Open Mic: No Money in Retirement
Someone should really get these guys some Geritol, or at the very least, a walker and some reading glasses.
At 47 years old, Atlanta Falcons' kicker Morten Andersen is the oldest active player in the NFL. Andersen is the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 565 career field goals and 2,544 career points. If the Falcons pick him up next season, he’ll be in his 26th season.
Or there's 39-year-old Dallas Cowboys' backup quarterback Brad Johnson, who boasts 164 career touchdown completions in 16 seasons. Johnson was 7 for 11 in passing for 79 yards in the Cowboys' 27-6 loss to Washington during Week 17.
Or famed Green Bay Packers' quarterback Brett Favre, 38, entering his 18th season in the NFL. Last season, Favre led his Packers to the NFC Championship game with a 14-4 record on 356-of-535 passing and 4,155 yards for 28 touchdowns.
Take your pick. These guys are all legends, but they're dinosaurs, too.
Why can't they just buy a Porsche, bleach their hair, and get 21-year-old girlfriends like most middle-aged men going through a midlife crisis?
Why not call it a day and retire?
The answer is simple: money.
Last year, there was a salary cap of $3 billion leaguewide, meaning the average player's salary was almost $2 million. Accordingly, the average annual payout to an NFL retiree in 2005 was $14,500.
To give you some perspective, baseball's average pension payout in 2006 was a little more than $34,000 per player. To give further evidence of this discrepancy, a 10-year veteran of Major League Baseball will get an annual stipend of $175,000. The same 10-year veteran from the NFL will be looking at $32,000.
There are also no health insurance plans for retirees of arguably the most dangerous sport.
The NFL is the gold standard for professional sports, and by far the most profitable and popular. Because of the multi-billion dollar television contracts and endorsement deals, there is not a single team that is not in the black before a single ticket is sold.
It is an embarrassment that the founders of the game are being left with pensions practically below the poverty line in the United States. With the average NFL career lasting 3.6 years and the average coaching stint lasting six years, something has to change.
NFL players' union leader Gene Upshaw—who told ESPN "...the retired players are ungrateful" and "I do not work for the retired players, only the current ones"—is obviously unwilling to change benefits for the better.
How about spreading out Michael Vick's $130 million, 10-year contract between retirees as punishment for his dog-fighting charges? They could also throw in his now-void $7 million per year Nike endorsement deal for good measure. Or better yet: How about every time Stuart Scott says "Booya," "Bam" or "Did you see that?" on air, the NFL has to dish out $1 million.
Now that would be justice.
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