It has been a breath of fresh air the past two months to be able to watch the amateur players in the GAA. As a devoted sports fan from the States, I have spent the past few months taking in the best sports Ireland has to offer, and it has been a relief to see athletes take the pitch without the mighty pay check in mind.
As I read with interest the plight of Galway Gaelic football manager Joe Kernan stepping away from his position apparently due to a lack of funding for his backroom team, I couldn’t help but think of the latest big sports news in the States and the world of difference between it and Gaelic games here in Ireland.
This past weekend, the NFL’s St Louis Rams signed the No 1 overall draft pick Sam Bradford to a six-year deal worth $78 million with incentives that could possibly raise the price tag to $86 million. A total of $50 million is guaranteed to the quarterback, which makes it the richest rookie contract ever in the NFL. And all of this happens before Bradford plays one game.
Watching the GAA has the ability to create a feeling that the players and the fans are on equal footing. They play for the love of the game and the pride of their county. I can still remember the faces of the players from Galway as they lost a hard-fought and close match to Tipperary a few weeks ago. They truly put everything on the line and the fans suffered with the players as one. It is something everyone can admire and the same cannot always be said of athletes in the States where it is hard to consider yourself an equal with a multi-millionaire.
Not only did the Rams sign a quarterback who has never experienced the speed and toughness of the NFL, but it put its faith on a player who has had shoulder problems in the past. With $50 million guaranteed, the ownership will be on pins and needles every time he is tackled.
Reaction from the fans has been mixed but for the most part people are astonished by the amount of money. One fan stated, “On the personal level though, Bradford’s enormous paycheck makes me less willing to spend mine. I’ll watch the games from the comfort of my home thank you!”. Another fan commented, “WOW!! For that amount they need to put him in a suit of armor”.
It’s hard to blame the Rams, however, for paying this price for a player. Every year, and in every American sport, fans watch as the players salaries climb higher and higher. Teams have to pay the price to get the best players in order to compete with other members of the league and the Rams are no exception.
In America, it’s easier to not feel as bad for players when they lose a close game because you know they will be going home to houses most could never dream of. In the end, it’s just another game whether they win or not. For now, I will continue to enjoy watching truly passionate players in Ireland put everything on the line for that one moment of glory. It’s the way sports should be.