By Alexander Baker
If I was David Beckham, by the time I was done writing this column I would be about $6,000 richer.
In case you haven’t heard, Beckham recently signed the most posh – er, wealthiest – contract in sports history, worth a reported $250 million over five years to play for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy.
Broken down, that comes out to $50 million each year, about $1 million per week, or almost $6,000 an hour, 24 hours a day, for the five-year span of the deal. A good night’s sleep for Becks will earn him close to what most firefighters and police officers make in a year.
The irony is Beckham is not even one of the best players in the world anymore. He is being paid entirely for his star power, as even his new team admits. Beckham is as famous for his wife, Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham, the movie named after him, Bend it Like Beckham, and his many hairstyles, as he is for soccer.
So what’s the big deal with another enormously overpaid athlete who won’t even be able to spend all his money, let alone count it?
After all, everyone was saying the same things when Alex Rodriguez signed his monster 10-year, $252 million deal with baseball’s Texas Rangers.
Numbers like $25 million or $50 million are simply beyond the realm of comprehension for most people. Surely these mammoth sums could go to something or someone that actually contributes to society?
One good example is African billionaire Mohamed Ibrahim, who recently pledged to give $5 million a year to an African leader who relinquishes power when his or her term is up and who demonstrates good governance during it.
Imagine if all the George Steinbrenners, Mark Cubans and Paul Allens of the sports world gave their money to people who really make the world a better place, instead of just their star athletes.
To put Beckham’s price tag into perspective, the most powerful man on the planet, George W. Bush, makes $400,000 US a year. Stephen Harper’s salary is $295,400 Cdn, double that of a backbench MP.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Beverley McLachlin gets $278,400 Cdn.
As for police officers in Canada, the average cop makes $60,000 to $70,000 Cdn – and that’s after a decade on the job. A chief of police in the U.S. makes about the same, in U.S. dollars.
The average Canadian firefighter earns about $71,500 Cdn, roughly the same as an RCMP officer with three years’ experience. NASA pays its astronauts $65,000 to $100,000 US.
Besides other athletes like Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher and Shaquille O’Neal, the only people who fall in the same tax bracket as Beckham are the insanely-compensated CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and Hollywood types.
In business, executives at investment banker Goldman Sachs got $100 million US holiday bonuses this year; Home Depot recently gave ex-CEO Robert Nardelli a $200 million US severance package; a former Walt Disney Co. president, Michael Ovitz, got $140 million when he was ousted after only 14 months.
The entertainment industry is also fantasyland. George Lucas made $250 million in 2004 alone; Tom Cruise got $70 and $75 million, respectively, for War of the Worlds and Mission Impossible: II; Oprah Winfrey cashes in about $150 million a year; even authors Tom Clancy and Stephen King have reportedly made more than $40 million in a year.
David Copperfield, the magician, has pulled $60 million annually out of his hat.
While you sit there shaking your head at these exorbitant sums, I ask you to keep one thing in mind: the average annual salary for an editor of a major American newspaper? About $50,000.
And journalists get no endorsement deals.