Monday, February 5, 2007

Back to Basics: Setting America’s Priorities Straight

There is no doubt sports are beneficial in many ways. Playing a sport, like the little leaguers pictured on the right, is not only good for the body, but it can also foster good work ethic, teach teamwork, develop self-esteem, promote sportsmanship, and even reduce depression. Most people would probably say sports are a great part of American culture, and that people who play sports are better for it. To a certain extent, I agree with this opinion. However, I also believe most people do not realize some aspects of sports have evolved beyond the realm of good intentions and become harmful to the American value system.

For instance, athletes live on a comparable level of publicity and stardom to some national leaders. I, frankly, talk about Reggie Bush, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre more than I gossip about President Bush or Osama Bin Laden. How is it that an athlete can be more important to the masses than someone with a nuclear bomb at their fingertips? The answer: American culture is absurdly flawed. True importance and relevance to society, no matter how charitable, cannot compete with the stardom and awe which accompany the world of sports. The priorities of the American people are skewed, and most are completely unaware of it.

Look at the difference in wages between an average professional football player and an average public high school teacher. The NFL
(National Football League) 2005 average player in the league earned about $600,000. Compare this to the average public high school teacher now makes about $40,500. Now compare the impact a professional football player directly has on a teenager to the impact a high school teacher has on the same child. The football player serves as a role model, but normally never directly has contact or influences the child in any way. The teacher, on the other hand, is constantly shaping the child on a daily basis, and has almost as much influence as a parent. The importance of the teacher in the child’s life is much more significant than the influence of the football player. Why, then, are football players paid almost 15 times as much as teachers, when teachers have a direct impact on the children of the future? America’s priorities are all wrong—fame and celebrity are valued over essential jobs, and the salaries of occupations reflect it.

The fact of the matter is: a portion of the money and time devoted to sports should be given to charities, educational funds, and other fundamental groups in need, so that America can help its needy citizens. One average football player’s salary could cover all of the administrative expenses
of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) for a year. If Shaquille O’Neal of Miami Heat in the National Basketball Association (NBA) gave half of his $20 million 2006 salary away, he could fund all of Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust’s (DAV) expenses for more than five years.

Sports, in general, are meant to be positive experiences; and, for the most part, they are filled with benefits for the player and society. Americans have simply taken sports one step too far, in that the once team-centered experience is now an overly commercialized industry. Let us not lose sight of what is important in life, and not spend superfluous amounts of time and money on sports. Instead, we should re-analyze our priorities and use those resources to fix the obvious social problems in America, so that it can become a better place to live.

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