I engaged myself in conversation with a father and son the other day. At least I believed them to be father and son. The younger gentleman bore a striking resemblance to the older fellow sitting to his right but I didn’t pry into the details of their relationship, nor did it ever come up.
Football highlights were being broadcast on the big screen behind them; the recurring highlight du jour was Odell Beckham’s Spiderman-like catch from the evening before.
If you haven’t seen it yet, it was one of the most insanely acrobatic NFL catches we’ve seen in years.
I pointed out that ESPN was showing the replay and asked if they had seen it yet.
The father, a gentleman in his mid-to-late-40s brushed it off, telling me that the boy was far more interested in that sort of thing.
The kid, his demeanor a little more cheery, had in fact seen the catch. His eyes lit up upon watching it once again recognizing the difficulty of such an accomplishment.
As SportsCenter is prone to do, they continued to show the replay numerous times from every angle known to man. This time around, it was worth it. That’s when I heard the old man mutter something along the lines of “Imagine that. We’re talking about a guy getting paid millions of dollars to make a catch he’s supposed to.” I’m not quite sure those were his exact words but the vitriol was unmistakable. And for the record, neither the boy nor I mentioned anything about salary in our conversation, merely how impressive the catch was. Note: Beckham, a rookie, will make $1.9 million this year.
A silence came over us, his comments we let slide. Until he brought it up again angrily and entirely unwarranted. By this point, I had removed myself from the conversation but the father went on, repeating how he couldn’t believe athletes are paid that kind of money “to play a kid’s game.”
Clearly this gentleman was not a sports fan.
I left the conversation alone, to each his own. I get that there are a fair number of Americans who feel they’re underpaid and who are also upset with the exorbitant salaries some athletes make to “play a kid’s game.” It’s not my place to convince anyone who is worth what to whom, especially if they fail to understand the value a superstar athlete brings to a franchise, city or community but let’s put it this way. The Lakers aren’t losing money on Kobe Bryant.
That’s when the boy chimed in, talking back rather surprisingly to his old man. Even he sensed his father’s bitterness. It was hard not to. The two proceeded to get into a fair debate about the catch, the ability to accomplish such a feat and an athlete’s unique ability to draw a salary for doing so. I finally declared the conversation won by the lad when he asked whether his father could so such things. The elder gentleman replied “Of course not, I’m old,” as if his shortness, whiteness and inherent lack of athleticism could be cured with the help of twenty years, a DeLorean and some plutonium.
I played a fair amount of sports in my day. I was good at some things and not so good at others. I made my fair share of one-handed grabs on the baseball diamond and timely jumpers and rebounds on the basketball court. What I lacked in grace, I made up for in effort but I would never in a million years pretend I could make a leaping grab like the one Odell Beckham made on Sunday night. Not even with a spring board, stickum and a whole lot of luck. And a DeLorean.
The father-son debate continued, healthily and constructively, with the father resentful and the son trying to convince him otherwise. I let them be.
We’re never going to get to a point in this country where we feel tens of millions of dollars constitutes justifiable contracts, not when so many of us live paycheck to paycheck. I understand why so many are resentful of that. But if we just take a second to embrace the skill with which it takes to play these games and not concern ourselves about the salaries, we might just enjoy them a little bit more.
Are you not entertained?