AFTER THE WHISTLE

Money changes everything

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— Cuba Gooding Jr. may have summed up professional sports in one greedy sentence when he coined the phrase "show me the money" in the 1997 movie "Jerry Maguire." In today's world, football players, basketball players and baseball players have made the multimillion-dollar deal a household word. And while the high-priced contracts have become an everyday occurrence in the National Football League, the National Basketball League and Major League Baseball, it seems that today's sporting stars (maybe with the exception of Ken Griffey Jr.) rarely live up to those of yesterday.

Could you even imagine what a Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron would be worth in today's baseball market? What would a football team pay for a Jim Brown or Bart Starr?

Well if those players were in the Extreme Football League, they would make the same as another player. A star will be paid about $50,000 if he plays in every game. A kicker will earn a little less and a quarterback will earn a little more.

I'm not a huge fan of the new XFL. In my opinion, the hype didn't live up to the product. To me, it's a league of has-beens and wannabes who have found one last stage to save their football careers.

It's also a good example of why college players should not come out early.

Wow, just look how far John Elway's heir-apparent Tommy Maddox has fallen. Dan Reeves paid the guy a million dollars his first year in Denver and now he might earn a little more than $50,000 if he plays a full season in the XFL for the Los Angles Xtreme.

But for all the negatives I've seen in the XFL, the one thing they did do right is set a pay scale that should set an example for all sports.

Should professional athletes be paid more than lawyers, doctors and teachers? Personally, I would like to see multimillion-dollar deals for the journalists who cover professional athletes. Hey, maybe even a couple hundred thousand for journalists who cover high school sports. Well I can dream, can't I?

But the fact is that pro athletes are stars and demand high salaries.

Is the XFL going to change this? Doubtful. Once most fans realize that this is the same thing as "strike" football, the XFL will most likely go the same way as the other leagues that have tried to compete with the NFL. I hate to tell Vince McMahon this, but the NFL isn't worried about your new-and-improved league because most of your star players have been around the block and just couldn't cut it.

Sure, the XFL got some huge ratings the first week. The promoters promised more hard-hitting action, less rules and more skin. But what it delivered to the curious sports fans who tuned in was humdrum football and a few new bizarre rules.

Sure, there are going to be a few football fans who sing the praises of the XFL. It's hard to believe, but so is the fact that some people think that the World Wrestling Federation isn't just a big act.

Only time will tell if the XFL and its newfangled pay structure will survive. But, at the very least, it's been a fun experiment in how to start a league on a budget.

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