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True heroes of our nation



Published: Wed, September 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



In recent years, professional sports have often made the wrong call, especially when money was involved.

How nice it is to say that this time, in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., they got it right.

While some felt games should go on to show the terrorists that their despicable actions would not change our way of life, wiser heads knew that we needed time to grieve.

You're well aware of how hard it was to concentrate on work and school when the World Trade Center towers were collapsing. Imagine how hard it would be to pitch a baseball accurately or block a charging football player or stop a slap-shot of a hockey puck if your mind was elsewhere.

Averted rebellion: By postponing the games, Major League Baseball and the National Football League spared themselves the embarrassment of players rebelling by refusing to play and/or fly.

Can you blame the players?

Sports and entertainment play a huge role in our culture. Nothing fires our area up quite like the first Browns-Steelers game of the season. Except maybe the second Browns-Steelers game.

But last weekend wasn't the time or place for anything other than a reflection on just how lucky we are to live in the United States of America.

Better job: For those keeping track on the over-privileged scorecard, the athletes are doing a much better job than actors and musicians in doing the right things. Football players in particular were everywhere, donating blood, money and time.

Still, our society would benefit from scaling back how much we reward our entertainers.

About the time when the Vietnam War ended, worship of pop culture heroes took a sharp turn in the wrong direction.

Movie stars began commanding million-dollar salaries per picture. Rock stars signed long-term deals guaranteeing them careers that wouldn't fade. Prices for recorded music and concert tickets soared.

Gold rush: Baseball's free agency triggered a gold rush for pro athletes, many of whom were notoriously underpaid before Curt Flood sued baseball.

Still, as recently as 1996, baseball didn't seem out of line. That's when the Indians' Albert Belle signed a five-year, $55 contract to play with the Chicago White Sox. Eleven million dollars a year to play baseball seemed shocking then. In 2001, it's a bargain.

Last fall, insanity struck when the Rangers brought Alex Rodriguez to Texas for $252 million over 10 years.

High salaries: Before the Sept. 11 attack, fans were wondering what, if anything, baseball owners were going to do about escalating salaries that have created premium-priced box seats in most every major league ballpark.

Today, owners have to be wondering who they are going to get to pay their outrageous prices for luxury boxes.

The corporate world is hurting. Airlines are laying off employees by the thousands. Television networks lost millions in ad revenues last week when the newscasts ran commercial-free.

Perhaps the aftermath of the terror will be a return to a value system that makes more sense. Because when you examine today's salaries, advertising expenses and ticket prices, sports and entertainment need a reality check from a 30-year journey of excess.

Heroes: Fortunately, we have heroes to celebrate. Start with the brave souls who rushed into the Twin Towers to rescue victims and never came out.

Don't forget the passengers aboard the fourth hijacked jet who took back the plane and spared countless lives.

Add to your list the men and women who risked their lives searching the rubble in Lower Manhattan looking for survivors.

And don't forget the men and women of the U.S. military and the reserves who stand ready to go where needed.

We are so lucky.

XTom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.




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