The Curious Reaction to the $102M Contract

Pittsburgh’s football future is secure – at least at quarterback.

Ben Roethlisberger agreed to the richest contract in Steeler history — a reported $102M. It’s a staggering sum by any stretch of the imagination and while it is unprecedented in Pittsburgh, he becomes the 6th NFL passer to break the $100M mark — a club that includes the currently incarcerated Michael Vick.

However, today’s blog is not about breaking down the QB’s contract nor whether it will help or hurt the Steelers in the long run. This is about the reaction of you — the average resident — to the windfall and what it means to you.

After covering sports for more than a decade, it was always curious to me how fans internalize and personalize the money that athletes make. The same held true yesterday. There were people saying it was too much money and that Ben was not worth it, or how can one man make so much money.

First of all, when Ben says it’s not about the money, it is about the money. No professional athlete does this for the love of the game anymore. Even Tom Brady, who took a pay cut to help his team sign other players, has a $60M contract.

Second, if the team is paying Ben $102M, how much do you think the Rooneys are making? People, let’s remember the Steelers are a profit-making venture and they would not take a loss to keep anyone. Owners in general who pay out these huge salaries can afford to do so. Thus, let’s not demonize the athlete with the small window of opportunity who wants to cash in. If someone offers you $102M, what would you say?

Third, the question always comes up: is anyone worth $102M? Who am I to say? As long as someone is willing to pay $102M, then I guess there is someone worth the money. Look, it’s not your money. I don’t care if you are a season ticket holder, the money is not yours to spend and if you are offended by the amount of money these players are getting there is a way to stop it. Do not go to games and do not watch on TV. That would bring salaries down in a hurry.

Finally, our priorities have always been a little out of whack as a society. We live in a world where we pay the people who play games more than those who care for our children eight hours a day. Something about that ratio doesn’t seem right, but I doubt it will ever change in our media- and entertainment-driven culture. I just don’t see anyone paying a teacher — no matter how good he or she is — $102M.

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