Nic Zimmerman and Jacob Burcham

The ESPN 30 for 30 film, ‘Broke’ highlighted a topic that is usually not given a whole lot of thought. It described the financial terrors that can overtake a professional athlete after their athletic career. This documentary didn’t really surprise me in any way because I have looked into the topic pretty heavily. I found the psychological effect of the money on the players to be quite intriguing. Another thing that caught my eye was the sheer number of athletes that go bankrupt, following a lucrative career. It was also puzzling to me how much rougher NFL players had it compared to the other sports.

It is clear that the main battle for the players is fighting their own impulsive urges to overspend their huge checks. So many athletes find it necessary to take care of anyone who is remotely close to them. Many have entourages of more than ten people, having them all on their payroll. It is quite a fascinating thought to wrap your head around. The athletes are essentially rewarding a group of people for being loyal to them, almost like a senior being worshipped by freshmen. With all the glitz and glamour, of course women will be attracted, and typically it just leads to a thinner wallet or a pregnancy followed by a half-hearted marriage.

It was said in the documentary that 60% of NBA players go broke after five years of retirement, and 70% of NFL players are bankrupt within two years of their exit from the league. The fact is that these players are not taught the essentials of finance. The film makes a good point of notifying that typically, people start their life making a small sum of money and work their way up until they peak financially in their forties. These athletes go through life exactly the opposite. They are introduced to a huge amount of money without any knowledge of how to properly spend it. What else does a person expect from these athletes?

      It is clear that financial issues after retirement are problems in all the highly paid sports, but the documentary shows that NFL players definitely have it the worst. There are a number of reasons for this claim. An NFL contract is much harsher than other sports. The only money that is guaranteed in a contract is the players signing bonus. That means that if a player is released before receiving his whole salary, the team is not inclined to pay the rest of it. The NFL also brings the most injuries. This leaves players with tons of surgeries and medical bills, which they can’t afford once their career is over. Many football players are also left with permanent damage to their brain after football. A good example of this would be the CTE epidemic, that has been the probable cause of suicide for many athletes, showing that concerns should go way beyond money.

I love the documentary in every way. I think it does a great job of covering a topic that many feel is not worth the time. Many players are suffering and it should not be ignored by the masses just because they once had tremendous careers. I enjoy learning about real-life struggles of these past-prime athletes.