Commentary by Chris Clegg


Reading and hearing of the megabucks earned by movie stars and athletes truly makes the mind boggle.
Basketball and baseball players are signing $100 million plus contracts. Hockey and football players are not as fortunate. They have to get by on only tens of millions. How will they survive?
Rumours abound that Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper may sign the first $500 million contract in sports history in a few years. That’s half a billion dollars!
We may all believe the money these people make is ludicrous. In reality, it is.
For the most part, these athletes and stars are worth every penny they earn. Why? Because it is what we, as fans, demand and support?
If the fans stopped filling the stadiums, arenas and theatres, the flow of money would stop, and the salaries of these people would decrease.
In a perfect world that made sense, it borders on insane to hear a basketball player in Toronto or Portland will made $100 million in four years. Imagine how much $100 million would go into improvements in a Third World country, or even a small town like Falher, High Prairie or Slave Lake.
It just seems so wrong. Why would such a rich and wise society allow this to happen? Why would any well-meaning person in the entire world allow so many to suffer while so few are so rich?
What does it tell about us when we pack the venues to support our actors and athletes? Many on meager salaries on tight budgets shell out to support these salaries.
A few years ago when a Seattle Seahawks fan grabbed a football after an important win. Social media went crazy offering thousands for the football. The man was ecstatic.
The irony in this was the man was unemployed but just shelled out hundreds of dollars for a ticket when he could not afford it. God was smiling on him that day!
There is a lot to be said for a sports team being a vibrant part of a healthy community. Civic pride spills over like a waterfall when the local team wins. In High Prairie, oldtimers remember the glory days of the Regals when winning was commonplace. They still talk about it today. It’s the same for the Falher Pirates and Slave Lake Winterhawks.
The same applies to pro sports teams and the intimate relationships they have with their cities. Imagine what would happen if any Canadian team won the Stanley Cup!
But is it worth the price we pay? Is it worth it to the city of New York or Los Angeles to have a baseball team with a $300 million payroll?
Sports teams do generate tremendous economic benefit. Downtown arenas and stadiums are quickly surrounded by businesses. They know people will arrive at the stadiums, and provide products and services to feed the hungry masses. Just look at downtown Edmonton, now part of a vibrant inner city community.
Sports teams are vital to a healthy community. They trigger economic activity, create jobs, and prosperity for many.
Still, it seems like $100 million to any single athlete is a steep price to pay. The $100 million would go so far toward cancer research or the charity of your choice. Imagine how much $100 million could feed, or the medicine it could buy.
Something here sees amiss. It’s a stark reality of the world we live in.