Over the past three weeks, this country has been riveted with the Olympic Games. So many amazing feats have been accomplished, world records set and barriers broken. It’s a lot of feel good stuff. But what I’ve learned more about is that these elite athletes sacrifice more for their sport than we can begin to imagine.
Take Dan Walsh, a US Olympic Team rower. He participates in upwards of 12 practices per week in order to help Team USA take home a gold. But apart from his $8000 year salary (no I didn’t leave off a zero there) he has to take on part time work to be able to make ends meet. And he’s not alone. A distance running couple in Oregon is living on food stamps training for the US trials. Reese Hoffa, a US thrower, (Multi-time World Champion and current Bronze medalist) lives off of $12,000 a year from Nike. Even the top US sprinters find themselves on performance based income, meaning you win and get paid or you’re the first loser.
Sure the US will pay you a bonus if you get on the podium, how does $25,000 sound (oh wait Uncle Sam takes a chunk out of that too). But remember, out of the over 600 athletes that went to the Olympics from the US, only 100 medals were won. Sounds like a lot till you remember that guys like Phelps won six of those, and three other swimmers won five. (that’s 21 if you’re counting).
Athletes like Michael Phelps, Lolo Jones and Gabby Douglas are raking in millions from endorsements. They are the Payton Mannings and the Larry Fitzgeralds, not only because they are marketable but because they are the upper echelon. They are simply the best. (ok Lolo isn’t, but she’s pretty).
I draw this parallel not because it’s exactly the same (maybe it isn’t) but to give another perspective on the case of Mike Wallace, not as a football player but as an athlete. And because NFL players are much the same as any other athete from track to skiiing and cycling, in that they have the passion and love and drive for sport. But how much emphasis are the guys in the NFL putting on the paycheck and the fame? Sure I know the NFL and USA Track and Field are worlds apart, and you can list a million reasons why. But you can’t tell me that an elite runner who puts blood sweat and tears in to 120 mile weeks year after year to have a shot at a four minute dream is any less committed or talented than the average football player in the league. (Dont mistake this for my saying that Galen Rupp should be making 7 figures or that Wallace is not an elite receiver. I merely am trying to shed some different perspective.)
I want Mr. Wallace to realize that he has a good deal, in the scheme of things. He’s got the best team in the nation waiting for him to arrive into Ike’s open arms, (not to mention fans that are still on his side…right?) and the team is willing to give him room and board and a nice little chunk of spending money to catch some balls this year, the thing he LOVES doing… right? When you look at it that way, it seems a little obvious what he should do.