Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Praise for Antonio Cromartie & The NFL's Responsibility to Prepare Players

The transition for football players from college to the NFL is difficult on many levels.  Players must adjust to a higher level of expectation, an increased level of personal accountability, competition that far exceeds what they are accustomed to, and what I believe to be most important of all, more money than they have ever seen.  With many of the NFL stars coming from impoverished settings the pitfalls that await them financially are numerous.  The temptation to live a lavish lifestyle, and extend financial aid to friends and family are common challenges for most who make a living playing football.  Most fans understandably feel little pity for the players that find themselves in financial distress after making millions, but I find that attitude quite convenient for people who never stood a chance of being in their early 20's with millions of dollars, and in prime physical condition.  I argue that it is the responsibility of all people involved with the NFL to help players transition, and I applaud the two stories that the NFL has pieced together in this video (which is linked again at the end).

Antonio Cromartie Then & Now
Many negatives have been published about Antonio Cromartie over his NFL career.   He has come under fire for his lack of discipline on and off the football field, failure to properly resolve multiple driving infractions, and for his child support troubles which, despite having already earned millions, he needed an advance to pay.  Cromartie will also have his 11th and 12th kids (from 8 different women) this year, and he famously failed to remember all of his children's names in an interview in 2010. All of this has rightfully brought on a great deal of criticism for the star cornerback.  Antonio Cromartie seems to have gotten his life in order, and I am glad that many outlets have covered that side of the equation as well, though I wish the ferocity of coverage on his rebuilt life was as great as it was for his missteps.

Cromartie's agent recognized his problems, and connected him with a business manager, Jonathan Schwartz, who wanted to help.  The actions taken by Jonathan to teach Cromartie to save, plan for the future, and make smarter financial decisions, including allowing Antonio to share his home while training, are commendable.  Cromartie says that more than financial literacy he also learned lessons about fatherhood and family life through the example that he saw.  The life lessons that he can now share with young players who will find themselves facing similar temptations are invaluable.  I strongly suggest watching the video, which does explain Cromartie's financial missteps, but pardon me for spoiling the ending, Cromartie now loves the Prius that he drives daily.  This type of story should be reported more aggressively by the media, and should be more common given the trouble that so many athletes find themselves in.

Jeff Fisher & The Rams Tackle the Problem
The second part of the story focused on the St. Louis Rams' unique approach to helping their new rookies get off to a strong financial start.  The Rams waited as late as possible to sign their newly drafted players, while working to educate them on financial literacy over that time.  The proactive approach that Head Coach Jeff Fisher has taken with these players is exemplary, and it is my hope that all organizations will work as hard to ensure that their players are well prepared as they enter the NFL. Coach Fisher's reasoning clearly includes the desire to see the young men he coaches succeed off of the field, but an added reason to address this issue is brought up as well; "because if there's financial issues, there's going to be on the field issues."  There is no excuse for teams to not dedicate substantial resources towards educating their players on financial literacy.

Wrapping Up (pun intended)
At the end of the day, without much consideration for the circumstances, fans will continue to blame the players for their missteps, and I do not foresee a day where financially troubled athletes will receive much sympathy.  The ultimate burden does in fact rest on the shoulders of the player, but I believe that the NFL should make financial literacy a top priority.

The reality for football players is that they at best have between the age of approximately 22 and 35 to make big money in their profession, and very few of them have a family history that would prepare them for their new life. All players face the possibility of injury, deteriorating skills, and missed opportunities cutting their career short, but it is human nature to expect the best case scenario to work out, and preparing for darker days is difficult for everyone.  If given proper assistance the ultra competitive, often egotistical professional football player has much better odds at lifetime financial security.

From the comfort of our own perspective many athlete's mistakes seem incomprehensible, and the solutions often appear to be simple, but a little empathy for those who have not shared our experiences, and are actually thrust into a world that we believe we could better navigate is in order. The public should also be willing to heap praise on players who have managed to turn their life around just as much as they enjoy lambasting them for their failures. I leave you with my oft-used favorite quote.

"Walk a mile in a person's shoes before judging their soul."

(Click the link below to watch)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

Despite our hypocritical history, today's power hungry politicians, and the flawed system that they are creating, The United States still reigns as the best and most free country in the world. If followed properly, which has NEVER been the case, our founders created documents that outline the epitome of freedom and independence.  At a time that we Americans stand as witnesses to both major political parties tearing our country apart by grasping opposite ends of our social fabric and pulling as hard as possible, lets not forget that we are all in this together.  

Today we celebrate the founding of our great country through the bold decision to declare independence from Britain.  While we celebrate this important day in our history, it is about time that we declare our own independence.   We are not bound to the party lines that currently enslave us.  We need to start questioning the intentions, and motivations of all who desire to put us into oversized boxes. No one should be happy with having an all-inclusive label slapped on them.  

Everyone has their own personal reasons for supporting a given side of any issue, and party affiliation should not be the major part of that equation.  Let us do away with the pettiness, and begin to have some respect for our fellow citizens.  On this Independence Day I challenge you to rethink why you are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or Green. Consider what those parties truly stand for, rather than what they stand against.  Think about how conveniently they take opposite sides of all issues.  How little attention is paid to the issues that tie these parties together, and why?  How much does their system depend on keeping us as citizens at odds, defined by our party affiliation?  

Let's be defined as Americans. In our country we can acknowledge our flaws freely, and work to fix them respectfully, all the while embracing our greatness.  The demise of that greatness can only come from within, but as long as we remember what links us rather than dwelling on what separates us we stand to always be free and independent.  Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, the documents that create that structure is already in place.  The problems we face are real, and using those documents to navigate a much different world may be difficult, but together, Americans can accomplish anything.  

Happy Independence Day!