When You Stray from What You’re Good At…

Skip over at The Sports Economist points to Theo Epstein’s latest off-field endeavor with his brother, Paul. It’s “A Foundation to Be Named Later,” and it’s designed to help disadvantaged kids. Now, I’m all for this type of altruism, but sometimes I get bothered when people begin to get self-righteous about what they’re doing, especially when they start calling out other people on the basis of misguided logic. This section from the article caught my eye. I’ll go through it in pieces.

Although neither Theo nor Paul view the foundation as a political entity — ”It’s hard to be against helping disadvantaged kids,” Theo says — both brothers acknowledge they are frustrated that programs for children are shortchanged as professional athletes and front-office executives are paid millions for their games.

I couldn’t agree more. I would give a lot of money to any organization that could find new methods to identify and remedy child abuse: economic, physical, and mental. It’s a real problem, and one that’s so hard to correct due to privacy considerations that we all like.

”For me,” says Paul, ”I get angry when I think about the amount of money that’s going to players or is being generated by the clubs. There are very few athletes who do as much as they should in the community.”

So, it’s the athletes’ faults for not giving back to the community? How about all of the millions of fans who spend their money watching sports instead of helping the disadvantaged? Isn’t this where the money comes from? As best I can tell, professional athletes are some of the most generous people I have ever heard of. Maybe the question should be: “why do fans pay my brother’s salary when there is so much suffering in the world?” That is a good question, and I ask a similar question to myself quite often. I feel no guilt enjoying life to some degree, and so should all people. I think sports generate a lot of happiness for people and that’s a good thing. And I feel good knowing that players and owners seem to be generous with their fortunes.

Theo agrees, and even suggests the government might someday want to regulate professional sports.

”Not to offend any libertarians out there,” he says, ”but it’s not outrageous that 50 years from now the government could regulate sports, and basically cap player and front-office salaries and redistribute some of that money to, say, teachers.”

The call for regulation of sports to redistribute wealth in this area is just, bizarre. Why should sports be taxed any different that other types of income? Just because it’s large and visible? That’s a politician’s mentality. And then give it to teachers? Don’t get me started. If we’re going to start taxing leisure let’s eliminate subsidies to sports activities as well as parks, museums, and libraries. The statement “not to offend libertarians” offends me more than his following statement that is supposed to offend this “little-L” libertarian. By it’s nature that statement is opposed to libertarian principles. Don’t apologize for it, just say it. I’m a big boy, and I’ll be happy to disagree without having my feelings trampled on.

With that, Theo tugs on the bill of his baseball cap and takes a deep breath.

”I spend a lot of time thinking about what the hell’s wrong with America, and what the hell’s wrong with the world, and sometimes that results in misguided political discussions,” he says. ”But I don’t think people want to tune in to their local TV station and see their GM talking about much besides baseball.”

As they hustle to get A Foundation to Be Named Later off the ground, the brothers say they are keeping it simple: no highly paid help and no elaborate office space. Whatever they raise during the year, combined with Theo’s personal contribution, will be given entirely to the agencies.

They’re going to start out without highly paid help? Look, if you’re going to help people, hire the best; and, the best don’t come cheap. Giving out money to the right people is actually quite difficult work. Theo, you should know that. The same principles that apply in the players market apply in the philanthropy job-market as well.

I would also like to add, that I commend what the Epstein brothers are doing. And I whole-heartedly support it. Their hearts are in the right place.

Just my two-cents. Rant over.

Comments are closed