As an avid football watcher, I enjoy following the intricacies and trends of its business transactions as well as the play on the field. One aspect of the game that has recently caught my attention is the plight of the NFL running back. Understand that I use the term “plight” in a relative manner. Relative, that is, to the rest of the positions on a given team (not relative to the average person).
Elite running backs can make a lot of money in the NFL. Lucrative team contracts can earn a player upward of $30 million (although no NFL contract is guaranteed. Very un-American if you ask me, but no one has as of yet), plus a signing bonus that could reach $20 million (which is guaranteed). That’s not to mention any other endorsement contract a player may receive.
Sounds great, right? Well, understand some things about the game:
· NFL players are probably the biggest, strongest, and fastest (at least when running short distances) athletes the world possesses. These individuals run as fast as they can into each other in order to achieve their goals. “Contact” doesn’t seem to aptly describe the outcome; “collision” is more like it.
· The NFL running back is involved in more high-impact collisions than any other position. Some would say that offensive and defensive linemen crash into each other more. While it may be true that these positions hit and get hit more often, they begin each play mere inches apart. Running backs are hit by defenders who have a running start.
These tidbits of information lead to the fact that running backs get injured more often, which leads to short careers. At the very least, they wear down faster than any other position. Proof can be found with a quick glance at Jamal Lewis. Two years ago he surpassed 2000 yards in a season, an impressive feat indeed. Now, he can’t do anything accept push the pile around him. He’s 27 and looks 40. More proof can be found in the steep decline in the careers of Eddie George, Terrell Davis, and Ahman Green (Barry Sanders knew exactly what he was doing…).
Running backs are given high salaries for quick returns, and once the team gets all it can out of that player, said player is released. Teams chew these players up for all of the flavor they are worth and spit them out when the flavor is gone. I don’t feel bad for these players (they receive handsome paychecks for their services); their treatment is simply the nature of the game.
This reminds me of the rap game. Substitute rappers for running backs, music execs for team presidents. Do you see the similarities?