Making sense out of big dollars

Updated 8/1/2011 8:02 PM

Once the furor over his departure quiets, Olin Kreutz's legacy will be that the NFL's new collective-bargaining agreement officially will be named for him.



My dream during the league's recent lockout featured a news conference revealing where the $1 billion in dispute would wind up.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "Our 32 fat-cat owners will donate $500 million to combat obesity in America."

Players association chief DeMaurice Smith: "Our members realized they owe a debt to society and will donate $500 million to military veterans their age."

Eventually I awoke to the realities of pro sports, punctuated by the number 4 million.

That's how many dollars the Bears offered Kreutz, essentially as a parting gift to play center for one more year.

That's also how many dollars Kreutz turned down because he didn't feel the Bears really wanted him back for a 14th season.

OK, let's review: The Bears have enough cash available to offer $4 million to a player who didn't have a very good 2010 season.

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Meanwhile, Kreutz has enough money banked to turn down the offer on principle because he felt unloved.

Apparently the problem was that the Bears rushed Kreutz, allowing him only an hour to take or leave the deal.

Ask yourself, would you need more than a minute, much less 60 of them, to accept $4 million to stick flaming needles in your eyes, much less to play sports for a year?

That dollar figure is relevant because it fits the formula I long have employed to put professional sports salaries into perspective.

Maybe you have read me rant it before:

If somebody joined the workforce in 1971, remained in it for 40 years and received a tidy average of $100,000 annually, he or she would have been paid



$4 million!

Yes, exactly what the Bears offered Kreutz for one year.

That's a lot of money over a lifetime even today after four decades of inflation. A good guess is you wouldn't have to live in an appliance box under a viaduct on skid row.

Yet the Bears could find $4 million under a couch cushion at Halas Hall. And Kreutz could say, "No thanks."


Some might suggest that $4 million currently is chump change in the NFL.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was applauded last week after settling for a mere $90 million over five seasons.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is receiving condolences for getting only $22 million under his rookie contract because of the league's new labor rules.

Anyway, none of this is meant to condemn either the Bears for offering a declining 34-year-old center $4 million or the declining 34-year-old center for declining it because he wasn't loved enough.

I'm just down here on Earth marveling up at Planet NFL.

Kreutzonomics just seems odd in the context of the world going bankrupt and the United States flirting with default on debt and real people worrying about paying the rent because hardly any job is secure right now.

How neat would this joint news release have been from Kreutz and Bears general manager Jerry Angelo:

"Olin has agreed to play for the veterans' minimum, he'll donate the remainder of $4 million to help pay down the national debt, and the Bears will match his generous gift."

Dream on.