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Redwood Bark

Redwood Bark

Opinion: Game of green

Paycheck over passion

When I was younger, I constantly thought about my future. I dreamed of becoming a professional athlete simply for my love of baseball. Walking onto the Little League field preparing for my game, I was nervous, thinking my future would be decided in those few hours. At the time, I never realized that sports had a financial aspect and that athletes could be playing for money rather than for their love of the game. But as time has passed, the salaries of professional athletes have skyrocketed, leading people to question their motives and why they play. Is it for the love they developed when they were kids? Or perhaps it’s just for the money and the fame.

Illustration by Ava Stephens

For athletes who have reached the highest levels of their sport, money isn’t always an issue. The best athletes are paid millions of dollars to compete in professional sports worldwide. As someone who loves all aspects of athletics, professional athletes definitely deserve the money they make. Playing sports takes grit, perseverance and determination and can significantly impact mental health due to the immense pressure. With that being said, there is a huge issue with the extremely high pay of athletes: loyalty. Loyalty slips away when athletes get massive contract offers from various teams. As a result, their real love for the sport starts to become a second thought. Athletes must ask themselves… are they playing for the money or the moment?

Take Wes Welker, for instance. In 2012, he was thriving as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets with the New England Patriots. He was at the top of his game, holding numerous Patriots franchise records and playing the best football of his career. When the Patriots offered him $10 million for the following season, Welker declined, choosing to join the Denver Broncos for a $12 million deal instead. While he played reasonably well in Denver, he never reached the heights of his Patriots career. He left a championship-level team in New England for a slightly better contract, raising questions about his priorities.

Another example is Barry Bonds during his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates. A star player, he helped the Pirates reach the National League Championship three years in a row, lifting them out of a longtime slump. However, when Bonds became a free agent, he promptly signed with the highest bidder, the San Francisco Giants. In San Francisco, his reputation degraded to a fraudulent steroid user, never to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Pirates fans loved him, but they will never forgive him for leaving the team during their best years.

Fortunately, some athletes have remained loyal. Mike Trout stands out as a popular example. Despite limited success, he has remained committed to the Los Angeles Angels for 12 years. The team has made the playoffs only once during his tenure and didn’t even win a game. Many wonder if it’s time for Trout to leave Los Angeles, but he continues to earn respect and love from Angels fans for his dedication throughout his time there.

Illustration by Ava Stephens

These examples may be from the past, but they still resonate in today’s sports landscape. For instance, Nick Bosa, a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, engaged in months-long contract negotiations with the team’s front office. Missing training camp and the preseason, Bosa finally secured a deal and became the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. While fans are satisfied, the time that Bosa was off the field to negotiate his contract shows where his priorities lay.

More than their attachment to money, athletes must show their passion and love for the game. Growing up, I played for my dedication and desire to win; that shouldn’t just be a childhood ideal. Pro athletes must emphasize their motive to succeed in and enjoy sports much more than if they can get a bigger paycheck. After all, sports are about intensity, teamwork and overcoming challenges; they’re not just a game of green.

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About the Contributor
Jordan Kimball, Editor-in-Chief
Jordan Kimball is a senior at Redwood High School and is an Editor-in-Chief for the Bark. He enjoys playing sports, traveling and going to the beach with family and friends.