Why Playing Arena Football is an Extremely Poor Investment
This past weekend my wife and I celebrated one full year of marriage. We celebrated in part by booking a hotel room in the heart of Washington, DC, enjoying a couple of romantic dinners and suffering through multiple spells of nausea (her) and irritable bowel syndrome (me). Old age is truly upon us. Being partially debilitated as we were, we found ourselves assuming our normal activity of watching cable television. One evening we began watching an Arena Football League (AFL) game. If you’re unfamiliar with the AFL, you can take a look at the Wikipedia page, but it’s essentially an alternative professional football league where each team plays 16 games on a smaller, in-door field. If a team makes it to the Arena Bowl (the league’s championship game) they will have played a total of 19 games in one season. As we watched this alternative, but still professional football game, we found ourselves wondering what the incentive is to play such a physically taxing sport in a league that is not the NFL, or even Canadian Football League. I’d once heard arena league players make around $80,000 per season, an amount most Americans would call a handsome annual salary for any line of work. We were shocked to find AFL players only gross $830 per game. If you play quarterback, you earn an extra $250 per game. Meaning, if you play quarterback in the Arena Football League and make it to the championship game, you will have earned yourself a whooping $20,520 for the entire season. For additional context, a family of four earning a total household income of $24,300 a-year or less is considered to be living below the 2016 poverty line. For the Love of the Game Arena football players are truly playing for the love of the game. They aren’t paid for their time at practice. They’re not members of a well-funded league or players union and most must maintain other jobs to make ends meet. This is all underscored by the violent nature of the sport, which triggered a 2013 settlement between the National Football League (NFL) and its players’ union in the amount of $765 million, netting each of the players named in the settlement around $5 million as compensation for concussion related health issues. I went to bed somewhat perplexed as to why anyone would put their body and health on the line for such a meager salary. Playing Madden Competitively Is a Better Investment The next morning we found ourselves watching the rebroadcast of last month's Ultimate Madden Championship competition on ESPN. That’s right. Madden, the video game. (Don't ask me how, but the broadcast was oddly entertaining). Ultimate Madden Champion Frank Sardoni Jr. earned himself $20,000 by winning the national competition. It was surreal to watch a grown man shed tears over winning a video game contest; he shed glassy-eyes-while-talking-about-his-father-teaching-him-to-always-fight-and-never-give-up tears… He was only steps away from Lebron-James-winning-one-for-The-Land tears. Watching this moment of video game triumph, we realized Frank had earned nearly the equivalent of an AFL, championship quarterback’s salary, all for excelling at the video game version of the NFL. Frank Sardoni Jr., for a moment, was a football star, safe from any of the risks that come along with attempting to be one in real life. If I were a family member or friend of an AFL player, I would ask they seriously consider putting down the helmet and pick up a video game controller today. Ben Carter is the Host of Manage Your Damn Money, Creative Director at MYDM Creative and author of Fictitious Financial Fairytale: A Completely Untrue Story About Money, Friends and Moscow Mules.