Poll: Society’s treatment of athletes has come a long way from Rome, but have we gone too far?

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Photo by Jose Francisco Morales on Unsplash

For those who don’t know, I spent a lot of time writing for the opinion section of The Daily Campus, and for most of two semesters, I spent that time writing articles with a historical element. Now, this will spill over into my sports column.

With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people have become familiar with the definition of the term “essential worker”. This category of worker includes medical workers, teachers, grocers, and a myriad of other positions, but one position it certainly does not apply to is that of a professional athlete. 2020 saw professional sport come to a halt for a while, before each league gradually figured out how to reopen. Despite the fact that we’ve all learned the hard way that life goes on without professional athletics, the teams continued to hand out massive salaries after play resumed. When Max Scherzer signed with the Mets last week, the contract he did he agreed included $ 130 million over three years. That’s almost $ 5,000 an hour, about 330 times the New York minimum wage, to put it in perspective. Oh, and let me remind you that this implies that Scherzer will be working every hour of every day for the next three years.

This is where the story comes in. Spectator sports, while the highest level of competition is certainly a goal, is fundamentally a product of entertainment. Such products have been around for millennia, but the remuneration of participants is very different.

During the days of the Roman Empire, gladiatorial combat was the preference of many sports fans, but the binding agreements attached to gladiators were about as far removed as possible from the exorbitant contracts of today’s sports stars. . In fact, many gladiators were not paid at all. Those who competed were socially the lowest of the lows, and generally their reward for a good performance was simply to be granted the right to live another day.

Of course, athletes did not go from being literally enslaved to making millions overnight; over the centuries, society’s view of the profession has gradually changed. Fast forward to about 100 years ago, when the current professional format of baseball was still relatively new, football and hockey were in their infancy and basketball was still in a few years. decades.

Fortunately, there is evidence of a contract signed by the one and only George Herman “Babe” Ruth, exactly 100 years ago in 1921. The “American League Base Ball Club of New York” agreed to pay Ruth, who would go on to have one of the most legendary careers of any major league of all time, a lump sum of $ 5,000, provided he earns an extra $ 50 for every home run he hit that year -the. By the end of the year, Ruth had made 59 home runs, so her total winnings for the year were $ 7,950. Adjusted for inflation, Babe was making just over $ 120,000 in 1921. It’s certainly a pretty good salary, but it’s not far from the crazy territory that Scherzer and today’s stars populate.

However, that was in 1921; 1922 was another story. In 1922, according to sabr.org, Babe Ruth won $ 52,000. His salary peaked in 1930 at $ 80,000, which would amount to about $ 1.2 million in today’s terms. Of course, it’s a lot more than he did 10 years ago, but it’s a lot closer to that than to Scherzer territory.

The bottom line is this: Athletes deserve to be paid, and it is a fact. We are past the brutal days of bloody Roman sport, but unfortunately the pendulum may have swung a little too far in the other direction. If perhaps the most famous baseball player in history has made only a fraction of what today’s top athletes make, maybe it is time to assess whether the exponential growth that keeps happening makes sense.

Sports stars are not essential workers, but many of them are paid a lot more. While the jobs they do are certainly ingrained in our society and have their place totally, the world could be a very different place if some of the money that went to entertaining the masses with sporting exploits were to be found. rather given to the people who make sure the company can survive and prosper every day.

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