The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER says: “Sometimes fifty cents can be as outrageous as $119 million…”

July 31, 2011
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Say buddy, can you spare a dime?  Uh, I mean fifty cents?

Say buddy, can you spare a dime? Uh, I mean fifty cents?


The other day I was in line at a burger joint, ordering up a cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake.   It made me feel young, the idea of such a definitively adolescent meal being prepared just for to me.   Cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate shake!” I requested with pride.   I was a kid again.


     But then something happened which made me feel old again.

     On the counter, in a bowl, obviously being offered for sale as “impulse” items for those of us who simply cannot wait ten minutes for the food to be ready, were a dozen or so bite-size “Snickers” candy bars.   And when I say bite-size I mean a bite.   As in one bite.   Make that half a bite.   People, these were really small little candy bars.

     But this is, after all, 2011, and so I prepared myself for an ounce of confection to be priced at two for a quarter, or maybe even a whole quarter.   Fine.   I was game.   The penalty for marrying Gluttony to Impatience, I suppose….

     “How much?” I queried boldly, bracing for reply.   By this time I had resigned myself to it being a whole quarter.   Again, I was fine with it.   I can always come up with two bits in exchange for next to nothing, without it feeling like the end of the world.

     “Fifty cents apiece,” the grinning young girl retorted.

     Suddenly I was transported back to 1962, when a kid like me could procure a gumball for a penny.   I’m a pretty sentimental guy.   I thought I was gonna start crying.

     But then I came back to 2011 and got angry instead.

     “Young lady,” I began, “I know you’re not the owner and I know it’s not your fault, and I know it’s very cliché to lament the rising cost of anything, but this is both sickening and insane,” I said.   She looked at me like I was a Martian.   “This morsel of candy is barely an inch and a half long, if that, and your boss wants half a dollar for it?   Why do you think the bottom fell out of the market in nineteen twenty-nine?” I went on.   The girl was, by now, wearing the most confused facial expression of all time, and frankly looked kind of scared.   But I smiled, so she smiled, and then she tried to make it right by offering me some free blue cheese dressing to dip my sweet potato fries into.   Fair enough.   I soon recovered.

     I wasn’t sure how I was going to weave this fascinating anecdote into the greater fabric of Sports until the NFL lockout ended.   And hey, by the way, isn’t it great???   Football!   It’s back!   America’s great psychotic pastime!   Purpose and meaning given back to the heathen on Sundays!   A chance for me to root my Chicago Bears back to the Super Bowl, and for you to root whatever pathetic team you like in that direction….


     But back to my fifty-cent candy bar the size of my thumb.   After going over in my mind all the twists, turns, variables and vicissitudes of the last four months of labor unrest in the NFL, it hit me.   That microscopic Snickers bar for sale for four bits has a parallel in America’s Big Game.

     Carson Palmer.

     You remember Carson Palmer, right?   Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at USC?   The #1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft?   The head Bengal in Cincinnati the last decade or so?   And regarded as so definitively the future of Bengal football by the team, they gave him a six-year extension to the three years he had left on his contract in 2006, making it a nine-year contract through 2014.   For $119 million.   Dollars.   Give or take.

     Take a breath.

     Is Carson Palmer worth $119 million?   Of course not.   Did he play up to the promise of greatness implied in his contract?   Not even close.   Does that bother me?   Not really.   It’s not my money.   It’s not like that burger joint, who wanted me to actually give them my fifty cents in exchange for two seconds of lingering disappointment.

      So no.   It didn’t bother me….except for one thing.

     With three years left to go on the contract that made him a ridiculously rich man, Palmer wants out.

     Which is fine, on the surface.   The Bengals are a horrible team (thanks partially to him), they’ve had only two winning seasons in 20 years, and they are as dysfunctional a band of jailbirds as the Manson Family, their players, over the last few years, having managed to accumulate as many items on their collective police rap sheet as….well, as Charlie Sheen by himself.   Of course Palmer wants out!   Problem is, he signed a contract.   Tsk, tsk.   How inconvenient.   So he told Bengals owner Mike Brown, in order to force a trade, that unless Brown trades him he is going—at age 31, and smack in his prime—to retire.

     So Brown said, fine.   Retire.

     Isn’t that cool?   He called Palmer’s bluff!   He refused to knuckle under to a whiny football player’s demands in the middle of his contract.   Y’see, NFL players love to renegotiate their contracts if they believe they have out-performed them, but when things go south and they under-perform, you never hear them offer to give the money back.   Or say they’ll shut up and stay put until its contract time again.   It feels good to see an owner do something contrary to his economic and structural self interest.   Palmer is a starting NFL quarterback, sort of; he’d bring a good price or a good player.   Feels good to see an NFL owner stand on principle, and be in the right at the same time.

     Please understand, I hate NFL owners.   I was totally behind the players in this recent NFL labor dispute debacle.   These owners are all billionaires, yet they treat players like oxen, allowing them to get beaten down into cripples and sad, confused men, who die early deaths betrayed by a brutally rough sport, a sport where they play too many games because we love to watch them cripple and concuss each other, and then these owners provide them with the worst pension plan this side of the Mafia.   Plus, most of these octogenarian owners are going to die soon.   You’d think they’d want to check out having behaved a little more humanely and magnanimously.   (In other words, NFL owners suck.)

     But regarding the Palmer boondoggle, I stand foursquare behind owner Mike Brown.   Here’s how Brown explained the Bengals’ stance:

Carson signed a contract. He made a commitment. He gave his word. We relied on his word. We relied on his commitment. We expected him to perform here. He’s going to walk away from his commitment. We aren’t going to reward him for doing it.”

     More eloquent words were never spoken.

     And here’s Palmer’s statement on his willingness to hold out for a trade: WCPO-TV in Cincinnati reported that a friend of Palmer quoted him as saying, “I will never set foot in Paul Brown Stadium again”; “I have $80 million in the bank,” Palmer reportedly quipped; adding, “I don’t have to play football for money.  I’ll play it for the love of the game, but that would have to be elsewhere.”

     More greedy, phony, teammate-bashing, self-righteous, self-serving words could scarcely be conceived.   Palmer wants to bail on the teammates he committed to through 2014?   Just because they (and he) are no good?   I say, let him stay “retired”.

     Of course, either side has the time and potential to relent.   Palmer is a valuable commodity; I’m sure Brown has many friends and advisors urging him to trade the slug for a high draft pick.   And I’m sure Palmer has many friends urging him to honor his commitment and try to save the Bengals for posterity, and not leave football as an abject, underachieving failure.

     Who will cave in?   Who will blink first?   I sure hope it’s Palmer.   Stay strong, Mr. Brown.   Don’t give in, Mr. Brown.   Just pretend Palmer is one of those old broken-down ex-NFL-ers you owners delight in keeping in poverty, MRI tubes, and wheelchairs.

     In the meantime, Carson, next time you’re in L.A., I hope you’ll stop by and buy me a few dozen bite-size Snickers bars, in exchange for me agreeing to not write any more columns slapping your sorry USC ass.   Okay?   After all, you’ve got $80 million in the bank….     

meet….The Sports Philosopher!brad-eastland2

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and devotee of fiscal responsibility.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, “WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology”, simply search for it on,, or…it’s easy!  (You do wanna read it, don’t you???)





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