How athletes go broke

This question popped up in one of the news magazines last week: Why do so many star athletes go broke? According to Sports Illustrated, 78 percent of NFL players are bankrupt or in financial trouble within two years of their last game.

About 60 percent of NBA players are broke five years after they retire.

The article goes to great lengths to explain why this happens. These guys are young. They earn so much so quickly they never learn how to manage money. Their careers are short.

These things are true. But the article left out the most common reason why big-time athletes go broke. So many of them are not too bright. I guess it is impolite to say this.

Let us be realistic. Few of these guys get degrees during their college playing years. Many of the few who do, get them in basket weaving. Or playground management.

Now, you might say that they are not too smart to turn their backs on their educational opportunities. I suspect that sentence should be shortened to “They are not too smart.” A lot of them cannot spell “playground.”



They are not too smart to let the colleges use them as fodder. While they make money for the school, the colleges care about them. After that, they don’t know their name. Well, a lot of the former players don’t know the name of the colleges either.

These guys are not too smart to let NFL teams abuse them. Surely someone tells them along the way that the average career in the NFL is only a few years. And that having your bell run as much as Big Ben might damage your health.

They are not too smart to blow all the money that comes their way while they are playing. Not too smart to ignore the advice their agents give them. Not too smart to invest millions in their cousin’s bowling alley for gay dyslexic seniors.

If you think I exaggerate, consider the typical interview with a pro football or basketball player. “Well, like I say, we come out to win today and, you know, when you come out to win, like, it ain’t a big surprise, like, when you win. You know what I mean? I mean, like, we come out to win today.” Can you imagine a guy who speaks like this understanding a plan for managing his investments?

By the way, please do not bring this column to the attention of any of these guys. I do not want to stir up things with a 400-lb guy who crushes quarterbacks on weekends.

And one of these guys is Mike Tyson. He made many many millions. The tally was probably higher than Mike can count. You know, like, twenty or thirty million. It would be the twenty or thirty that would confuse him. At any rate, Mike lost it all. And Mike can still murder someone with two punches. So mum is the word.

Maybe I am being too hard on these guys. After all, huge percentages of lottery winners go broke. My guess is that over half of people who inherit a bundle or win big settlements go broke.

You would hardly think that possible. People collect $3 million per year for 20 years from lotteries.. At the end of the flow of checks, they are broke. If you win a lottery you are twice as likely to go bankrupt than if you don’t win. Figure that one out.

If you can, you are smarter than me.

From Tom ... as in Morgan.

Find Tom on Facebook. For more columns and for Tom’s radio shows (and to write to Tom): tomasinmorgan.com.

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