Friday, May 22, 2009

Financial figures startling


Maybe it didn’t surprise you, but a March 23 article in Sports Illustrated by Pablo S. Torre astounded me.

Titled “How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke,” the piece revealed the following:

• By the time they have been retired for two years, 78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

• Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60 percent of NBA players are broke.

• Numerous retired major-league baseball players have been similarly ruined, and the current economic crisis is hitting some active players as well.

It long has been no secret that many professional athletes mishandle their money or fall prey to others either stealing it or throwing it away under the guise of helping a jock “handle” his wealth. But the percentages presented by Torre in his SI article made me gasp. Too much too soon? Boy, do those figures substantiate that notion about so many sports figures.

First time I realized that naive, gullible and good-hearted athletes can be financially ruined by leeches and hoods was when boxing legend Joe Louis wound up as a doorman at a Las Vegas casino just to make enough to eat and clothe himself. He encountered one tax problem after another trying to extricate himself from his constant money morass. Despite all his ring achievements and World War II military service, Joe became just another down-and-outer unable to pay his bills.

But Louis and athletes of the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s never were favored by the incredible contracts that were to come. Remember when Alabama quarterback Joe Namath signed that “obscene” $400,000 contract with the New York Jets in 1965? Joe was one of those high rollers who got taken time and again. No matter how much he made, he was always having trouble because of the willingness of his “buddies” to take care of him.

Then there are those sexual disasters where the Shawn Kemps and Travis Henrys seem bent on becoming the fathers of their country, with innumerable kids they never really support, or whose mothers they never marry, or help.

Kansas University’s famed Wilt Chamberlain never married. Friends say a big reason was he noted how many of his basketball acquaintances got wiped out by castoff females and was determined not to fall into the same trap. Far as we know, he never did.

Superstars like baseball’s Brooks Robinson, Rollie Fingers and Tony Gwynn, football’s John Unitas and basketball’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had massive money troubles. There’s always somebody trying to get a hand in a celebrity’s pocketbook, and the success rate for such raids is incredible.

KU has had some touch-and-go stories for ex-jocks, although I know of nobody peddling pencils on the street corner. KU currently has 11 NBA guys making all the way from Darnell Jackson’s $442,114 to Paul Pierce’s $18,077,903 per year, and we can only hope they are dodging the crooks, scam artists and nutty family types.

Maybe the guy laughing the hardest is Greg Ostertag, who in 11 years in the NBA had a salary total of some $48.5 million. Evidence is he’s managed it well, even if he never was a major headliner. Gotta admire him for that.


Jonathan Allison 10 years, 8 months ago

Probably only Kansans and Utah Jazz fans know who Greg Ostertag is. Kansans as we all know are generally honest and good folks, and I suspect there is a high percentage of Jazz fans who are highly moral religious people (Morman). But that doesn't diminish the fact that Ostertag is very smart and capable of tracking and managing his finances. He probably doesn't surround himself with people who have lots of needs (needs as in "Hey Greg, hook me up. I need a Mercedes Benz").

NH_JHawk 10 years, 8 months ago

I'm not overly surprised by this. This happens to a lot of celebrities as well as average citizens and is not a unique issue to the sports world. This article is just another example that underscores the need in this country to incorporate teaching financial literacy in school, starting at an early age. Pretty much every generation since WWII has treated debt way too casually ( card debt) and doesn't appreciate the value of earning a dollar or paying cash for things as the people did who lived through the Great Depression. Thrift is now "in" again with the current economic situation, but has the average American really learned their lesson?

speedy 10 years, 8 months ago

perhaps a required coarse by the ncaa should be on money. that is required the first sesmester of univ. that way one and dones would get some educ. about what was coming. in fact a similar coarse should be req. for everyone in school! include all of the various con games out there.

easyfive 10 years, 8 months ago

I bet it is not just athletes!

Maybe Bill and Mark should have the guys take an extra math class. The Jerk, (Steve M) sent 10% back home to mom and dad, saved his a$$.

Am ready for football to start.
Mayer, see what Mark and Bill are doing now days. If, not too personal.

Phil Perry 10 years, 8 months ago

A Column about an article in a magazine....................running short on ideas? LJW.......maybe just post a link to the original material.

Rian Ankerholz 10 years, 8 months ago

It is tiresome to see disparaging remarks about Mr. Mayer's (and the other professional contributors') choices of topics. Just like ice cream flavors, some topics and articles are better than others. Generally, I only buy or read the ones that interest me. It would be constructive to add an alternative topic suggestion if you must criticize the current one. I realize that is harder than throwing rocks at the one already on the site, but you might surprise us with your originality instead of boring us with negative comments.

Rian Ankerholz 10 years, 8 months ago

Mr. Mayer and LJW sports writers:
May I suggest a column or two about NCAA recruiting and coaching rules. Even though I have been a KU fan for many years, I don't have much insight on the book of seemingly arcane NCAA rules. The only time I hear of a rule is in terms of a specific violation.

Maybe the Compliance staff can give an idea of the most difficult rules to enforce.

Give us a calendar of when recruiting contacts are allowed.

How many home/school visits are allowed?

Can student athletes accept (bona fide) jobs from alumni? What restrictions apply?

I have heard of recruits getting several letters a day from an interested school? Does it happen? Which staff positions on the low end of the totem pole get that job?

Now that it is summer, what are the player/coach contact rules? Is it allowed for all the players to practice with/without a coach present? Does it have to take place off campus? What if only the strength coach is present?

This down time in the summer could be put to good use in educating fans. It might even prevent some rules violations.

Thanks in advance. Lawyahaw

Rian Ankerholz 10 years, 8 months ago

I know; Lawyahawk has a typo. Proofread proofread proofread.

Phil Perry 10 years, 8 months ago

I'll let the professionals pick the topics. I don't pretend to be a writer, I'm a reader and will continue to post a comment when the effort appears lazy.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.