JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Playing for pay

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So the wife and I host a bi-monthly podcast, The Sports Parent. You can check it out here. In fact, please check it out here.

Our latest episode concerns an issue that particularly fascinates me. Namely, the paying of youth athletes in exchange for accomplishments. Yes, this happens.

Exhibit A: Our son Emmett is 10, and just wrapped a season with the Cowboys. Although the team failed to win a game, it was a wonderful year, highlighted by an amazingly optimistic coach and Emmett’s emergence as the team’s starting quarterback. There was one child in particular who routinely made people smile. He was a big, jolly lug of a boy—always grinning, always optimistic, never down. And while he was probably the least-talented member of the Cowboys, he was the one we all rooted for the most. You could not not love this child.

Anyhow, before one game the boy’s dad (who, for the record, was really nice) told me he offered his son $20 for every pulled flag.

“Whoa,” I said. “Twenty bucks. Can I be your son?”

“I think it’ll motivate him to do better,” he said.

Hmm …

I loved this dad. I loved his child. I hated this idea. It just seemed … what’s the word? Corrupting.  This boy was pure innocence. He played for fun and joy, and worried not about being subpar. Hell, I don’t even know if he was aware that his play was subpar. Then, suddenly, Pop’s reminding you with his financial offer to improve and step up.

Again, I hated this idea.

Take a listen to The Sports Parent. Tell me what you think …

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