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When I first saw the headline “Miami Dolphin Players forcing Rookies to buy them Expensive Items,” I thought it was some clever columnist making a comparison to Obamacare. It had to be a parody!
I spent 17 years as a sportscaster, 10 of them in Miami. During my tenure, I watched Don Shula and Bobby Beathard build the 1972 “perfect team.”
I – or one of my colleagues – was there for every practice. I ate lunch with the team. I was there for every game. I knew each player personally.
I know how hard it is to make a team and even harder to remain on one.
Hazing is a part of college life in general and sports in particular. It was only natural that some of it carried over to professional sports. However, there is a big difference between making the rookies sing their school’s fight songs, carry equipment and clean out lockers and shaking them down for cold hard cash.
My least favorite day was cutdown day. My boss would send me to camp early to see who was packing up and leaving before those cuts were announced. My job was to interview those players on the worst day of their lives. I hated that.
One thing I discovered is that the players who were most likely to be cut were often the least prepared for life after football.
Even a moderately successful pro player is at a disadvantage when it comes to making a living outside of sports. When it comes to marketing the skills learned in college a few years down the road, a pro player, unlike his classmates, has no business resume. Also, his knowledge is stale and often outdated.
The average length of an NFL career is 3.5 years. Even for rookies who are on a team’s opening day roster, it is only six years. You need four years in the NFL to be eligible for a pension, which does not kick in until age 65.
The base salary of an NFL player is $400,000. That’s is a lot of money, even after the government and the agent get their cuts. Nevertheless, the wise ones don’t spend all that money. They invest, knowing that lean times are coming when their playing careers are over.
Unfortunately, most players live large and deny the inevitable.
It is one thing for a player to squander his money and take his chances, but to live large at the expense of these vulnerable rookies is unforgivable. It is an outrage. Any fair-minded person can see that.
It is the same with Obamacare. The president made a big deal about taking care of our young people by allowing them to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26 – but not so fast!
What Obama didn’t tell these young adults is that once they are out on their own, they will be paying three to four times what they would have paid before. Young adults require very little, if any, health care. Before Obamacare, the policies for young people were dirt cheap, easily affordable.
As young adults now make the transition to the job market and independent living, they are hit with insurance bills they can ill afford because insurance companies are no longer able to “rate them” based on the true amount of health care consumed by their age group.
In short, the young, who are just starting out and can least afford it, are expected to pay more than their fair share in order to foot the bill for older, more affluent adults. This, too, is an outrage and any fair-minded person should be able to see that!
We older Americans had a chance to purchase insurance while we were young and healthy, and if we paid those premiums, we were not – as some were led to believe – kicked off when we got sick. But some, like those NFL players, were living large with little or no preparation for what tomorrow would bring.
While these sick Americans deserve our compassion, they should not have the right to buy insurance at the same rate as those who signed up when they were young and healthy and have been paying their premiums year after year.
The answer is to make insurance portable, like it is for the NFL player changing teams, and let the free market work. We also need risk pools – many states already had them – where those with pre-existing conditions can buy insurance at higher but reasonable rates.
There are many problems with our health-care system. However, we cannot and should not solve them by shaking down the young.