Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Contractual Obligations

I got a raise this year. It was almost eight and a half percent over last year. That is what my union bargained for me, and there is still a possibility of a bump to take that all the way up to fourteen percent. Heading into my nineteenth year of teaching, it's nice to know that I will finally be paid a comfortable wage. I stopped just short from calling it a "living wage" or "paid what I am worth." This is because it has been a long time since I lived hand to mouth, in spite of my dining habits. It also puts a great big question mark on just what a public school teacher's effort is worth.
I say this because, after some very intense negotiations on the part of Demaryius Thomas, he will go into his sixth year playing professional football with a five year contract that will pay him seventy million dollars. He will be making substantially more than I or any other public school teacher will. He will be making more than twelve million dollars this year for catching footballs thrown to him by a guy who just recently took a pay cut, Peyton Manning. Keeping in mind, as wags do so often when they bat around teacher salaries, that this is a part-time gig. Demaryius has already missed his team's off-season conditioning program. The end of July is when training camp starts, and not long after that, preseason games and then the long march to the ever-elusive Lombardi Trophy.
It should be noted that the contract that Mister Thomas singed guarantees him forty-three million dollars. If he gets injured, or falls down on the way to the stadium and can't catch footballs anymore, the gets to keep forty-three million dollars. To make all of that seventy million, he's got to keep showing up on autumn Sundays and catching footballs, even if they aren't being thrown by Peyton Manning, for the next five years.
Wait a second. He doesn't even have to catch those footballs. He isn't being held to some standard, either objective or subjective. Yes, he will have to learn his playbook and abide by the NFL's rules on and off the field, but if he just forgets how to catch footballs, he will still make more money in the next five years than a whole elementary school full of teachers.
I understand that it's just a game, and if I had devoted my life to something other than educating urban youth, I might be sitting pretty right now, looking at my playing days in the rearview mirror. Counting those Benjamins. Does this mean that I'm swearing off professional football? Is the whole vague reality surrounding what we, as a society value going to spoil my school year or football season?
Probably not. Just file this one under "that's kind of interesting." With a sigh.

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