Money has always been a part of sports, but it’s increasingly a distraction from what I believe is the real reason we participate in organized physical activities. Setting aside the debates like the one around NIL in collegiate athletics, it seems that our society has lost sight of exactly why we human animals are drawn to sport.
I recently read that when breaking down Giannis Antetokounmpo’s $42,492,492 salary, the Milwaukee Bucks star makes about $21,691 per point scored. Kind of takes your breath away. Some would say that’s the pinnacle of achievement in athletics, and many parents seem to have set a seven- or eight-figure payday as the sole motivation for encouraging their kids to hone their skills on the field of play (despite the fact that only 2 percent of those who participate in collegiate athletics will make it into the professional ranks).
It’s worth asking whether sports would be as popular with kids today if it weren’t for the dream of fame and riches. Fortunately, I think, they would. Participation in sports gives us an opportunity to stretch what we think is possible. Sports offer a safe vessel within which to challenge the human condition, offering us a unique and necessary satisfaction when we overcome the challenges put before us.
But it’s not all about competition. We’re also drawn to the playfulness of sports. There’s an ecstasy inherent in the act of simply moving our bodies. The run, throw, hit, swim, tackle, tumble and twirl of physical activity gets us out of our heads and back into our bodies. This, I believe, is where our industry’s heart resides. The majority of our readers get up every day and do what they do because it brings them joy, and they’re committed to sharing that joy with those around them.
Of course, the paycheck is nice and even necessary, but I think the professionals in the fitness, athletics and recreation industries understand and teach a love of the game — whatever your game may be — confident in the little victories that are achieved when our minds and bodies come together in a single action, regardless of the amount of compensation we’re receiving for the effort.