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Why Do We Pay Athletes So Much, Anyway?

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Does anyone ever really sit back and think about this? 

Why do we hold athletes in such high regard? I am guilty of doing so, obviously, because I manage a sports blog. Clearly I feel that professional sports are worthy of my time. But are they worthy of the amount of money they generate every year? Even when teams are losing money, they're still dealing in millions. We have people in this country (like myself) who are struggling to make ends meet, doing much more "noble" things than throwing or hitting a ball.

When did our society become so obsessed with sports?

Do you guys think that athletes are deserving of the millions of dollars that we throw at them?

I do understand that the amount of time a basketball or football player can actually play is limited and so they should be able to make a living for that shortened amount of time. HOWEVER, would it be so wrong to ask that they learn another life skill so that, when their careers are over, they can continue to contribute to society? More athletes that we care to think about end up with regular day jobs because they never reached the superstar status of our favorite players. 

Tell me what you think about the contracts of professional athletes, and whether they make sense.