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Disconnect between athletes, real world gets stronger

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  • Athletes like NBA star LeBron James live in a completely different world from the rest of us.

      Athletes like NBA star LeBron James live in a completely different world from the rest of us.
    Associated Press File/December 2010

 
 

Athletes, franchise owners, teams, leagues and the entire sports industry have won.

We pay little attention anymore to the money games they're playing and focus on the field of play.

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The pursuit of Carmelo Anthony by a half-dozen NBA teams is a signal that our wallets might as well be signed over to sports.

USA Today ran a story this week on the estimated annual cost of the American dream for a family of four.

Categories were essential expenses, extras and taxes/savings: The total came to $130,357.

Any prominent sports figure worth his weight in gold nuggets spends that amount of money on wine … weekly.

Don't begrudge them, though. They all populate a business that generates remarkable revenues and the benefit that they don't have to be anything like us.

Every once in awhile events make it impossible to ignore how financially crazy the world of sports is these days.

These events remind me that athletes once lived year-round in neighborhoods along with us common folk.

Then salaries became lofty enough for them to live in middle-class suburbs. Then they moved to the North Shore. Then it was on to downtown condos during the season and gated communities down south during the off-season.

No wonder there's a disconnect between sports figures and sports fans.

The NBA's current game of free agency played by players from LeBron James to 12th men is certifiably goofy. Let's just take Mr. Anthony, which various teams are bidding to do.

He can return to the Knicks for a $129 million contract over five years. Or he can go to the Lakers for $96 million over four years. Or he can come to the Bulls for $75 million over four years.

Am I the only person around here who can't even comprehend how much money that is?

The word "only" is attached to the $75 million figure, which is the most the Bulls can offer under NBA rules.

Seriously, "only" $75 million?

When pro athletes were averaging, say, $1 million per season, it was referred to as Monopoly money.

Well, nowadays athletes sneer, snicker and smirk at Monopoly money. The entire game board is mere child's play in their world.

But let's not lay all this on athletes like Anthony, because sports' entire economic system is obscene.

Individual game Bears tickets go on sale Thursday. Preseason -- preseason! -- seats cost between $81 and $405. During the regular season they range from $106 to $430.

Don't blame the Bears; blame the public because those tickets will be sold faster than you can groan "Chris Conte!"

The Cubs have stunk since the Ricketts family bought the team for $845 million, and if they flipped it they'd walk away with more than a billion.

ESPN reported that the Bulls profited by $61 million last season, second in the NBA to the Lakers $101 million.

Thank you very much, all you jet-setters and courtside-sitters.

Then there's ballpark beer that costs $8. Somebody wants to pay $2 billion for the Clippers. A golfer wins $1 million in an ordinary weekend tournament.

The sports money tree clearly isn't suffering from emerald ash borer, is it?

The USA Today article listed "entertainment" under "extras." Presumably the $3,667 devoted to this category includes attending sports events.

What in the world does less than $4,000 get a family of four during the course of a year? One non-premium game, half a hot dog each, four small soft drinks, a parking spot for the Kia and a late-payment notice on the mortgage?

OK, that's an exaggeration … but not by much.

Maybe the disconnect isn't between sports figures and real people. Maybe it's between unreal fans and the rest of us.

OK, enough.

That mild rant felt good and now I'm ready to go back to being numb to the dollar figures flying around sports.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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