Think baseball salaries are high? Maybe you're a communist

Mike Royko

March 06, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

He had the kind of whiny voice you hear on the radio sports shows that take phone calls. There must not have been any shows available at the moment, so he was calling me.

"We ought to boycott all baseball games," he said. "I don't know how they can pay that much money to anyone, even Ryne Sandberg. No one is worth that much money."

Are you a communist? I asked.

"Huh? No, I'm not a communist, but that kind of money is obscene."

You are a commie, aren't you? A dirty commie. What's your name? I want to report you to the FBI.

"You're nuts," he said, and slammed down the phone.

He got away. That's why I'd like to have caller's ID. Then I could have traced his number and turned him in.

It's frightening, really, the number of them out there, even with the collapse of communism in Europe.

And they seem to always surface when sports stars sign new record-breaking contracts, as Sandberg did.

Oh, they don't go on the radio and flatly say: "I am a communist, and I am against the free enterprise system." They're too clever and sneaky for that. They know that decent folk would be outraged.

Instead, they play dumb (and they are very good at this act) while trying to poison minds with their propaganda that says it's wrong for someone to try to make as much money as he can, that all paychecks should be created equal.

This is the same line that Lenin and Stalin and Mao sold their followers. If they had been born in this country, they would probably be on the radio, moaning about Sandberg's salary.

These subversives are clearly anti-business, as commies always have been. Sandberg is a businessman. His business is entertainment. He hits, throws and catches baseballs, and people pay money to see him do it. As a businessman, he wants a cut of the profits.

What he does is not different from what the Beatles did. They made music, and people paid billions for their records or the pleasure of going to one of their concerts to stand and shriek and not hear the music they were paying to hear.

But does anyone call disc jockeys and say: "It is an outrage that Ringo Starr, a mediocre drummer and a terrible singer at best, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars"?

They wouldn't say that because Beatles fans would think they were crazy. Just as Elvis fans believed it was only right that he had more Cadillacs than IQ points.

And under our economic system, they are correct. Ringo Starr made his fans happy, as did Elvis. They entertained people, and we are an entertainment-addicted society. Many believe it is our constitutional right to be entertained. A chicken in every pot was an adequate slogan during the Great Depression, but now it's a 26-inch TV, a stereo, a Nintendo in every home and a Walkman on every noggin. If a constitutional amendment calling for free entertainment were put to the vote, it would pass overwhelmingly.

For that matter, why don't people call the disc jockey and say: "I demand to know why you are paid the obscene amount of $900,000 a year to babble on the radio, while a Nobel Prize-winning physicist is getting less than a fourth that amount"?

Because they would be spotted as radicals. A Nobel Prize-winning physicist might be a useful fellow when he isn't designing bombs, but he doesn't entertain as many people as a disc jockey or bring in advertising revenue.

These commies posing as sports fans are supported by their fellow travelers, the sports columnists. Not all, but several, have also mastered the technique of feigning economic stupidity.

There is one fellow who does a brilliant imitation of the town idiot. He used the following words and phrases in writing about Sandberg's contract: "Double-knit terrorist . . . their game is on a crash course to hell . . . salary madness . . . hideous as the economics seem . . . salary news should be accompanied by a vomit bag . . . a repulsive figure . . ."

Now, have you ever heard a movie critic shriek: "Arnold Schwarzenegger got $10 million for that one film, and all he did was flex his biceps. Oh, life is so unfair I am going to puke. Help, help, the sky is falling, the sky is falling"?

Of course not. Because they know that moviegoers would think they were nuts. Those who pay their money to be entertained by Arnold Schwarzenegger see nothing wrong with his becoming rich. And if he makes a lot more than Laurence Olivier ever did, all that proves is that Sir Laurence should have been pumping iron instead of brooding about Hamlet.

It's disturbing. Here we see the free enterprise system struggling to life in Eastern Europe, and flickers of it here and there in China.

But in this country, the Bolsheviks are trying to take over the bleachers and the sports pages.

Where is J. Edgar Hoover when we really need him?

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