Mary Ann Sorrentino's 2 Cents Worth

Opinions, Observations and Musings

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
RI or FL depending on season, USA
June 19
Mary Ann is a columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel, the Providence Phoenix and other newspapers and has appeared on She was an Associated Press Award-winning radio talk host for 13 years and the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of RI 1977-1987. Her most recent book, ABORTION - The A Word (Gadd Books) is available on line and in major bookstores.


MAY 6, 2012 8:17PM

Risky Businesses

Rate: 8 Flag


Seattle’s KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel observed recently that, "More than 1,000 NFL retired players are suing the league now over what they claim is neglect of the issues of head trauma to long-term brain function consequence.”  Athletes with long histories of repeated head traumas and mental or physical pathology-- which may or may not be related-- will now fuel another long debate. Multimillionaire football players, active and retired, will line up for even more money because football players risk getting their heads bashed every time they play.

Is such a risk a surprise? They are, after all, professional athletes in a sport that involves tackling, kicking, running, jumping, and finding oneself on the bottom of a pile of other players, all of whom weigh hundreds of pounds. When they took that $5 million signing bonus did the dangers of this dream job somehow elude them?

Frankly, in today’s economy, it is difficult to justify more and more compensation for occupational hazards that ought to be obvious when workers choose the job in the first place. Cops risk being shot, stabbed and otherwise injured or killed because their workplace is often a crime scene.

Firefighter-Entering-Burning-Building-53896 Firefighters will get burned, or suffer smoke inhalation injuries or death because their job is to run into burning buildings, carry people out, knock down burning walls etc. Professional athletes, sports car drivers and players of so-called “extreme games” get rich by putting themselves at high risk in what can be death defying situations.

(Take boxing for example: two grown men get paid to punch each other until one falls down unconscious. Why is this entertainment?)

Then, when a race car driver crashes and burns to death on a speedway, or an extreme game star suffers a paralyzing brain injury after driving a motorcycle off a bobsled run, everyone seems surprised.


Want less risk? Sell cars, teach philosophy, do landscaping, write poetry, or become a computer geek and invent a new Facebook.

Most football (and other) players now earning millions to throw balls and endorse sneakers-- if sent back to wherever it is they come from-- would barely be earning a living doing whatever it is they do when hitting a ball with a stick or running down a field with a ball tucked in their armpit isn’t an option.

Next time you drop a mortgage payment to take your kids to a game, think about why those game tickets cost a fortune.

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I was going to say that only a few of the guys get the multimillion dollar salaries, and that's a fact. On the Colts, my local team, one guy is in the 10s of millions, 5 are in the 1s of millions, 11 are above $500K, and the lowest paid player gets $405,000. But still, $405,000 to squat on a line and defend a football is a lot of money. Why do they blow it all?

So many of these guys end up broke and alone, selling their memorabilia to pay rent. Could it be the head trauma affecting their skills of reasoning? This science is still too new to say. I'm hoping these lawsuits make the NFL take more care of the players current and past, but I'm also hoping they don't get big cash payouts. I'm so tired of that.
Welcome and thanks, Phyllis. I agree with you...for what? And, as I said, a lot of these folks wouldn't be earning diddly if they weren't overpaid athletes.
Gladiators. Fighting not for fame and freedom but money, which they squander along with their health.
Boys will be boys. You can't blame a young man with hardly any intellect for anything when you give him tons of cash for hitting other players. Well said. R
Nevertheless, there are precautions possible and proper medical and athletic oversight probably could help these guys. If athletic skills are all you have to sell for a very limited time in your life it is only decent accommodation to see that the participants are properly protected and have the right to refuse dangerous conditions. And since the games pay the owners well enough to give the stars great salaries there is no reason proper insurance compensation for injuries cannot be provided for also as part of the employment. Anybody undertaking a dangerous occupation should have the right for maximum protection if things go wrong.
It has been commented that police and firemen undergo terrible risks in their professions and therefore athletes paid high salaries for a short period that may be their only lifetime earnings deserve no more consideration. But the point should be made that society has no recourse but to ask police and firemen and other vital social services to take terrible risks for the sake of society's preservation. Athletic contests are basically a business sacrificing the safety and decent lives of the players purely for profit, a decidedly different thing and the profits are monstrous. Why should skilled people not be accorded maximum safety and future security in their efforts to make the owners who take no risks outrageously rich? People object to and outlaw dog fights as immoral and unnecessary. Fine young athletes deserve at least that consideration if they put their futures at stake.
Phyllis and Mary:

I’m hoping these lawsuits get laughed out of the court room as they are nuisance lawsuits like most other personal injury lawsuits. The risks of playing football are obvious. Free men exercised their right to utilize their bodies as battering rams. I don’t care if they got paid minimum wage, they knew the risks and did it anyways. Based on your twisted logic who couldn’t sue following a work related injury?


What is “maximum safety”? I’ll answer that, it’s an indefinable term making your post equally vague and indefinable. Oh and by the way, police and firemen are relatively safe professions when compared to logging and fishing.
We haven't progressed so far from the days of the Roman gladiators as we like to think. If you think about it, most stadiums even look like the Colosseum. In many ways the sports phenomena is crazy to me. Legislators fight over speed limits while we applaud drivers who push a car to impossible limits. It's nuts.
I am with you on all of these points except one Mar Ann. The next to last paragraph gave me pause, and doesn't seem to fit with the general renor of the piece. If you publish this elsewhere, I would suggest omitting it. Othrwsie, I agree, even if I would be bereft if we lost football in the fall, although it certainly seems like we should.
Thanks for all the interesting comments on many sides of this discussion.

I should say that I am not a sports fan, so I suppose it is easier for me to think this way than for those who actually watch these events.

I should also add that I have great respect for all "first responder" professions. Nonetheless, the dangers in those jobs are obvious and
those who choose them ought to make their decisions to sign up based on the realities...There is a lot of "becoming a cop" (or firefighter) because my Dad (brother, uncle, mother, etc) was one." There are whole dynasties, several generations long in these areas, all complaining about how dangerous the jobs are.
Sorry, I must completely disagree with you. These football players are employees. The owners make the lion's share, not the players.

The NFL has a long sordid history of allowing players to play injured, and with concussions. And, even now, pays a bounty" to players that make hits that take people out of the game.

Read the story of what it's like for one of these retired football players with a history of multiple concussive injuries. It's a horrible fate that could have been prevented with a little common sense.

These players are paid what they are paid because they are great at something very, very difficult.

If you want to think about someone when you drop a mortgage payment, how about thinking of the team owners, or, better yet, your average CEO in America that makes hundreds of millions of dollars laying off workers and driving their businesses into the ground.
Hi Wren Dancer, and thanks for the read and comment. Disagree all you like. I stand by my post. Without players willing to put themselves in harm's way if the price is right, no owners etc. would earn anything.

There are always several ways of looking at any question. I never claim to have the definitive point of view-- just my own point of view, presented as thoughtfully as I can present it. I respect that other;s may have different opinions.

Bottom line: that's why they make chocolate as well as vanilla.
We've been going through a bit of a debate on this the last week here in the San Diego area after Junior Seau's suicide last week. I think the numbers that get bandied about are obscene and the hundreds of millions extorted from local governments for stadiums even more obscene. All this is to the point where I have an increasingly difficult time enjoying professional baseball or football (I've never enjoyed professional basketball).
While athletes willingly "put it on the line" for the money they are paid, something concerns me about the level of head injury which seems to be pandemic in the NFL. In any other "career field" there would be an OSHA investigation by now. (Just sayin').
Thanks, Walter...I can always count on you for a thoughtful or con any post...BTW, I like the new photo of you tasting the "cheap bastid" food...but I kind of miss the old Walter photo too....just sayin'
This is a perfect place to say I am morally opposed to having any of my insusrance premiums go to stupid sports injuries. Football norte-americano has been a head-bashing sport since the beginning. DUHHHHH. Maybe I should be more compassionate. I will be if they all say contraceptives and abortion should be covered.