The sports pages have long been a welcome respite from the day’s harsh realities.
Our shared American experience was once filled with inspiring stories that ran the gamut from Ted Williams going off to war to a flu-ravaged Michael Jordan refusing to lose.
Of course, in recent days we’ve been treated to drug suspensions in the NFL, a horrific crash in a NASCAR race and a “franchise player” injuring his hand while shooting off fireworks.
But in among the trouble was an item about an NBA player named David West signing a “minimum” $1.4 million contract to play with a star-studded lineup in San Antonio. What makes it remarkable is that the 34-year-old opted out of a deal that would have paid him $10.8 million more to continue playing in Indianapolis. “Nap town” jokes aside, that’s quite a premium for avoiding a state income tax.
Sports talk radio went nuts. What agent let West leave all that money on the table? They’ll both regret that for years to come. Yada yada.
But West apparently knows just what he’s doing. He made a boatload of money in previous contracts and is essentially paying $10 million for the privilege of playing in a situation he thinks will be a fun, championship experience.
He’s not the first. His new teammate, Tim Duncan, has routinely taken less to help improve the talent around him, winning five titles along the way. Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony went the other way and took the money — and the losses.
Which brings us to the point — when is enough enough?
Last week, the Business Press ran a list of highest paid executives at local companies. That raised that question for me. West’s decision just put a fine point on it.
Michael Leven exited as president of the Las Vegas Sands and walked away with more than $68 million.
Two of the nation’s richest men — Warren Buffett and Bill Gates — have been giving away money with both hands for much of this century.
So is the winner really the person who dies with the most toys?
I’ve never worked on that theory and that’s one reason I’ll be rooting for West next winter.