Two stories caught my eye on the ESPN website this morning. One is of 22-year-old defensive tackle Dontari Poe, a 6-foot-3, 346-pound "physical freak" whose 4.98 time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine is about to lift him out of abject poverty and transform him into an instant millionaire:
To Poe, that isn't pressure. Pressure is not having food to eat or a place to live. It is watching your big brother carted off to jail on drug and gun charges. It is growing up without a father as an active participant in your life. It is watching your mother struggle to make ends meet. It is living in a dangerous neighborhood in a city where trouble is easy to find, if you want it.
The other headline was of 39-year-old former NFL superstar defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who just five years removed from a 13-year career that earned him 7 trips to the Pro Bowl, 1 Super Bowl ring, and countless millions of dollars, has filed for bankruptcy:
Former NFL star Warren Sapp owes more than $6.7 million to creditors and back child support and alimony, according to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing in South Florida.
Sapp's $6.45 million in assets includes 240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500; a $2,250 watch; and a lion skin rug worth $1,200.
It's almost a cliché.
I know that the NFL and other professional sports leagues provide incoming players a little financial counseling, and for those who play long enough to vest, a small pension. But that isn't enough. I'm not sure what the exact solution would be, but many of these young men are clearly unready to responsibly manage their windfalls, and so the league—which profits so enormously from their players' brief careers—has an obligation to do a better job of preparing them for the perils of sudden fortune, and the sudden loss of income that follows.