SHOW THEM THE MONEY!
THEN SHOW THEM THE JET, THE SUITE AND THE LACKEYS
STARS’ DEMANDS ARE SETTING RECORDS FOR ARROGANCE.
By: Robert Sullivan
December 4, 2000
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T HE ARGUMENT IN EXPLAINING TO NORMAL PEOPL E WHO ACTUALLY WORK FOR A LIVING ---- WHY AN ATHLETE (OR CEO OR MOVIE STAR OR HANDSOME TV ANCHOR OR WEATHERMAN) IS PAID A DOM-PÉRIGNON- AND-BELUGA SALARY FOR ACTUALLY, JUST BASICALLY, ENJOYING HIMSELF GOES LIKE THIS: WHAT THE MARKET WILL BEAR IS FAIR.
Some famous athletes are not only testing the market just now, they’re also testing
the argument—and our patience.
Tiger wants more out of golf: more money- - - more power.
Venus and Serena want more out of tennis.---- Manny wants more than $17 million a year to play baseball. A-Rod wants more than Manny, and he wants personal lackeys too—presumably to tell him he’s worth more than Manny. You’ve got to read the details to believe this stuff.
The New York Mets say the reason they’ve pulled out of the auction for free-agent shortstop Alex (“A-Rod”) Rodriguez is the extras demanded by agent Scott Boras, who counters that these things were hardly “demands” and that, anyway, he didn’t make some of them.
Whatever--—- the add-ons to a 12-year, $300 million contract reportedly include an escalator clause that would automatically bump A-Rod’s salary over anyone else’s; a luxury box at the stadium for the star’s entourage; private jet service; a tent at spring training from which to sell A-Rod souvenirs; a private marketing staff and an office at the park . Oh, yes, and a special request of the Mets: a guarantee that A-Rod would enjoy a greater billboard presence in Gotham than his crosstown rival, shortstop Derek Jeter of the Yankees. That’s A-Rod’s Christmas list.
In the meantime, Tiger Woods says that since the PGA Tour makes pots of money off his image, sharing might be nice. Richard Williams, father of the duo; charismatic champs Serena and Venus, says the same of the women’s tennis tour: “We’re making money for other people. ft’s time we shared that”
The agents for these folks routinely say it’s not about money, it’s about respect. Oh, please! ------ For their ability to compete well and win, there are few more well-respected athletes in the world than Tiger, A-Rod, Venus and Serena.
If the agents mean respect as people, then this can be more easily gained by signing autographs or doing charitable work. Trust us: the Cleveland Indians didn’t mean to dis Manny Ramirez by offering him $17 million a year. Agents just don’t get it.
Or maybe they do.----- They think image is all, and who is to say they’re not right in giving their all to maximize the potential of their clients’ image? “Stylistically, I think there’s a mistake being made here:’ says Leigh Steinberg, who was the real-life model for the fictional Jerry Maguire and who represents no athlete yet mentioned.
“There’s an insensitivity on the part of Woods and the Williams sisters and Rodriguez in the way they’re floating these large amounts of money, a ‘Let them eat cake’ aspect to a family [with an] income of $30,000. This is, in essence, rubbing it in the face.” Echoes David Falk, who represents Michael Jordan: “The public has no taste for listening to people complain publicly about their worth, and frankly neither do I. I applaud [Tiger] for his stance. I just think the stance should be taken privately:’
Some golf pros are also happy that Tiger is taking on the PGA, which they perceive to be haughty in its treatment of the talent.
But if Falk—who has given his all to keeping Michael classy while getting every penny that His Airness’s image is worth—is right about image being all, then the new marketing staff will prove handy for A-Rod. It will surely take serious Madison Avenue savvy to restore this player’s once lustrous image.
A-Rod is sport’s new poster boy for greed, and while Boras might claim that this is unfair because everyone is grabbing, he’s wrong. Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox is certainly the best pitcher in the game . The Red Sox are presently engaged in a bidding war for free agent Mike Mussina, surely one of the 25 or 30 best pitchers in the game. Mussina will eventually be paid about $15 million per year—more than Martinez. And so sportswriters ran to Pedro last week anticipating a column’s worth of Latin temper. What they got was this: Sign him; he’ll help us.
This brings us around to the original question, which we now approach from a different angle: Is it always fair to take what the market will bear?
Perhaps for athletes--—as opposed to magnates, movie stars or meteorologists--—the answer is “No t always:’ This goes to identification.
We all realize that were we as clever as Bill Gates or as lovely as Julia Roberts, the world would reward us justly . But we’re not, and so be it.
Yet each of us has thrown a ball, hit a ball, kicked a ball, and we know how much fun these things are. When Tiger, A-Rod, Venus and Serena complain that they are unsuitably recompensed, we have to ask, “Don’t you get it? Part of your
contract—part of your deal—is, well, you get to play.”
Church of the Science of God
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