Top MLB, NBA and NFL Players: Do They Get Paid Enough?

AJ KrowContributor IIOctober 3, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox on September 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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I know that at first glance arguing that pro athletes don't make enough money is ludicrous and absurd.  I know that $15 million is more money than most people will make in their entire lives.  I know that many pro athletes make tremendous amounts of money off the field to go with their extravagant salaries. 

What else do I know?  Professional athletes have gifts that no one outside of the sports arena have.  

I understand the opposition to my argument.  It's very plausible.  However, in my opinion, that argument is purely superficial.  When you break down the question on a numerical level, my point has merit.

Compensation is (or at least should be) based on talent, and most importantly, the supply of labor compared to the ability one person has.  This concept is essentially the basis for the VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) statistic in baseball.  Let's look at a real-life situation.

Take a relatively regular job like teaching.  Even though you do have to get certified, teaching does not require an especially extraordinary talent to be able to get the job done.  Now obviously I do not wish to demean the teaching profession as I have a great respect for them, but it proves my point the best. 

There are plenty of great teachers out there, but I also have had plenty in my time that were worse than Kerry Collins is at playing quarterback.  I feel very confident that I could go back and teach any class that I took in middle school and high school.  It is because of this, and the vast supply of available teaching labor, that keeps teaching wages down. 

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 31: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat posts up Christian Eyenga #8 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during a game at American Airlines Arena on January 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
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It is almost impossible for any given teacher to be so fantastic that he or she simply could not be replaced with someone that could still come in and get the job done.

Now, apply this theory to professional sports.  The available supply of labor for, say, an NFL quarterback is incredibly small.  There are 120 Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) teams in the country.  To keep this simple, we will assume there are 120 starting quarterbacks in college.  Of those 120, there are only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL.  Last year there were 11 quarterbacks drafted.  That is a very small fraction that are "hired" to play in the NFL. 

Let's again use me as an example.  I was an All-District quarterback in high school, and if you put me out on a professional football field I would be worthless and get pounded because I don't have the physical ability and talent to do the job, whereas I do for teaching.  See where I'm going with this? 

Look at what happens when a starting QB gets injured.  The team usually breaks down.  Obviously to support this concept we only need to look so far as the Indianapolis Colts.  People questioned the huge contract they gave Peyton Manning, and now that he's hurt they are absolutely pathetic.  For that reason, you can argue he should have received even more money.

There is also plenty of debate over executive compensation on Wall Street and other big companies, and the concept can be applied to that sector as well.  When you hold a singular, extraordinary talent that people are in need of and others don't have, you should be compensated as such, and are in better position to demand larger amounts.

Aside from that, you have to take into account the length of an average career.  While someone that works in the business world or really any other field besides pro sports can work for 50 or more years in that field, a pro athlete's career will span 15 years at the most, with a few exceptions.  For that reason, players have to maximize their earning power. 

If you still don't agree with me, here's one more attempt to persuade you. 

Look at pro athletes as salesmen.  It's not that far-fetched.  Think about the tremendous amount of revenue they bring in.  When LeBron James left Cleveland, the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland lost huge amounts of money similar to if a salesman left a company and took his clients with him.  According to Forbes, the Cavs value dropped 26% after LeBron left.  For the amount of money he brought in, the $15 million per year he made was a bargain.

To be able to properly analyze this question we have to argue from an objective stance.  We have to take ourselves out of the equation and look at it simply as an economic, supply and demand issue. 

I do, which is why I hold this position and stand firm.  Pro athletes should make more than they do.  Agree?  Disagree?  Sound off in the comments.