Tennis has no
Tiger, and its middle class is hurting. Paul Goldstein vaulted back among the
ATP's top 100 earners last year for the first time since 2000, making him once
more ... average. But while Hart may rake in six figures in endorsement money
each year, Goldstein, in a good year, might make $250,000 altogether.
"There have been times when it's been touch-and-go," says Goldstein, an
actual Stanford graduate in human biology. "I've always been able to
support myself. If my bio says I've earned $1.3 million in prize money, that's
O.K., but [that's since] '98, eight years ago. I've averaged a little bit more
than $100,000 a year. Nothing to sneeze at, but $30,000 to $40,000 of that goes
to travel expenses."
need a CPA to remind him of his place in the game. He does not (if he ever did)
dream of hoisting the trophy at Wimbledon. There is a talent divide, for one
thing. " Marat Safin has the physical ability to roll over in bed and hit a
serve 130 mph," Goldstein says. "For Safin 75 percent of his work is
done rolling over in bed." Goldstein doubts he gets more than 25% of his
game by similar rolling over, saying that what has allowed him to stay on tour
is "70 percent emotional makeup."
accomplishments are correspondingly modest. The day he felt he could make a
career in tennis? When he won a set off Pete Sampras in the 1998 U.S. Open. His
most important victory? Beating No. 8 Greg Rusedski at the '99 Australian Open.
His goals are realistic. He already has toyed with the idea of a day job--he
fired off r�sum�s to financial-services companies in 2004 when he dropped to
190th in the ATP points rankings. He and his wife, Abbie, share a '97 Honda.
But should he stay within the top 100, he is virtually guaranteed a spot in the
main draw for the four Grand Slam events, which means he'll make $65,000
overall even if he loses in the first round of each. "That's where it is
for me," Goldstein says.
jeff posey is
breaking ground on an 8,000-square-foot house in Hattiesburg, Miss. "A
pretty nice house," he says of the home for himself, his wife, Latalia, and
sons Tyler, 2, and Jeremy, 1. It's not really fair to call Posey an average NFL
player because he is an eight-year veteran and a starting linebacker for the
Buffalo Bills. But the four-year contract he signed in 2003 has him making near
the league's mean, about $1.75 million.
If Posey's not
average, though, he may at least be typical. He's the kind of player nobody
hotly pursues, who bounces from team to team (this is his fourth) until a slot
opens that's unique to his abilities and unexpectedly guarantees him a pretty
good living. Posey was undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, thought too small
to play defensive end at 6'4" and 220 pounds. He did get the chance to work
out with the San Francisco 49ers, who, after releasing Posey, signed him to the
practice squad two days later, then used him on special teams.
It was like that
for three years with the Niners, league minimum all the way, until going into
his fourth season he got switched to outside linebacker. It was a difficult
adjustment, but he started nine games. Thereupon he was released. "Did I
tell you this was not a straight story?" he says, laughing. The
Philadelphia Eagles brought him in, cut him; the Carolina Panthers brought him
in, waived him; the Jacksonville Jaguars signed him, let him go. With the
Houston Texans in 2002 he found a 3-4 defense for which he was a perfect fit.
"My career catapulted," he says. "I had a great year and signed
with the Bills."
Had job security,
acclaim or big money ever been the primary motivation for Posey, he wouldn't
have lasted long enough to attain a measure of each. "I've seen a lot of
people faster, stronger, going back to that first season in San Francisco, who
are just not here anymore," he says. "You wonder why. But you have to
enjoy this game, you have to love to play this game."
These are not
sports' divas, highly courted, lavishly praised, obscenely compensated. Their
gift is desire, their reward opportunity. Center Steven Reinprecht of the
Phoenix Coyotes, a seven-year veteran who earned a tad less than the NHL
average in 2005--06, has never hit the back of the net more than 22 times in a
season. While he aspires to get in touch with his inner 40-goal scorer, he has
set the more modest goal of increasing his productivity each season. "My
advice is not to think too far ahead, not to get too far ahead of yourself, not
to get overwhelmed by where you are and what you've done," Reinprecht says.
Certainly hockey has been more lucrative than firefighting, a career he
considered while growing up in Edmonton. Reinprecht and his wife, Sarah, who
designs pillows, often travel to Europe to scout fabrics. Not many firefighters
have the money, or the summers off, to do that.
level, players learn to appreciate the difference between making it and not,
instead of resenting the difference between making it ... and making it really
big. Texas Rangers outfielder Kevin Mench knows that he's not having a Hall of
Fame career at the moment (though there is some balm in his--approximately
average--$2.8 million salary), but he understands also that if not for a bit of
luck he wouldn't even be in baseball.
"I always knew
I had the ability," says Mench. "But you still need some things to go
your way." He remembers being brought up to Double A, getting hurt, hitting
just .265, generally floundering. "A shot of reality," he says. The
next spring he was assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City, but when Juan Gonzalez
got hurt, the big club called him up five days into the season. "There you
go," he admits. "Right place, right time." Mench, 28, hit 26 homers
in 2004 and 25 in '05, suggesting he could move right out of the confines of
this story. But he says that he's still "starry-eyed" and, in the
presence of such onetime Rangers luminaries as Orel Hershiser and Alex
Rodriguez, has paused to wonder, "Am I really here?"