AL HAMNIK: Sports is a game, life is cold reality

2014-05-20T18:15:00Z 2014-05-20T23:38:19Z AL HAMNIK: Sports is a game, life is cold realityAl Hamnik Times Columnist
May 20, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

America, land of opportunity.

That depends on who you talk to.

Bears' wide receiver Brandon Marshall signs a three-year, $30 million extension with $23 million guaranteed.

The Tigers' Miguel Cabrera gets a 10-year contract worth $292 million. That's $180,247 per game.

Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler is pulling in $126,700,000 over seven years – a cool $1,131,250 per game on a team that's missed the playoffs three straight seasons.

The 2013-14 salary of Bulls' superstar Derrick Rose is $17,632,688 – that's $48,315 daily – and he's appeared in only 49 games since the 2011-12 season.

Teams are willing to pay obscene salaries, fans continue attending games and whining about ticket prices, and the average family is at the mercy of greedy cable companies.

That's professional sports. You expect the blood-letting.

But something's not right in America, land of opportunity, when athletes are society's highest-paid individuals while the poor are discarded like an old pair of tattered gym shoes.

People beg in this country and are stepped over or ignored on crowded sidewalks.

Last Saturday afternoon while walking down Michigan Ave., the Magnificent Mile, I counted eight men and a teenage girl within five blocks of each other, seated on the cold pavement, blankets over their shoulders, wearing threads, holding crumpled signs smeared with mud, pleading for help.

Each sign tugged at your heart.

"Help me, I have nowhere to go"

"I feel shamed, worthless, this is my fault"

"I have nothing"

"God, help me. I need food"

"My family kicked me out"

These were not con artists. They were truly suffering.

Most stared at the pavement, ashamed to look up.

One middle-aged man held his dog and it wagged its tail as strangers passed by, completely oblivious.

The scene was repeated along Ontario and Lake streets, where the indigent averaged maybe two per block.

They were all quiet for the most part. Some tapped a tin can on the pavement, others placed it nearby but wouldn't make eye contact.

The New York Yankees played the Cubs on Tuesday night and fans got to see Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka, who is making $22 million this season for throwing a ball.

Strolling down Michigan Avenue, I saw hundreds of young people darting in and out of the fancy clothing and jewelry stores. As they passed those begging near the curb, they stepped over them like you would an empty Burger King bag.

Some young adults glanced down and chuckled, though I don't know what was so funny.

America, land of opportunity.

It's happening here, too. I see people begging off the Chicago Skyway, at the Indianapolis Boulevard exit. And along the median.

Our priorities seem a bit messed up, don't you think? This poverty issue can't be ignored. I have no answer but let's make these people a priority instead of fawning over a .350 hitter or All-Pro wide receiver.

Those in government who are a lot smarter than me must have an answer. But first, they have to care.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at

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