The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, June 11, 2004

TIME FOR FOOTBALL, NO TIME FOR LIFE
no future league
If there's one thing that all sports fans can agree upon, it's that their interest in a particular athlete extends no further than the time during which s/he is wearing a uniform. That's not exclusive to on-the-field time--fans revel in stories about how Player X is making "too much" damned money, or who Player Y is dating, or even what charity event Player Z worked in last week. "In uniform" refers to the athlete's career in a league, a particular team or a particular college. After that career is over, whether it's been for 2 years or 20 years, that player is largely out of sight, out of mind. For the average fan, the messy details of life after the final game aren't worth considering.

Thankfully, there are players' unions for the professional athletes to offer guidance while the uniform is still on. In the NFL, Troy Vincent and the NFLPA are making a case for allowing players some time to devote to planning for life after football.
Vincent, who is entering his 13th NFL season, said many players lack time for developmental programs, education or retirement planning.

And he noted that ex-players make dozens of calls to the union office looking for jobs.

"Why? Because they weren't able to prepare themselves when they were playing," he said.

Vincent's concerns come as the line blurs between when the NFL year begins and ends...

Vincent said much of the responsibility rests on players' decisions. He said he'll use his term as union president to inform players of their rights and opportunities.

Vincent delivered that message to the April draft class. He told the players half will be out of football within two seasons, and then asked how they will respond to that.

"Do you pout, are you angry at the world, do you get cut and go back and take it out on your mom or your dad, your spouse, your children?" Vincent said, recalling his speech. "These are things we need to develop. ... That's developing that man side."
I've harped on this before, and it's worth doing so again. Take note of Vincent's estimation that half of the players from this year's NFL Draft class will not be playing football inside of two seasons; that just about jibes with the estimation of the average NFL career lasting only three and a half years. It's sobering. That's why I'll rarely criticize any professional athelete who scores a big multi-million dollar contract; when the show could be over the next day, and the prospect of starting from scratch suddenly becomes real, you deserve to secure as much money as you can.

I think Jorge Diaz's comments from back in January drive the point home best:
"Careers are what doctors have, what lawyers have," [former Buccaneers offensive lineman Jorge] Diaz said. "The NFL is just an opportunity to make a lot of money in a short period of time. Then what? You're left to figure it out on your own."
It's funny that the Vincent/NFLPA story came out today. As I was writing yesterday's post on how call-center jobs are persuading young Indians to forego college educations, I did draw some comparisons with the situation of professional athletes; I forgot to incorporate those thoughts into that post. Turns out I got an indirect opportunity to do so here.