Crucial Minutia
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Cristina Pippa
All the World: Someone Explain Football
14 Comments | posted May 03rd, 2007 at 06:20 am by Cristina Pippa


So, my man casually mentioned “the draft” the other night, and I panicked. Don’t ask how, after hours of NPR on my road trip, I thought I missed the big news that instead of pulling soldiers out of Iraq we were going to begin drafting every kid who celebrates an eighteenth birthday.

“No, no. The NFL draft.”
“Well why’s it called that?”
“Because they’re drafted by teams to play in the NFL.”

I learned that the word drafted also means paid millions of dollars. The salary cap for each team is set at $109 MILLION this year. “So the average guy sitting on his couch, watching the all-American sport, is pinning his hopes on millionaires playing with millionaires against other millionaires?” Even my favorite Vikings fan admits that this is disturbing if he really thinks about it.

Lest you think I’m wondering why theatre companies aren’t wooing young playwrights with multi-million dollar contracts– don’t worry. The fantasy passed through my mind, but it has since been demolished by reality. I know why the arts aren’t always highly valued in this country, but I don’t know why football is SO highly valued. This is what I would love for someone to explain to me. Obviously the guys with the big bucks are making huge profits even after paying these staggering salaries. Anybody know how that’s possible? Maybe I’m just amazed that my friend’s starting salary at a big NYC law firm, which at first took my breath away, now sounds like a pittance compared to what first-pick JaMarcus Russell will make next year.

Returning to my original thoughts of soldiers when I heard about “the draft”— I was curious what combat pay is for the average soldier in Iraq. The figure I found? $7.50 a day. I thought this must be wrong, so I went on the Army’s website. And what does a soldier on active duty start at? $15,282 a year.

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty images.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 3rd, 2007 at 6:20 am and is filed under Career/Life, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 14 responses

  1. Joie Jager-Hyman

    Christina, jeez, when you look at these figures compared with our troops annual salary, our values are pretty amazing. Thanks for sharing that.

    But, why do football players make so much money? Because having the best draft picks is a major investment on the part of the owners. Winning teams make more money–and they WIN, which is exhilarating in itself.

    Teams don’t just make money from games in terms of fans paying for tickets in the stands, they also make bank from the team logo, being on television etc. This is a HUGE business. However, people everywhere spend tons of money and time on sports. Like theater, watching sports is a wonderful escape from the everyday. People need that.

    Also, football players take major physical risks and their careers aren’t nearly as long as that of lawyers. So, it’s somewhat fair to compensate them for this. Of course, soldiers in Iraq should be better compensated as well. I don’t make the rules or anything.

    May 3rd, 2007 | 8:00 am
  2. bubbaj

    Obviously some people are overpaid and others are under. Our society is fucked up in its values…given. But athletes can do things that very few people can. The good players are amazing machines of accuracy, results of years and years of conditioning mixed with innate talent. The fact remains that it is fun and, on a whole, we envy it. I don’t want to be a doctor and have someones life in my hands, or a soldier on a raid. Some people do and bless the shit out of them. If i met them, i would buy them a drink. But chances are I won’t because instead of standing outside of a hospital, I’m at the Yankees game.

    May 3rd, 2007 | 9:31 am
  3. Kate Torgovnick

    Awesome post, Cristina. Those numbers are absolutely crazy. I do have to agree with Nik that athletes are paid for a talent very few of us possess. But, hey, teachers have an extremely special talent, too.

    Anyway, everyone should read Warren St. John’s Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, one of my favorite books ever. It’s about Alabama football fans who drive enormous RVs between games and who basically structure their lives around football. It’s all about what it means to be a fan, and basically, how certain people come to care so much about a thing the grand majority of people around them don’t understand. Great sociology, and freaking hilarious.

    May 3rd, 2007 | 10:18 am
  4. Cristina, I think you’re asking “why does football MATTER so damn much?” As I believe many people have theorized, my personal belief is that organized sport–particularly football–is a replacement for ancient warfare. See, back in the days of nation-states (think Athens, Sparta), a populace’s sense of self was tied to the performance of its army, who it dominated, who it lost to. There was a strong need to beat your neighbors.

    Neighbor rivalries are very strong. The groups that in other people’s eyes are the most similar are the ones with the biggest rivalries, probably for self-distinction purposes. Organized sports take the place of that ancient warfare in the national consciousness, and that, I believe is why rivalries like India-Pakistan (cricket), New York-Boston (baseball), Australia-New Zealand (rugby), Ohio St-Michigan St/Texas-Alabama (college football), Toronto-Montreal (hockey), etc, are so passionate.

    If you think about it, it’s actually quite a positive step forward. It has all the simplicity we’d like to believe war has (but WWII, of all wars, was the only one that came close), but instead of death and bloodshed it has multi-million-dollar contracts and the occasional concussion. That’s better than five hundred impaled Spartans.

    And football is quite particularly associated with warfare. Read George Carlin’s famous monologue comparing baseball and football

    May 3rd, 2007 | 10:24 am
  5. Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the sentiment that athletes are rewarded for having skills which few others have. In fact, I love the idea that talent and excruciatingly hard work can pay off. I also completely agree that we need entertainment in this world, but here’s the remaining issue…

    If football in particular is a way to play out our old Spartan war games, then why are we STILL AT WAR? It’s simply asking too much of sports to say that they fulfill our need for competition and aggression– particularly when it has been reported to cause more violence. It’s entertainment, right? And we’ll pay to have a good time if we can.

    I honestly can’t complain about football players making loads of money– since you won’t hear me complaining if I sell a screenplay for a precious price or option my first novel before I’ve even started the second. It’s only that I can’t stop thinking about the fact that we DON’T WATCH as we send people off to a real war with very little compensation.

    May 3rd, 2007 | 1:14 pm
  6. Theo Gangi

    As I understand, soldiers in Iraq are paid quite well, and many chose to go for this reason. Not sure where you got those numbers– it doesn’t sound right.

    May 3rd, 2007 | 3:51 pm
  7. http://www.goarmy.com/benefits/money_basic_pay.jsp

    I got these numbers from the army’s very own website. By the way, the figure I gave you was high. It says: “Pay for Private (E1) will be slightly lower for the first four months of service.”

    May 3rd, 2007 | 8:04 pm
  8. Theo Gangi

    Basic pay isn’t the same as Iraq. I Know people who’re going.

    May 4th, 2007 | 3:49 pm
  9. Yeah, base pay is exactly that: base. They get all kinds of stuff, living allowance, hazard pay, etc, that will bring the total up closer to 30k for a new PFC. With hazard pay I expect it would be closer to 40k. Obviously, we’re not talking Peyton Manning money, but that basic pay number doesn’t accurately reflect how much they take home.

    May 4th, 2007 | 4:37 pm
  10. Good point. I should clarify. The $7.50 a day is the “imminent danger pay,” which is scheduled to drop to $5 a day.

    “Imminent danger pay: $225 per month, but is scheduled to drop to $150 a month

    Family separation allowances: $250 per month, but scheduled to drop to $100 per month”

    –San Francisco Chronicle

    May 4th, 2007 | 4:54 pm
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    May 5th, 2007 | 9:03 am
  12. alfredo

    well lets just remember that “base Pay” also depends on your time in the military. another thing, we dont only get family separation pay and imminent danger pay. we also get basic allowence for homes (rent money) and a few other things. but thats aside from your “base pay”. some people talk about what we do and dont get paiod and dont know exactly what they are talking about. lets all get our facts and stories straight when we talk about this.

    May 8th, 2007 | 12:34 pm
  13. tony

    ahhhh Cristina….an alum of the Big Ten…and still not on the football bandwagon. i know we only shared one year together there, but did you ever GO to Kinnick and watch a game first hand? or an NFL game first hand? tens of millions of americans played sports in their youth, and i would imagine that often watching and paying to see professional athletes (which represent less than 1% of the population), is a way to replace what was once considered “the glory days” (i.e. that touchdown i scored in pop warner football). it also represents an escape. if all we thought about were the political, social and economic issues of our country or the world for that matter…imagine what society would be like. btw, im not sure why you picked american football players to attack as a reason our troops are so poorly paid, but european “football” players have similar, if not more inflated, salaries. damn, i just came here because of your room 41 post…and somehow i got sucked into this…….anyhoo, i hope you’re well, as i see you are kickin ass in NYC. keep it up, and as always GO HAWKS!!

    June 6th, 2007 | 11:20 am
  14. Thanks for this post, Tony! Lovely to have you over here at Crucial Minutiae! And yes, you’re right that this would be a very gloomy society if we didn’t take the time to enjoy sports, games, arts, everything outside of the news. Perhaps if I had gone to Kinnick, I would have remembered this– I think I imagined that I was tethered to the Theatre Building at the time.

    Oh, and I didn’t mean to pick on American football players or any athletes as the reason our troops are poorly paid. I was only making a comparison and questioning what society values– and I can see through this discussion that many people DO highly and passionately value superstar athletes.

    June 9th, 2007 | 2:03 pm

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