long Career” – Here today and gone tomorrow… one never knows if coaching changes, trades, injuries or any unforeseen event will arise. Trust me… I went from being a starter in the league to unemployed in a matter of months after my head coach got fired. It happens… Living each day as if it’s your last doesn’t mean spending like it. Frugal is a smarter way to go.
So my question is: “If abuse is a cycle, drug addiction is a sickness, alcoholism is a genetic disease and they all have treatment programs what do we then call the proto-typical broke professional athlete situation AND how do we treat it?”  I don’t think a couple of days at the rookie symposium will change the culture.
Does anyone have an idea? Maybe someone will listen and take note…let’s hope so.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Commentary: ESPN 30 for 30: “Broke” – Part I

As I sat yesterday watching yet another thought provoking episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series about athletes and their mismanaged funds I couldn’t help catching myself jaw-dropped. Since this is a subject that renders many opinions I thought it would be a good idea to launch a three part series to discuss the age-old issue of athletes reportedly “losing everything.”
So here goes part one…
Admittedly I too, although having a short career in the NFL, never thought I would see the faces of those who came forward to speak of their money “woes” as former professional all-stars and potential hall of famers. I mean, really… these guys made a ton of money. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!
Keith McCants All-American Linebacker
and first round draft pick
Photo: AP

Some of their stories were horrific…even an admission of guilt/abuse from former NFL superstar Bernie Kosar at the hands of his father and a former teammate of mine and NFL top five draft pick (Keith McCants) admitted to having issues with saying “no” to loaning money that he knew he wouldn’t get back.
Say wha?? Wait, you loaned money full on knowing that you wouldn’t get it back? What the hell were you thinking? Wait…that’s part two of our series – don’t want to get ahead of myself. Let’s get back on track.
Here’s a standard question: How is it that these men were so ill-equipped to handle the pressures and expectations of their immediate fame and wealth as professional athletes? I mean, athletes are taught from day one how to pick up the blitz, turn a 6-4-3 double play and run the perfect pick ‘n roll right? Did anyone have some advice on how to handle the sudden fame and fortune that was literally dumped on them as they entered their professional athletic careers? Or are we to assume that since they were “collegiate athletes” they understand how to manage these situations by osmosis?
Hmmmm….let’s see. A large percentage of professional athletes come from nothing and have no experience with money,  money management or how to handle the personal albatross that comes with wealth and fame. Honestly, fame isn’t that big of a deal since most athletes who play at a high level have a level of celebrity that follows them…but once you add money, wealth, greenbacks, paper, green, cash, grip, ducketts, stacks, riches, squilla, dough, ends, flow or whatever your designation for lots of money might be, there seems to be a fundamental disconnect with how to handle the pressure associated with the change.
Everyone… I mean EVERYONE wants a piece of you. Agents, financial planners, investment companies, family members, friends, gold diggers are all in line to get their “fair share” of what these athletes have worked tirelessly for. What’s worse they stand in the proverbial line with a sense of entitlement… as if these athletes actually owe them something! Son of a… can you imagine the nerve? What if your parents decided they were entitled to a percentage of your $50k/year job? How would that go over?
I keep revisiting our institutions of higher education and wondering how much they really educate student-athletes beyond the specific sport they play. No, I’m not suggesting it’s the sole responsibility of colleges and universities to make athletes aware of the wiles that await them upon their exit from the isolation of the NCAA…but what I am suggesting is (again) a more proactive approach to better equipping them to handle what could happen.  
Look…it’s no one’s responsibility to manage your money. What you earn is what you should protect right? As I said before the expectation is that these kids (usually 20-22 years old) are supposed to manage funds that mount to what many of us will never earn in a lifetime. Seems almost impossible... Honestly would you expect a podiatrist to perform open heart surgery…?

Probably not.
Just sayin…