Don't Tell Leodis McKelvin and Jim Tressel That Athletes Are Overpaid

Major ClausenContributor ISeptember 18, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 05:  Head coach Jim Tressel of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Game against the Texas Longhorns on January 5, 2009 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The countless number of losers in our society that frequently label professional athletes and high-profile coaches as being overpaid should think about Leodis McKelvin and Jim Tressel the next time that thought crosses their mind.

Both of them are the latest examples of the expectations for athletes and coaches to be perfect that comes with their paychecks and the amount of criticism that greets them if they fail to do so.

McKelvin’s instinct to put the final stamp on the New England Patriots by returning a kickoff with under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter ended up fumbling his Buffalo Bills out of a 1-0 start last Sept. 14, while Tressel’s conservatism during his team’s 18-15 loss to USC was considered by many as a major reason for his team’s defeat. 

Both had the burden of letting their much-maligned fans down, while also being the subject of a plethora of criticism from angry callers on sports talk radio shows and columnists across the country.

That talk can’t be fun for you or your family to deal with regardless of whether you read or listen to it or not.

And there’s also the fact that McKelvin’s front lawn was vandalized, while Tressel received more than a few nasty emails from people calling themselves ‘Buckeyes fans’ who in reality probably don’t even know who Ted Ginn Jr. is.

Tressel has led his team to three national championship games (one of which they won in 2002) and five Big Ten titles during his eight years as the school’s head coach (though his recent 0-5 record against top 10 teams is a significant), while McKelvin is a promising second-year cornerback and explosive return man who was named the NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Month last November after recording two interceptions and two touchdowns in a five-game span.

Tressel could still easily coach his team to the national championship this year so long as they beat Penn State in November, while the talented skill players on the Bills’ roster could be enough to push them into a wild-card spot over the course of a 16-game season.

But for the fans and media figures who are allowed to have opinions its all about what the player or coach has done in the last game, and while that is a large reason for why they are paid so much, it also brings with it the need for results right away with the threat of criticism that is more heinous than a panini at the Charlie Brown’s if they don’t deliver.  

Certainly, Tressel and McKelvin live much more comfortable lives than the majority of the world’s population (McKelvin’s five-year deal pays him a guaranteed $12.6 million, while Tressel makes over $3.5 million a year), and the stresses of issues related to sports obviously can’t be compared to that of being a soldier in Iraq or a young single mom with two kids. 

But it must be difficult to go to a sandwich shop or walk around your campus after a loss where your mistakes are seen so clearly and criticized so vehemently, with the burden for the defeat and the cause of the fans’ anger placed almost solely on yourself.

I don’t think there’s any job that comes with more scrutiny than that of a professional athlete and college (for a big-named division I football or basketball team) or pro coach in America aside from being a law enforcement officer or a member of the military or U.S. government.

Americans love to watch their favorite teams play, but also love to rip their teams’ coach or players if they make a mistake, whether it be on or off the field.

Players and coaches salaries reflect not only the concepts of capitalism with respect to their ability to be replaced by others, but also their thick-skin for the most part in being able to deal with the media in a respectable manner after a loss and taunting fans later on at the deli or the mall.

There’s not too many people out there who deserve their salaries more than professional athletes and pro and college coaches, who are the first to receive praise after a win but also blame after a loss, and yet still perform at a high level despite the tremendous amount of pressure that comes with each game.