Let’s take a breather and talk about how to fix college and pro sports.
If I owned a pro sports team they would win every game…okay not really, but I would take far better care of the players than the ridiculously short-sighted and idiotic neglect that current teams practice.
After my interview with LA Chargers defensive end and all around thoughtful guy Isaac Rochell, we keep talking about how college and pro sports can improve the way they conduct business and treat athletes. I propose numerous innovations I would make as a professional team owner, such as giving each player a free driver, chef, bodyguard and massage therapist. After all, these guys are each multimillion-dollar economic entities individually, so they should be cared for as such by the team. On the flip side, Isaac explains the importance of athletes investing in their own health and well being—not just to sustain a productive career for as long as possible, but also to support long-term health after retirement.
Isaac then hangs up the phone to go make a healthy meal and do some yoga, and I go off further on the topic of fixing pro sports. First (sorry Isaac), we probably should phase out tackle football and replace it with soccer. Football is a magnificent athletic spectacle, and a tremendous bonding and personal growth experience for players working hard to contribute to a team effort. At least that’s what every ex-football player says. Unfortunately, the violent nature of the game extracts too severe of a price on the players who perform for our amusement.
I also contend that in general, in the major professional sports, players are pushed too hard to play too many games. This is driven by money and comes at a disturbing disregard for player health and longevity. Recall a few years back how coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs stood up to the ridiculousness of the NBA schedule by benching star players who weren’t injured, just to give them a rest in preparation for the playoffs. This is actually against NBA rules (I guess players could fake injuries and operate within the rules?). Popovich drew a big fine for the Spurs, but said “whatever” because he wants to win in the playoffs.
You’ll be shocked at the crazy reason I reveal as to why NBA teams fly their private jets all night, trashing the players’ sleep cycles. Let me hint with a repurposing of some 50-Cent rap lyrics: “Party in the club, bottle full of bub, athlete supposed to be asleep, but I guess talk is cheap…” You’ll also be surprised to learn about the disparate types of NBA athletes: some incredibly committed to training/recovery/healthy living (aka Kobe Bryant and LeBron James); some pretty much there, working hard, doing everything the team suggests; and some pretty much just coasting along on talent and blowing lots of Benjamin’s leading the high life. Are you one of those people who think athletes are paid too much? Think again, as we learn some free market realities from Economics 101. I share the top secret sage advice that I dispensed to Lance Armstrong that was brilliant at the time, but came back to bite him in the bust and cost big legal fees years later. Ooh that’s enough teasers – enjoy the wild show!
Brad imagines what the ideal situation would be for the NFL players. [00:00:58]
Isaac talks about players’ responsibility to take care of themselves well. It is his job to do so. [00:02:42]
Brad talks about the need to overhaul some sports. Take better care of the players. [00:03:22]
How much is money involved in scheduling games and sitting a player out? [00:06:23]
In the NBA it seems that the players fly home late after the games rather than staying in game city. Why? [00:07:36]
When the young players come in and meet with conditioner they think they know everything there is to know. [00:09:30]
Is it logical to pay these players millions? [00:10:30]
These millionaire players are financial entities that need to be treated as such. [00:12:10]
LeBron James spends $1.5 million per year on personal health care and fitness.
TDAthletesedge.com: Coach in sports medicine and athletic performance
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Speaker: Brad Kearns and Isaac Rochelle
Brad Kearns:Welcome to the Get Over Yourself Podcast. This is Brad Kearns.
Isaac Rochelle:“And I used to be stingy with how I spent my money on food, but it’s like look – and it’s exactly what you’re saying. That is now an investment. And it’s not an investment just in football, it’s an investment in me when I’m 30 and when I’m 40.”
Brad Kearns:Here’s a little outtake from my conversation with LA Charger, Isaac Rochelle, after the formal show ended. This is me telling the NFL owners how to run their team and how to treat their players, and Isaac giving the insight about how NFL players should treat their bodies and treat their careers so that they can carry on and have a nice enjoyable life afterward instead of getting beaten up. So, fun stuff and just a nice preview of many other great things we’ll talk about in the full length show.
Oh, my gosh, man, if I’m a team owner and I’m spending … what’s the payroll? $100, million or 80 million, whatever, I’m going to have a driver for all 53 players, 24/7, right? Because I don’t want you messing around and you guys are young kids having fun. Maybe someone makes a decision that’s not good. And same with your chef is going to come over three days a week and bring you meals all year round, and your massage therapist too. It’s all part of the package because I want you healthy and at your peak. But I think we haven’t got there yet, because the management probably still thinks at some level the players are expendable and if you get hurt, they’ll pick up somebody else.
But Mark Cuban did a good job with the Mavericks when he bought the team. He said, “Oh, no, we’re getting our own jet. This commercial stuff sucks. I don’t care if it’s first class.” And then he ordered like thicker towels in the locker room instead of the little white ones and got the recliner chairs. And that’s when you’re starting to get into treating you guys like the thoroughbred race horses are treated.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. It seems just counterintuitive a lot of the things that are done. But you know what, I’m not writing the checks, I’m picking them up. So, I’m going to stay … maybe one day.
Brad Kearns:Yeah, I mean if you saw that article about LeBron (you can google it), and it said LeBron James spends $1.5 million a year on personal health care and fitness. And it’s like pretty smart guy there, if he’s making 58 million or whatever. So, that’s I guess what you got to think, is take matters into your own hands.
Isaac Rochelle:Yeah. And that’s what I’m learning. And like I told you, when I cook food now, it’s very … like what I’m doing right now is my job. I’m making myself food to fuel myself. And I used to be stingy with how I spent my money and stuff on food, but it’s like, look – and it’s exactly what you’re saying. That is now an investment. And it’s not an investment just in football, it’s an investment in me when I’m 30 and when I’m 40. But people don’t see it like that. And it’s like we need to just make wiser decisions. But it starts with the organizations should be paying to educate us more on healthier habits.
Brad Kearns:Yeah, love it, man,
Isaac Rochelle:But we’ll see what happens.
Brad Kearns:Okay bud, keep it up.
Isaac Rochelle:Alright, Brad, let me know. I appreciate you.
Brad Kearns: Okay. That’s Isaac taking off, a busy guy – back into the world of football. Let’s keep breathing a little more.
First off, this guy’s too smart for the NFL, man. I mean, he’s a football player and he’s got his act more together than a academic or a professional of his age. He’s got the vision, he’s got the big picture perspective, making the investment in himself to plan for his future. Man, I wish him a safe and rewarding career with a long productive life ahead of him. And I do mean that safety one of top priority. I’m going to do a whole show about … Isaac might not like it, but I feel like we’re heading for the demise of the NFL and tackle football someday because we can’t continue to tolerate the level of violence and injury to the players.
It’s a wonderful, amazing athletic spectacle, a centerpiece of culture. It brings a lot of joy and inspiration and camaraderie to the fans, and it’s a wonderful growth experience to the players to be part of a team. I mean, it’s the highlight of life for many young players, but we need to do some changes, some reflection. I’m hoping that soccer will take over because another wonderful team sport, which is a fantastic fan experience, fantastic athletic experience for the players, but without that massive danger component where the object of the game is to basically smash the other player. There’s no other sport – few sports like it, I should say.
Okay, yeah. There’s a lot of overhauls we need in sports besides soccer rising up to knock off tackle football. Player safety, player health, as Isaac and I talked about a little bit. How about some consideration for fewer games, more rest for the players? Yes, they can all make a little bit less money. But right now, the minimum salaries and the guaranteed contracts ensure that the players are fairly compensated. Still not compensated well enough in football because the career duration is so much shorter than the other sports. The team is larger. They have plenty of money to pay these players, much, much more money and play fewer games over the course of the year.
But when you’re talking about NBA where the average player salary now is astronomical, even a short duration career in the NBA can set you up for life if you’re smart (a lot of athletes aren’t with their money). But why not a 60-game season instead of 82? We had that strike shortened or walkout shortened season a few years back, and it was making for an enhanced level of competition. Better health for the players,
more exciting playoffs with players fresh and ready to go.
I think the 82-game season, the 162-game baseball season is purely an economic play. In other words, everyone’s going to make more money if you play more games. But I think we have to put in a plug for player health and freshness. Man, Coach Popovich – San Antonio Spurs was sitting his players. Remember this started happening three, four or five years ago and he got these massive fines from the NBA because you’re not allowed to sit a player who’s healthy. You have to go through these processes and report the injury to the media by Wednesday or something.
I know in the NFL, you had to report injuries by Wednesday. It was for the betters, the gambling in Vegas where they needed injury reports and they had categories like questionable, probable, the out, if they had a concussion or something. And they have rules and guidelines to ensure that stuff like what Popovich was doing didn’t happen.
Then he said, “Forget it. I’ll pay the fine of $250,000 for benching my star players when we go on a road trip because I want to win in the playoffs.” And I think they’ve had to shuffle the deck now and figure out some plan Bs. Thanks to a coach standing up to the nonsense and saying, “No, my player safety, my player health is more important.”
Speaking of money and flying first class or flying private; the Mark Cuban example I talked about with Isaac. I found out from an inside source with a professional basketball team that the common practice, even though the teams all have private jets and can fly on whatever schedule they want, the common practice is for teams to fly home from road games that end late at night, even if they’re going east coast, back to west coast.
They will get on the plane at what? 11:00 at night on the east coast and fly cross country to get back to their west coast location. Ruining the players’ circadian rhythm with an all-night flight. And then they’re getting off these planes, going to their homes at three, four or five in the morning, trying to get a little sleep. And continuing on with this arduous NBA season schedule.
I’m incredulous, wondering why they would possibly do this. Why don’t they just crash in a luxury hotel in the town they just played in, wake up the next morning, have some breakfast and fly home. And the answer is that the teams realized that if they kept the players back in the game city, they would routinely go out clubbing all night and not get enough sleep anyway. So, they file these guys onto the airplane and take off because they’re not gaining anything by keeping them in the city.
Oh my gosh. And speaking of that, my friend Tim de Francesco, the former strength and conditioning director of the Los Angeles Lakers, presided over NBA Championship, worked with Kobe Bryant, had a great inside look and now he’s doing his own thing at Tdathletesedge.com – fantastic website and videos for the latest, greatest cutting edge stuff on athletic training.
But he reported to me that when these players come in, they meet with the strength and conditioning director. He’ll design a protocol, he’ll do whatever they need to succeed. And he indicated that around 30% of the players coming in, the young players, the draft picks, don’t care. They know everything, they’re genetically gifted freaks. They got it, they’re good, and they will pretty much not listen to the expert on staff designed to keep them injury free and peak performance.
Then he said 40% of the players will buy into the program. They’ll keep their strength training appointments, they’ll look on the whiteboard and do what’s prescribed for that day. And then finally, that leaves 30% of the players, and these are the guys that go all in and will do whatever it takes and work devotedly with all the expert support that they have around them. These are the smart guys, Tim says, because they are setting their sights upon that second contract after your NBA, your rookie contract runs out. They have caps and constraints for what they can pay the rookies based on their Draft position.
So, yeah, these guys are going to sign for 40 million if they’re a top Draft pick or 3.7 million for three years if they’re medium Draft-picked, whatever. It’s good money, but the real money comes when you perform and put up a track record for a few years in the NBA, then you cash in. And with the new TV deal that happened recently, oh my gosh, you look at some of these numbers, they just went crazy. Basic routine journeymen players are signing for $10 million a year for long-term contracts. And the superstars now, James Harden, LeBron James are making upwards of $30 million for one basketball season.
Well-deserved man, don’t get on me. I mean, this is the laws of economics, free market principles. They’re the entertainers. Without them, there’s not an easy replacement. Right? So, that’s why they’re getting paid so much. Same with when you go to a Katy Perry concert and Katie can’t sing, the whole thing’s off. That’s why she’s going to make $120 million doing your concert tour. Same with Kendrick Lamar. We don’t have Kendrick Lamar’s friend going up there to replace him if he doesn’t feel like it or he hurt his wrist and he can’t hold a microphone.
Anyway, so the players are deservedly finally, making their money with all the great collective bargaining that’s happening so that the owners can share it equitably. Anyway, with that kind of money, it makes sense to adopt a mindset like Isaac where you’re going all in and you’re taking care of your body and you’re treating yourself like the multimillion dollar economic asset that you are.
It’s so funny. I’m just shaking my head how these teams have still not come on board with the idea that these living, breathing, economic assets are just kind of cast out to live life on their own, rather than my recommendation of assigning a private chef, a masseuse, a bodyguard for every single player on your team. Yes, spend an extra half a million dollars a year, whatever it costs to make sure that these guys are completely well taken care of and kept safe and kept out of trouble.
I will take credit for this suggestion, many years ago, when I was sitting talking to Lance Armstrong after the 2000 Olympics, and if you recall, he was a heavily favored time trial specialist, thinking that he could win his first gold medal. Also, a big favorite in the road race. He went to Sydney and he did great. He got a bronze medal in the time trial and top 10 or something in the road race. But he was a little bit off because he suffered an accident about a month before the Olympics where he was hit by a car in training and actually had a cracked vertebra and couldn’t ride for a while and had to do this intensive rehab hoping that he would recover on time.
Barely on time to head down to Sydney, and race and because I have a propensity for popping off when I’m around celebrities, famous people like Lance, I said, that’s kind of weird that you are out riding your bike and you get hit by a car when you’re this multimillion dollar economic asset. The leader of a massive team operation, the US Postal Service team, has something like 50 employees, 20 plus of them, cyclists, and then all the massage therapists and the trainers and all the background people, the coaching, the staff, all counting on Lance to win the Tour de France every year to sustain the economic entity.
I said, “What about having a flunky with you every single time you do a bike ride on a moped or in a car, honking the horns, leading the way for you, handing you water, taking your jacket, being your guy to go with you every moment, keeping you safe?”
There was a little bit of silence. I was talking to Bill Stapleton, his agent too. And they were processing the suggestion and came out like a pretty good idea. And in fact, they made that happen very soon after I had my discussion with them in the limo in San Francisco.
Footnote to the story, this individual that was hired to escort Lance on all his bike rides and I believe, do other stuff like fix up and tune up his bikes and just make things happen nicely right there in the inner circle. He was one of the first people to rat on Lance for him noticing being exposed to doping paraphernalia at Lance’s house. I think they had a falling out over a business matter or something. So, this guy quit his job and then spilled the beans and contributed to the controversy and the people coming forward and confessing and getting sued accordingly.
So, if you’re going to hire a flunky to be with you every moment, if you’re a basketball player, whoever you are, make sure that they’re going to what? Sign a nondisclosure or be tight with you. Okay, that’s Brad’s suggestion.
Thank you for listening celebrity athletes and regular listeners alike. Let me know what you think. Getoveryourselfpodcast@gmail.com. Thanks for contributing to the show. And please, please, please, leave a review on iTunes. We would sincerely appreciate it. It helps so much to increase the attention and prominence and listenership of the show. Thanks for listening to the breather. Bye-bye.
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