Sports reporters are often like a dumb herd of sheep, heading all in the same direction at once for reasons they don't understand. Here at the end of the NFL season, they've seemingly all decided to salary-shame the players they don't like. After Browns coach Mike Pettine announced today that Johnny Manziel was done for the season, a couple of them dumped on him:
Of course the smarmy-penis-in-chief is doing it, but it's not just Rovell:
It is hard for me to list all of the reasons this is abjectly stupid. The Browns were the ones who decided to draft (and pay) Manziel, and who would happily take the returns if he proved to be worth way more than he was being paid. The Browns were the ones that decided not to play Manziel for the majority of the season. The Panthers were the ones who injured Manziel. Furthermore, if we really want to talk money, how much are the Browns making off of this? Or this? Or this? Or this? And those are just four of the 44 items currently available to purchase on ClevelandBrowns.com when you search "Manziel," not to mention the surely hundreds of times they've licensed out his image to others.
It's not just Manziel that gets this treatment. On Monday night, after the Bears lost to the Saints and Jay Cutler had a particularly poor game, reporters did the same thing to him:
It is mostly accepted in America that the salary you earn is the salary you deserve. But that's bullshit. CEOs earn 331 times more than the average worker, and 774 times more than a minimum wage earner. Sure, (some) CEOs bring a lot of value to the company that your average worker doesn't blah blah blah, but not that much value, and the average CEO certainly doesn't work 774 times harder than the dude at Burger King. Your salary is based on many things. What you "deserve" and how hard you work are part of it, but so is the social class you were born into, which college (if any) you went to, what your race/gender/age/religion is, how lucky you got, etc.
Sports markets are more meritocratic than the American labor market at large, but they're also extraordinarily rigid. The amount of money paid to players in total is set by the collective bargaining agreement they negotiated. This, and the arcane mechanisms by which that total is distributed among players, means that wages often don't correlate at all with ability. Justin Houston is "underpaid" because he is a third-round draft pick still on his rookie contract, while Ndamukong Suh is "overpaid" because he was signed when rookies still got huge contracts. Pro sports involve hierarchical salary systems that serve to deflate the overall amount of money paid to players, and to decrease their leverage. They have very little to do with "value," whether that is judged as results on the playing field or otherwise.
If you want to criticize Manziel and/or Cutler, offer a real argument. Write about how they failed in their jobs on the field, or about how their backups are better suited to succeed, or how they couldn't properly execute game plans, or how they're on the decline and aren't the player they once were/aren't suited to the pro game/whatever. That's all perfectly fine, and potentially illuminating. Instead, we have reporters who may be bitter because they got stiffed once, or are mad that they earn a fraction of the players they report on, or who just don't understand the most basic things about the economic structure of the industry they cover, gleefully smarming on players when they aren't doing well for the dumbest possible reason. Fuck that.
Photo via Grant Halverson/Getty