Wednesday 23 July 2014

Sports Stars

Here in Canada - and particularly here in Montreal - we love our Hockey.  Ice Hockey, that is.  Hockey is arguably the fastest, most energetic, most physical professional sport on the planet.  With enough moolah in your pockets, you can buy NHL tickets that seat you right up against the glass - less than an inch from the most explosive action in sports.  No professional sport in the world can come close to providing the experiencing of watching an NHL game from one of those seats.

Like most professional sports, if you want to play NHL Hockey you need to be seriously committed from an early age.  You’ll need the right combination of body type, serious skills, unblinking determination - not to mention parental support - if you are to crack the 23-man roster on one of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League.  So many aspire to join those ranks, but so few ever make it.  Every single teenager who plays amateur Major Junior Hockey in the USA or Canada shares that ambition, but in fact less than one in twenty will succeed.

It is like that in other major league sports, too.  Baseball, Football (aka Soccer), Football (aka Football), Tennis, Formula One, Golf, Basketball, Boxing.  But the financial rewards for making it to the pinnacle can be truly staggering.  In all of these professional sports, the top stars earn mind-boggling sums of money.  I suppose that’s fair enough. In all walks of life, those with the greatest skills and steeliest determination tend to make it furthest up the ladder, whether you are a businessman, a doctor, a lawyer - or a sportsman. I  suppose that is something we can all accept.

But yesterday, I heard something in a Ted Talk (it was on the radio so I can’t post a link) that made me stop and think.  In Basketball, as we all know, it pays to be tall.  The shorter you are, the less chance you have of making it to the NBA.  According to Wikipedia, in its entire history, only 24 players 5’ 9” tall (the height of an average American male) have ever made it to the NBA.  Apparently, there are only two such players active today.  Imagine the skill you would need to make it to the NBA as a human being of only average height.  Today, in the NBA, a full 10% of all the players are seven feet tall or more.

Does just being seven feet tall trump all the skill in the world?   Incredibly, it would appear so.  Today, according to the Ted Talk, of all Americans alive today who are seven feet tall, an incredible 17% of them are **ALREADY** playing in the NBA!!  And that’s before we take into account those who are too old (or too young).

Think about that.  If you grow up to be seven feet tall, before we even start to consider any physical skills that you may or may not possess, you already have a better than one-in-five chance of being accepted into a professional cadre whose minimum salary is half a million dollars a year; whose average salary is 5 million dollars a year; and whose top performers pull in more than 20 million dollars a year.

I find that surprisingly disturbing.