THE VALUE OF AN ATHLETE – OFF THE FIELD

Most of us are tired of these over paid, spoiled pro athletes who whine.  You know the sort – their salary is not $40M a year so they are gonna sit in their agent’s office or better yet a high priced toy ie: a yacht til they get their way. 

Excuse me Mr. but that is not the way it should be.  You are very blessed to have arrived on the earth during the age of high pay for an athletic achievement.  It was not that long ago athletes made very little if any.  

Tennis is one example.  Rod Laver, who won the calendar year Grand Slam not once but twice decided to go pro and thus missed a number of years of competitive tennis.  It was not until 1968 the world of tennis opened its arms and wallets to pro athletes.  The facts of under the table pay outs well known.  Rod returned as did many others.  The pay was pennies compared to today when a Grand Slam championship is worth millions on and off the court.  Endorsements often surpass the prize money.

Pro sports is big business.  Attending a game can cost you a week’s salary by the time a ticket is purchased, parking is paid and a bag of pop corn helps you enjoy the game.

We hear of the surly jocks whose antics are splashed across the pages of the news.  However there are others – those whose sterling examples make us glad we are indeed privileged to watch them run with a football or throw a fast ball.  I will mention two:

Many years ago in Houston a mother wrote a letter to Channel 13 and Marvin Zindler.  Her young son was very ill and he wanted more than anything to meet his hero, football great Earl Campbell.  

 The letter was urgent as her son was dying. Marvin contacted Earl who took the time to honor a  child’s request. Earl went to the young man’s home.  Earl sat beside the young man whose small hand gripped Earl’s and for an hour they visited.  Earl signed a jersey, posed for photographs and truly made that child’s life happy. He promised to keep up with the young boy, even offered to pay any medical cost.

Several months later Earl stood before a crowd in a church and spoke of the young boy whose life had touched his own.  The coffin before Earl marked the end of a young life whose angelic face had a look of peace and whose body was covered in part by a football jersey.  Earl paid for the funeral.  His giving heart surely broken that day.

Another example would be baseball great Nolan Ryan.   

A friend of mine and I frequented Astro games and would wait beside the exits in hope of obtaining an autograph from a player.  Most of the time the Astros would whiz by and not stop.  The only one I ever saw who did was Nolan Ryan.  He would get out of his Mercedes and sign autographs for fans.  He did more than that.  

The Orbiters was the Houston Astros fan club.  It’s president was ill and eventually died.  Among the mourners was none other than Nolan Ryan who took the time to honor a fan.  He chose to honor those who honored him.   He proved he was more than a great player.  He proved he much like Earl never forgot where they came from.  

Hopefully these millionaire misfits will take a leaf out of Earl and Nolan’s book and create a masterpiece off the field as much as on.  

The career of an athlete is short – rarely more than ten years.  It is hoped what they do afterwards will be as meaningful as their careers.  It is hoped they will share and truly learn to appreciate those who appreciate them.  

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Filed under Channel 13, Earl Campbell, Houston astros, Houston Oilers, Marvin Zindler, Nolan Ryan

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