I was actually reading in a newspaper the other day that some of our top professional athletes have expressed a mixture of “bewilderment, consternation and downright outrage” over a suggestion that the new wage and price controls inflicted upon mere mortals in Canada might also apply to men who play little boys’ games for a living. I mean, who does the Prime Minister of this country think he is—Benny Hatskin? Perhaps Pierre is justjealous because his annual salary ($69.000) was less than the average salary in the National Hockey League last season ($75.000). Or maybe he made the decision the night he sat with Expo owner Charles Bronfman and noted that Nate Colbert, who averaged one base hit every full moon for the Expos, was collecting $90,000 per, plus splinters. So what if Pierre is guaranteed a $2,400 wage hike next year, he doesn’t have to suffer the humiliation of being traded from country to country, like Nate the Great. Who do these politicians think they are?
1 mean, just because the Expos were going to pay Gene Mauch more money ($75,000) not to manage the Expos than Prime Minister Trudeau will be making to manage the entire country, doesn’t mean that salaries in professional sports are out of line. Who does the average working man think he is, whining over a 10% raise when Bobby Orr can’t even squeeze a paltry $500,000 a year out of the Boston Bruins?
Let’s get our priorities in order. What would hurt the country more—a CFL players’ strike, an NHL players’ strike, a major league baseball players’ strike, or a national garbage collectors’ strike? Project these assorted strikes over a six-month period, and answer that question for yourself. On second thought, forget it. Who are the bus drivers to complain about split shifts, when Expo Bob Bailey goes weeks between playing? Why, you should consider yourself lucky to be making $2.35 an hour, because you could be stuck playing in the NHL for the Washington Capitals, for a mere $40,000 or $50,000. You’d have to maintain two homes, be pestered by at least eight kids a year asking for your autograph, and be forced to humiliate yourself on national television. Frankly, I think the average MP is grossly over-paid when you consider that he makes almost as much as the lowest-paid California Seal. I’m quite sure that each Seal represents at least a dozen season-ticket-holders.
Next thing, the police will be going on strike because they don’t make as much as NHL referees. Never mind those shoot-outs with bank robbers, how would you like to earn your living breaking up fights between Jacques Lemaire and Marcel Dionne? And then there’s the thorny matter of unemployment. What would you rather do: live on welfare with a guaranteed annual income of food, rent and two changes of clothing, or be reduced to jumping to the World Hockey Association where you’re lucky to collect $35,000 a year playing for the San Diego “Gulls,” shaking your fist at the fans and shouting: “Go ahead, everyone else does”? What’s more important, playing with the Expos and being platooned against left-handers, or being a Hamilton fireman where you can inhale three packs of smoke a day without ever having to light up? People forget just how well the Expos have done. Who else but the Conservative Party can come close to matching their won-lost record in Quebec?
From the way some of the athletes are talking, you’d think our national economy was more important than the Olympics. If sport didn’t have top priority in this country would we be spending $375 million on a new stadium and $58 million on a velodrome just for a two-week sports event? If we gave the average working man more than a 10% raise, how could we afford to spend a mere billion dollars on the Olympics to further the image of Simon purity in sport? Of course, some cynics believe professional athletes should be paid by the win, but then pro hockey players might be reduced to playing hockey only for their country, and we’d be in the same fix Russia is in—winning world championship after world championship until it got boring. By all means let’s ignore wage and price controls to preserve the Alouettes. They have the same number of French-speaking Canadians as the Expos have. None.
By all means, Pierre, take the last peanut butter sandwich out of our lunch buckets. But don’t mess with our pro athletes. Their mass departure would hurt us almost as much as a garbagemen’s strike.
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