Why Is This Bad?

Rookie hazing is common to all American professional sports.  Normally it amounts to rookies carrying veterans’ bags, being dressed up in women’s clothing for “fashion shoots,” or simply having to buy dinner for the veterans.  Well last week Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys was subjected to the latter.  Unlike most rookie hazing incidents this caused headline news.  Why?  Because the bill came out to just under $55,000.  That’s a lot of steak.

This has led to all sorts of outrage.  I think this nugget from Peter King’s (never-ending) column fairly represents the typical media reaction to the story.

This doesn’t deserve a monumental amount of coverage, but one thing should be said to the Cowboy veterans who delighted in spending about $2,500 per man (one estimate I heard for the 22 to 25 men who attended this dinner) as most of America struggles to pay for weekly groceries: Stop being pigs. It’s disgusting.

This comes from the same column in which Peter King discusses his three-hour meal with Texans running back Arian Foster.  People are struggling with the grocery bills and Peter King is out carousing with football players?  What a pig.

Anyway, I must share Mr. King’s outrage. Rich people spending lots of money on good and services is a bad thing for the economy.

You see, if the rich just lived like hermits and sat on their wealth that would greatly benefit the American economy. How can that be?  Well the collective empathy that would be stirred by such generous action will magically make money appear in the wallets of middle class Americans throughout this great land.  Every time a rich person decides to pop a Barron’s pizza in the  microwave rather than going out to a Smith & Wollensky it means that some guy with an office job struggling to pay his electric bill will suddenly be flush with the extra cash needed to pay that bill.

It’s called the invisible hand.  You see, there is an invisible hand that takes the money saved by the rich guy for not spending a lot on a lavish meal or yacht or car and it just places that money in some lucky schlub’s wallet.  It’s really quite amazing.

Now there’s an alternative theory that suggests that when wealthy people buy things that benefits the businesses that they buy the stuff from, and those businesses in turn have more revenue, which will then enable said business to employ more people, thus leading to overall job growth.  For instance, the restaurant is now flush with $55,000 more revenue than had the Cowboys players not shown up.  On top of that, the wait staff were treated to something on the order of a $10,000 tip.  They weren’t thinking of the players as pigs that night, but obviously the wait staff must have consisted of other wealthy men who don’t have to worry about having to pay their grocery bills.

Of course this latter theory is just crazy talk.  When the economy is sputtering along the last thing we can afford is a bunch of people spending money.  Listen to Peter King – he’s never wrong.

In all seriousness, lest I be accused of defending wanton gluttony, I just get annoyed over such absurd sanctimony.  Do you really think it makes a lick of difference to the suburban dad just trying to keep his family afloat whether or not a bunch of football players spend a lot of money on a meal?  Furthermore, this is the same attitude that leads people to rail against corporate junkets and any type of business conference set in some lavish location.  How do people think the economy is supposed to improve when we discourage others from spending money?  Yeah, I do think there are better ways to spend money than thousand dollar shots of cognac – you should at least be drinking scotch whiskey if you’re going to spend that much – but the waiter who’s got a couple of hundred extra bucks in his pocket because of the tip on that shot probably doesn’t mind that much.  And the cooks and the other wait staff and the greeters and whoever else is employed at the restaurant also are probably not overly concerned either.  In the end, their  economic concerns are being eased a lot more by these players’ piggishness than by Peter King’s sanctimony.

24 Responses to Why Is This Bad?

  • It is bad because, as the Catholic Church has consistently taught, gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins. When one indulges in it, one is doing evil. It is still evil even if one of the side effects (unintended from the looks of it) is to create jobs.

  • I’m probably going to regret the title of the post because it doesn’t really convey the real subject matter. My beef is with the idea that the amount spent is an affront to people who are struggling economically.

  • Almost totally correct Mr. Z.

    Except the a priori is somewhat “off target.” Some of the people criticizing rich people’s spending habits are not concerned with poor people’s financial problems. Some demagogues gain power by generating envy and antipathy toward evil rich people.

    Wrath is one of the seven deadly sins, too.

  • The type of rookie hazing you described seems harmless enough so I have no problem with that. But, when the hazing turns dangerous and deadly then I do have a problem with that type of hazing.

    Rich people spending money is a good thing. When we are taxed excessively it creates a domino effect and hurts the taxpayer, which in turn impedes their ability to patronage a certain place and then that place loses profits and might be forced to layoff some employees. Excessive taxation hurts people. Money makes the world go round. The best thing that could happen to boost our economy today is for the rich to be encouraged to spend money instead of them presently being discouraged, which is causing a sluggish economy.

  • Hopefully they all gained 20 lbs of flab in one sitting so the Cowboys can continue to stink this season, right under that ridiculous jumbotron in their fancy new clown stadium. Did the columnist mention anything about the team owners/coaches/league officials/et al? Because I can assure you that plenty of them go to sleep every night on large piles of cash surrounded by many beautiful women, thanks to the revenue happily forked over by fans.

  • Also, is it truly gluttonous behavior? The bill was high not because they consumed a lot of stuff, but because the individual price of the food and drinks was ridiculously high. But Bryant is set to make $2,000,000+ this year, so it’s the equivalent to me spending $100 on a nice meal with my wife. Are we being gluttonous just because we spent a lot, but did not necessarily over-consume?

  • So now King is the champion of the little guy? I remember a few years ago King writing in his column how disgusted he was seeing people waiting overnight outside stores to get special sale prices prior to Christmas.

  • Frankly, the one time I went to Smith & Wollensky, it rather sucked (and I didn’t spend nearly that much). It doesn’t take much to run up a bill if alcoholic beverages are involved.

    If they want to blow big bucks on barely average food, that’s their business.

  • I don’t think gluttony is necessarily restricted to quantity. It can also include exhorbitantly expensive.

  • Agree with c matt. An additional problem with these gents is that I heard on NPR recently that 60% of professional football players are bankrupt 5 years after leaving the game. This in part explains why. Not wise stewards of their multi-millions.

  • So, why is it OK for football players to stimulate the economy by spending $55,000 on one meal but it’s not OK for the Clintons to spend $2 million (or $3 million or $5 million, depending on whose estimates you believe) on Chelsea’s wedding? Didn’t we have a post on TAC decrying the excess involved there? Not that I’m a big fan of the Clintons or of over the top weddings — I did agree that seemed a bit excessive — but let’s show some consistency here.

    I suppose the argument could be made that the Clinton’s “wasted taxpayer’s money” on Chelsea’s wedding because of Bill and Hillary’s current and past employment; but by that logic, all past and current government employees should take strict vows of poverty and never splurge on anything, right?

  • @Elaine

    I must have missed that post but in any case, I believe that the Clintons had the right to spend as much money as they wanted on Chelsea’s wedding. It probably helped to stimulate the economy.

  • @ Elaine

    Thank you for the link.

    While I do think that Chelsea’s wedding was extravagant I also believe that the Clintons had every right to spend their own money as they wish.

  • Was Paul the author of that Clinton wedding post? If not, I don’t quite get the consistency argument.

  • Unless, that is, writing for TAC means that you must march in lockstep with Tito (and we know just from his outlandish college football picks, alone, that that’s not the case).

    ;-)

  • What’s football?

  • Well, now that I looked back I see that the two posts have different authors so they do not have to be “consistent.” Still, I thought it might be interesting to notice the contrast in approaches.

  • I have actually ate at the Restaurant. The food prices are not that out of line for a quality Steak House. What people are missing is that it was not the food bill that really got him but the bottles of WINE that all the players ordered to take home that upped the bill so much LOL

  • “Unless, that is, writing for TAC means that you must march in lockstep with Tito”

    Nah, Jay, we have to march in lockstep with Elaine. :)

  • “We have to march in lockstep with Elaine.”

    Well, if that’s the case you all aren’t doing a very good job of it :-)

  • Oh, I thought it was the thousand dollar shots of cognac that put the bill over the top. I stand corrected.

    To address Elaine’s point, no I didn’t write that post nor was I overly bothered by the extravagance of the wedding, though perhaps it was over the top. And again, I don’t exactly wholeheartedly approve of the lavish dinner. My question about whether or not this was a true example of gluttony was not rhetorical. I was genuinely curious, and I think I agree with most of the responses.

    I think Philip raises an interesting point. Not only are many pro football players broke shortly after retirement, but this problem plagues pro basketball players and other athletes. In fact I believe that NBA players make NFL players look like wise financial stewards. Dinners like this are just a drop in the bucket of the types of ridiculous purchases made by American professional athletes, and in fact this particular case is slightly less bothersome only because it is an exercise in hazing, not a regularly occurring incident. When Bryant buys his $30 million mansion in north Dallas, then it’s time to start flagging down a good financial advisor.

    And to repeat, the main thrust of my post is to chide Peter King for his reasons for objecting to the dinner. As someone on a tight budget, I don’t begrudge the Cowboys for having the means to go a little nuts at dinnertime. As for the prudence of such a dinner, that’s another matter.

  • This seems to rest on the idea that the choices are between spending money and not spending money. But that’s not the case.

    While I’d like to see these players utilizing their money, I’d rather see it spent in far more productive investments. The $55,000 they spent won’t lead to a lot of other growth.

    That said, when I heard this I thought it was funny rookie hazing rather than a horrible thing.

    Unless, that is, writing for TAC means that you must march in lockstep with Tito (and we know just from his outlandish college football picks, alone, that that’s not the case).

    I think at the end of the season, I’m doing a special recap of Tito’s picks.

  • In fact I believe that NBA players make NFL players look like wise financial stewards.

    The guaranteed NBA contracts make this a lot easier. If an NBA player gets hurt and can’t play at a high level, the team still has to pay his contract for the duration (see Grant Hill, Allan Houston) unless he generously decides to release the team from the obligation. In the NFL, the team only has to pay the player their salary through the end of the season, then whatever guaranteed money he is owed (much of the money in the contracts is not guaranteed). The income of an NFL player is much less stable, which makes financial planning particularly difficult for players who are injured or who play positions in which the average career is around three years (e.g. running back).

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