Belly-up pro athletes are among the world's saddest washouts, in part because you can't blame them for their own gruesome collapses. It’s a surreal deal: You’re invincible as a kid, invincible as a young man, a millionaire before you know how to file your own taxes and then an undereducated, slow-moving target for anyone hunting money. Or as writer Ben Austen describes NFL players in his piece just out in GQ, they’re “barn-sized marks for any underhanded scammer or well-meaning bumbler.”
Austen hung out with several players who are trying not to become the next broke-dick sob story. (Cautionary tale cited: Warren Sapp and his $1,165.35 in savings and checking against debts of $6.7 million.) His account works out to an unexpectedly humanizing account of the inner lives of pro athletes, who generally refuse to acknowledge their fears. To enroll in a $99,500 MBA program aimed specifically at NFL players means acknowledging, if only tacitly, the fear that their invincibility has limits.
The story might also give you the distinct impression that despite his intentions to the contrary, Bernard Berrian (pictured at top, left) is going to be punching a clock somewhere 10 years from now. Austen lays out this scene at D.C. steakhouse:
In Minneapolis, Berrian was one of the first football players to test a new mouth guard that previously had been worn only by hockey players. He put money in that company, as well as in a package-delivery business and in a management outfit having something to do with an up-and-coming San Francisco boxer.
He said he was now considering investing in a Minneapolis restaurant.
Jennifer Carter-Scott, who directs the side of STAR MBA that helps people like the McIntoshes start their foundations, overheard Berrian. "Restaurants—not good investments," she cut in.
"I know," said Berrian.
"No profit margins in restaurants," she trilled as a lesson to everyone at the table.
Berrian severed a bite-size parcel from his tract of steak. A minute passed. "I'm going to do the restaurant," he said.
Apparently some four-fifths of NFL players are insolvent within a decade of retirement. This is the peril of ever being exceptionally good at something: It can convince you that you'll be good at whatever you try. If you just learned that you're richer than Warren Sapp, you have your relatively low expectations largely to thank.
Photo credit: AP