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By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
I was reading an article about a few NHL players who were playing in the UHL the same day the NHL canceled its season. Seems that a former Komet player and a few fans interviewed for the story were a bit perturbed at this development. Why come down to the UHL and take a job away from a hockey player who probably could use the cash when the NHL player is supposedly standing up for his rights by NOT playing was one of the concerns. I would have to agree with this.
Iíll confess: I hate professional athletes. Were it not for their athletic ability, they would be working at some crap job. But because they can shoot a puck, hit or catch a ball, run fast or beat the crap out of someone, they are worthy of getting millions of dollars a year. Some may consider them entertainers. Fine. Watching Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky back in the day was pretty amazing. But in the end, they never cured cancer, cared for a parent with Alzheimerís or taught a child to read. They played a GAME, albeit better than anyone else, but make no mistake, what they did was childís play.
For them, the saying, ďdo what you love, the money will follow,Ē was absolutely true. Both of these athletes and several others were fortunate enough to make it to the big leagues. They made more money in a single year than the average North American will make in a lifetime. And they did it doing something they loved. That makes them doubly fortunate.
However, I wonder about the motive, the true motive the NHL players who are slumming in the UHL have. Do they really, really want to play? Are they trying to keep in shape? Or do they really want to have their cake and eat it too? I canít imagine an auto worker who is on strike going to another plant just to install a few transmissions for the hell of it. Or to ďkeep in shape.Ē That auto worker is striking for a reason; either for higher pay or to retain benefits or to right a perceived wrong.
I imagine the NHL players are trying to do the same thing. So if they are truly not playing because they want more money or whatever it is they want, they should not play in the UHL. Period. If they want to feel useful, let them volunteer their time by having them organize after-school hockey camps for kids or by offering skills seminars for adult hockey enthusiasts.
Some people might argue that athletes canít work their trade for as long as a regular working person can. A professional athlete may only work 1 year, or as long as 15 years, depending on injuries and how long it takes to complete a stint in drug rehab. True, but anyone making $1 million a year for say, 10 years is making a LOT of money. With some money management techniques, the athlete should be able to squirrel away a good portion of that scratch, so that when the inevitable happens, he has a cushion of money. And whatís so sad about an athleteís career ending anyway? Itís really no different than some ordinary worker who has been downsized by a plant closing, or some other cost-cutting measure. The ordinary worker has to decide what to do next: find similar work, go into a different line of work, or return to school. The professional athlete also has to decide what to do next. He, however, is more fortunate than most people. He has fame, connections, and hopefully, a solid financial future. Millions of people who are forced out of their jobs donít have any of that.
Iíve written for the past several years, sometimes for free, sometimes for a little bit of money. A few times, Iíve paid to have my stuff published. Why do I do it? Because I love to write. I do it because itís a part of me. No one is paying me millions to say whatever the hell I want. Thatís probably not going to change. But I still continue to write because itís important to me. Paid, or unpaid, Iím still going to write. And I wish the professional athletes would realize how lucky they are to be paid for playing; for doing something they love, and to shut the hell up.