What Are We Worth?
I just saw one of the largest purges in professional sports. The Chicago Cubs traded many of their highest paid players who were on a terrible losing streak and plummeting towards last place in their division.
I was sad to see these players go. Some were instrumental in winning the Cubs’ first World Series in 108 years. But since 2016, they had underperformed and were now becoming free agents and looking for humongous contracts, while being either hurt or performing at a very average rate.
I have read many articles decrying what the Cubs management did and how they screwed these players. It was hard for me to imagine being paid millions of dollars and being screwed, but that is what the writers said. They also called these players superstars.
Growing up, I saw players such as Mickey Mantle, Al Kaline, Stan Musial and on and on, batting .300 plus each year while hitting 40 home runs and driving in 100 runs. To me these were superstars, not people hitting .240 and striking out 200 times, especially when the game was on the line. I am amazed at how low the bar is now set on who is called and superstar and what it takes to get a $100 million plus contract.
And it isn’t just in baseball that this is happening. Recently, a number of NBA players signed 4 year $200 million contracts. While they put up some good numbers, few are on championship teams. So they are paid astronomical salaries and produce no championships. I believe their teams could achieve the same results without them, while saving millions of dollars each year.
It seems that as a society we have placed a high value on things that ultimately don’t seem to matter all that much. In the end, what is the value of hitting, throwing, or catching a ball? How many lives are improved by any of those things?
I participated in sports most of my life. I was pretty good at various sports. I was not an upper echelon athlete for sure, but I was a good player. I was always impressed by the physical skills of the top players. But I never hero worshipped them, then or now. If the team I root for wins a game or championship, great. If they don’t, it doesn’t affect my life or others (Other than their team mates and themselves) in any way.
I don’t begrudge pro athletes a good living. They are good at what they do. They are the best. But at some point I have to stop and say, “Millions of dollars for what?”
I then started looking at people that are making a difference. They work hard every day, contributing their skills and efforts to helping others and making a real difference in people’s lives. Their pay is a fraction of what an athlete or entertainer is. They didn’t score a goal or basket. Instead, they save a life, design a new valuable product or drug, or help others to achieve their dreams.
And we rarely, if ever, hear their names or know who they are. Their worth is usually determined by a system that says they can only earn so much or it disrupts the carefully constructed curve. And if their earnings get too high, they may be replaced by a younger, less experienced person who will work for less money.
I realize that this one article will not change things. We are in a world that makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. Instead of setting the bar higher, it has been significantly lowered. And that is touted everywhere. That is a tough thing to overcome with this one small writing.
But, it is a start. Hopefully you will read this and pass it one. You will agree that over blowing small if not insignificant accomplishments helps no one and serves no purpose. And ignoring those who are accomplishing much and getting little or no recognition is a crime. These are the people who make the world a better place. Without them we would not have the many blessing that unfortunately too often we all take for granted.
I do not begrudge those who make a ton of money while contributing little. If you can get someone to pay you a lot, more power to you. What I do resent is that so much is made of them as we are told how brave, talented, risk taking and courageous they are. Hardly something or someone who should get the same accolades as the soldier in combat fighting to protect our freedoms while potentially giving up his or her own life.
That is much more noble than taking the last shot in a basketball game that determines who wins or loses. If you miss, life goes on, no one gets hurt and you are still earning millions of dollars.
So please think about all of those people truly giving of themselves without the proper recognition or compensation. Think about what they sacrifice because they truly believe in what they are doing and are making a difference. We come across them every day. When we do, a small “Thank you” means more than that $100 million contract.
And do not feel sorry that your favorite player left your favorite team because he was undercompensated. He wasn’t. He will make more in one year than almost everyone else in the world will make in a lifetime. Yet they will contribute more to you and your well being without a complaint. They are the true superstars.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peter H. Christian was a founding partner and president of espi, a business consulting firm in Northeastern PA. Previously he was an Executive at Crayola Corporation. He has worked with 300+ clients in business development, profit improvement, operations, IS selection and implementation, and Project Management. He has 40+ years of experience in strategic and facility planning, CI, lean, and supply chain. He has helped companies to realize millions of dollars in cost reductions and profit improvements adding and retaining thousands of jobs. He has authored the Amazon bestselling business books, “What About the Vermin Problem?” and “Influences and Influencers” and is published in a variety of professional magazines.