Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Poor Penny

The trials and tribulations of being a star.

By George Shadroui

AUGUST 23, 1999:  Penny Hardaway has signed a new contract with the Phoenix Suns for $86 million. Hey, do you think he can make ends meet? I mean, $86 million might seem like a lot, but after taxes, heck, he probably will only have about $50 or $60 million left. Then you gotta buy all those fancy homes, brand new cars, a private jet, and play golf against Michael Jordan for cash. That could get costly.

Me and the guys who hang out at the bowling alleys and golf courses of America were really getting worried, too, whether Penny and the other stars in the NBA would find true happiness as multimillionaire athletes. It's a tough job. You gotta sign autographs sometimes. That can be very taxing.

Listen, once I traveled with a group of players from the University of North Carolina -- years ago, back when Phil Ford was a star -- and some kids asked me for an autograph. And I didn't even play. I felt like saying, "Hey, kid, can't you see I'm busy watching the game?"

Not to mention all the time you spend in private jets, scurrying from one city to another where you get treated like royalty. I mean, I don't know how Tiger Woods and David Duval do it. All that time traveling. I bet sometimes they even have to carry their own luggage. Perhaps that's what happened to Dennis Rodman -- had to carry his own luggage one too many times and he just snapped.

I know what that's like. Back in my bowling days, I had to carry my bowling ball every time I participated in a tournament. The bag also had my shoes in it. It probably weighed 18 or 20 pounds, and sometimes when parking was bad, I had to hike almost 50 yards with it. Not once did anyone volunteer to carry my bag for me. Can you believe it?

What about the stress, too? Look, when you have that much money, do you realize what happens? Half the beautiful women in the country want to get close to you. They follow you around, beg you to meet them, and usually don't even make you raise your own children.

People always insist on giving you the finest seats in the best restaurant. You probably even have to put up with people staring at you or asking you to donate to charity or visit with sick kids. What a drag! Almost as rough as all the Hollywood stars who have to pretend to do things. And everyone knows pretending to do things is tougher than actually having to do them.

Like smiling. Ever had to fake a smile? That's tough. What about pretending to kiss a beautiful starlet -- really gross.

Well, I know what a lot of people might say. Bob Costas, who is also a millionaire, will tell us how in the old days the ballplayers rode on the subways the rest of us working stiffs used. They probably even had to wait in line sometimes at restaurants or movies. They probably even had to get jobs when their careers ended at 30 or 35. Imagine that -- having to work again after being a star for so many years. That's just not fair.

So I say good luck to Penny and all the other people out there struggling to be rich and famous while playing games.

Take it from all the folks who actually have to serve in the military, deal with violent criminals, care for the sick, or raise families on five-digit salaries. We've got it made. The only time we have to worry about too much attention is when we write our name on the automatic scorer at the local bowling alley. When that happens, every one stops and looks. It really freaks you out.

I guess all I am trying to say is that while some folks might say you are pampered elites who need a serious reality check, we know better. In fact, we feel so bad for you that if you want to trade salaries and pressure for a few weeks, we volunteer to do it. Just to help you out.

Just to show you we understand your pain.

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