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.
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.