by Ryan Isley
It seems in professional sports that contracts are no longer legally binding documents, rather they are just a signed piece of paper with no real meaning.
One of the worst parts of professional sports has become athletes who don’t want to play out their contracts despite the fact that nobody forced them to sign said contract. It is as if they lose all perspective of the real world once they sign that professional sports contract.
One of the most talked about instances of this over the past few months was Dwight Howard, who forced a trade from the Orlando Magic despite waiving his opt-out clause that would have made him a free agent this summer.
The latest athlete to forget that they get paid a good amount of money to play a game in Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. In 2009, Jones-Drew signed a 5-year/$31 million contract but most of that money was front-loaded on the contract instead of the more popular back-loaded contract. Now Jones-Drew wants more money because he was the leading rusher in the NFL last season with 1,606 yards.
The problem is that Jones-Drew wants the best of both worlds. When the Jaguars paid him, he had never rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a season, yet the Jaguars were willing to take the gamble and front-load the contract based on expectations. While Jones-Drew has probably passed those expectations, he did sign the contract and should play it out.
Just once, I want to see one of these athletes have to walk in the shoes of another person – one who doesn’t play professional sports for a living.
For example, I have been out of work since October 15 of last year. The company I worked for was run so poorly that you would have sworn they were the Cleveland Indians. In fact, the company was bleeding money so badly that they began pinching pennies tighter than the Dolans. In fact, this is what led to the multiple rounds of layoffs.
Since then, I have been on the unemployment circuit trying to find work while finding a way to make sure all of my bills were somehow paid despite not making anywhere near what I was when I was working. And oh yeah - we were also preparing for a wedding when I was let go.
In the 10 months since I have been let go, I have applied for more than 100 jobs, went on numerous interviews and even have subjected myself to a couple of career fairs. The career fairs ended up being more entertaining than productive, as it was fun to see how some people define the term “professional” in both their appearance and preparation. And yes, that goes for companies as well as job seekers.
While Jones-Drew is bellyaching about making millions of dollars a season, I have sat through multiple interviews where people want to offer me $9 an hour or less to come in and work the wackiest hours they can find. Of course I am holding my breath during those interviews that they don’t offer it to me in the end, because I make more on unemployment but would be forced to take any job offered for fear of losing unemployment.
This isn’t to say that I am trying to work the system, because I am not. Anyone who knows me knows that it is killing me to not be working full-time. But at the end of the day, taking a job making less money than what I get on unemployment - a percentage of what I earned at my last job - is a slap in the face to some degree. I am not refusing to work for a contract that signed, rather looking for a job that makes sense in all aspects.
After I finish my daily search online for open jobs and send out a few resumes or fill out a couple of applications, I check out sites such as ESPN.com and become immediately subjected to stories like that of Jones-Drew or Howard.
So forgive me if I don’t cry any tears or miss any sleep because Jones-Drew thinks he is underpaid this season when he is scheduled to make $4.45 million this season and then $4.95 million in 2013.
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