Play hard or pay up

By Jeffery Armstrong

I was talking to a good friend of mine recently and we had an interesting conversation. She is not a huge sports fan, but as a native of southern New Jersey, she does follow Philadelphia sports teams, especially the Philadelphia Eagles football team.

She has a problem with professional athletes and the amount of money they make. She thinks they make too much while the average working man and woman has to scratch and claw to get everything.

She doesn't care when I tell her that many of these athletes deserve the money they make because they have incredible talents. She thinks they don't do enough for society to earn that much money and therefore she is less tolerant of them. So if any of these athletes, especially the male ones, makes mistakes in game situations, she's harder on them than any sports talk show host or newspaper columnist could ever be.

My friend Kimberly's latest tirades deal with hitting these athletes where it hurts the most n their wallets. She said athletes should be subjected to "monetary accountability" for mistakes. Monetary accountability means if athletes makes big mistakes in a football or basketball game, they should be fined for them and that should eliminate those mistakes in the future.

Miss a game-winning field goal? Kim says the kicker loses $5,000. Drop a critical third-down pass? The receiver loses $10,000. Miss a dunk in a key basketball game? That's about $3,000.

Kim lives in Washington, D.C. and she sees what happens with the Redskins on a regular basis. She does know that the ?Skins lead the league in false starts. Kim's solution to stop the false starts? Hold the offensive line's game checks. She feels if they lose a check, the o-line will concentrate more. The scary thing is that if Kim was a team owner, she'd enforce these fines. She really would n she is that serious.

When Kim first brought the "M.A." proposal to me, I laughed hard at her and told her how preposterous that sounded. But as I look at how some of these NFL teams are playing, especially the Falcons (and yes, even my Steelers), I find myself strangely leaning toward her way of thinking. What if athletes in all pro team sports were fined for critical mistakes? For years, athletes have gotten away with flubs on and off the field of play. In the real world, non-athletes are subjected to harsh punishments if they make serious mistakes on the job. If athletes lose games on the court or on the football field, it's usually the coach who gets fired. Why not fine the players who have accounted for the losses?

Sunday and Monday provided some "M.A." moments. Pittsburgh tied the Denver Broncos at 14 late in the fourth quarter. Denver was driving and at a key point in that drive, Pittsburgh safety Brent Alexander dropped a sure interception. Four plays later, Denver kicks the game-winning field goal. If Alexander is fined for that drop, does he do that again? And the Falcons better be glad that Kim wasn't the team owner during that debacle Monday night at St. Louis. If she was owner, many of them would be moving out of their mansions and into HUD homes this year.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the News Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.