Athletes cash in outrageous dollars

Slugger Albert Pujols is the latest pro athlete to cash in big, signing an epic $254 million deal with the Anaheim Angels.

Shelled out the kids’ allowances on Friday. Gave my oldest son a fiver and handed the youngest boy three loonies.

Not outrageous money, but I do give them spending money for Viper games and movies, while watering and feeding them when it’s my week to parent. They also share in the tiny Mitchell & Sons Recycling sideline company profits which keeps their bank accounts slightly in the black.

Told them about Albert Pujols signing that epic $254 million deal with the Anaheim Angels. They said “Wow” but were virtually speechless. They never asked how much Pujols gives his kids for allowance. Never asked why he needs so much moola. Never asked for more cash from me.

Guess it’s just easier to accept that some people are blessed with a certain talent and get paid astronomically to do so.

While Pujols is an extraordinary baseball player, the Cardinals can only spin his loss by remembering they won’t have to pay $22 million or so annually for Pujols’ inevitable decline.

St. Louis got the best 11 seasons of one of the greatest players in baseball history. In fact, the bright minds over at Fangraphs.com figure that Pujols gave the Cardinals $330 million in value over his career – a period in which he was actually paid around $104 million.

Since inking Pujols, the Angels have reached a $3 billion, 20-year TV deal with Fox Sports.

I never heard of Anaheim owner Arte Moreno until he made headlines by offering the moon and lifetime passes to Disneyland to Pujols and pitcher CJ Wilson. He may only get three to five more superb seasons from Pujols, but even at 41, the man will likely be a decent singles hitter.

And should you think baseball appears insane paying such huge numbers, consider this: Pujols wasn’t even one of the 30 highest paid athletes this year.

First on the 2011 list of richest jocks is Tiger Woods, who thanks to endorsement deals with Nike and Electronic Arts, hauled in $75 million. His net worth is $500 million, according to Forbes.

Kobe Bryant of the Lakers is No. 2 at $53 million a season, including cheques for pitching Mercedes-Benz’s Smart Car brand in China. He takes in $24.8 million a year for shooting hoops.

LeBron James of the Miami Heat is third at $48 million, with a part share ownership of soccer’s Liverpool, helping his cash flow. Fourth is tennis phenom Roger Federer, at $47 million, and fifth is golfer Phil Mickelson, at $46.5 million.

At least in the Pujols case, it’s not like fans will be asked to pay for tickets. Baseball has the most affordable ducats in pro sports.

Pro hockey, meanwhile, keeps gouging fans in Canadian markets, where corporate tickets enable third-liners to collect $2.5 million a year.

Your cheapest ticket in Vancouver is $85 and you had best bring binoculars and a safety harness. Prices are similar in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa and just plain stupid expensive in Toronto and Montreal.

The Vernon Home Building Centre Midget Tier 1 Vipers flew to a tournament in Phoenix two weeks ago and paid $20 to watch the Coyotes play the Canucks. Fans can get four tickets, four pucks and a large pizza from Papa John’s to a variety of Coyote games.

In Detroit, where the Red Wings have won a few more Stanley Cups that the Canucks, for $54, you get a pair of tickets, two hot dogs and two Coke Zeroes.

Similar deals can be found throughout the NHL, in American cities. We Canadians continue to get hosed, as we do with airline and beer prices.

Penalty box a sham?

This just in from The Onion, the funniest spoof news website on the planet: After performing an in-depth 15-year study of professional hockey penalties, penalization practices, and the behavior of penalized players, independent hockey-law reform group JustIce concluded this week that the NHL’s use of the penalty box does “absolutely nothing whatsoever” in the long term to deter players from committing violations.

“The so-called penalty box does nothing to discourage rule-breaking, and less than nothing to help reform players,” said JustIce press liaison Craig MacKenzie, who noted that after individuals serve their time, they are routinely sent without further evaluation directly back into the environment they came from, where they inevitably wind up confronting the same skaters they originally victimized. “In fact, we found that for some players, being sent to the ‘sin bin’ is seen as anything from a minor inconvenience to a badge of honor to a career necessity.”

JustIce claimed to have found several constants in its study of NHL statistics from the 1995 season to the present, all of them pointing to the modern penalty box – with its comfortable seating, ample water-bottle availability, and unmatched view of the exciting on-ice action – as an ineffective long-term deterrent against rule-breaking.

According to the report, an astonishing 100 percent of players have spent time incarcerated for rule violations during their careers.