Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Thursday, June 19, 2003
Updated: July 4, 4:57 PM ET
Here's $41 mil, now just go away

By Jim Caple
Page 2 columnist

Manchester United sold David Beckham to Real Madrid for $41 million this week, outraging soccer fans in England. Half are appalled that Man U coldheartedly sold off its best and most popular player, a soccer icon so revered that when Becks broke his foot last year, a British tabloid printed a photo of it and asked readers to lay hands on the appendage to help hasten his recovery. The other half are delighted that hated Man U is without its best player and overjoyed that a possible Spice Girls reunion is that much less likely.

Meanwhile, here in America, we are only stunned that a team paid $41 million for a player ... and it wasn't the Yankees.

David Beckham
Former Man U star David Beckham's $41 million pricetag pales in comparison to American superstars.

The $41 million may sound like a staggering amount to fans in other countries, but that's because they're still coming to grips with the prices in a global economy, such as $5 for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Here in North America, we're so accustomed to paying $8 for a beer at the stadium or $9 for "Bruce Almighty" that a $41 million sale is barely worth a mention in the transactions section in the back of the sports page. Heck, $41 million is nothing compared to the record set by the Boston Red Sox when they sold Babe Ruth and their immortal soul to the Yankees in 1920.

Why, just this spring, the Tigers paid Damion Easley $14 million to go away (any more questions why Detroit is so bad?). And the Marlins are paying Mike Hampton to pitch for Atlanta -- and they're broke. Think how much they would be willing to pay a player to compete for another team if they had money.

Paying $41 million for a star player? We pay that for a middle reliever. Heck, we'll pay that for a star player's replica jersey. We pay double that just to get a high school kid to wear a pair of our shoes.

(Look, I have no doubt LeBron James is going to do just fine in the NBA and will have an excellent career. But what I don't understand is the insane money Team Swoosh is throwing at him. Right now, he is one of the best known, most popular players in basketball, but it's because he is in high school. Once he steps on the court, he becomes just another very good NBA player and he loses his entire cachet. He goes from being unique -- the most storied high school player since Jimmy Chitwood -- to just one of 400 other guys.)

The fact is, there are dozens of guys -- Kobe, Shaq, A-Rod, Barry, Ichiro, Michael Vick ... just to name a few -- we would gladly pay $41 million to play for our team, even though it might mean spending time in the same room as Scott Boras to seal the deal.

No, the question is not which players you would be willing to buy for $41 million; the real test to how dedicated you are to improving your team is which players you would be willing to pay another team $41 million to take them off your hands.

5. Vin Baker
Wait a second -- $41 million is only what Bill Simmons is willing to pay to get rid of him. The rest of Boston would be willing to pay much more. And it still would be a better investment than his current contract.

Rick Neuheisel
Neuheisel cracks the top five, not for his coaching ability, but his extracurricular gambling activities.
4. Rick Neuheisel
Of course, by the time Slick Rick and his lawyers are done, the University of Washington really will be paying him close to that to make him go away.

3. David Wells
The savings on the post-game spread alone would justify the deal.

2. Randy Moss
Actually, $41 million isn't all that much. Based on his $75 million contract and his work ethic, the Vikings are already paying him roughly that much not to play for them about half the time.

1. Rasheed Wallace
Let's see. Last year he threatened a ref, went after a fan in the stands and was pulled over with marijuana in his car after speeding. Which was considered a good year for him. The only problem with paying $41 million to get rid of him is that you still have to find more money to get rid of Ruben Patterson and Bonzi Wells.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.