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Old 01-25-2019, 04:01 AM
GMANCANADA GMANCANADA is offline
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What's the "Best" sport to have a career in?

I thought I'd turn to Dopers to help answer this question I pondered over beers with friends recently. Facts or opinions are welcome.

What is the "best" sport to make a career for an average player (not a superstar)?

Specifically, if I was a crazy parent who obsessed on launching his son on a professional sports career trajectory, what sport should I put him into?

Some given parameters:
- I define the "best sport" simply as the most lucrative, which I define as meaning the most money during an average career. This would be: [average money earned per year] X [average career length]. But if I missed something, I'm open to other suggestions for "best". I've thought about the variation between the average and the maximum for a sport, but it seems to me that will complicate things somewhat.
- He is (or will be) a decent enough athlete to make any pro sport he focuses on, since I will ruthlessly force him to train once I select a sport.
- I'm considering sports from anywhere in the world, since perhaps cricket, or professional track and field or rugby or Aussie rules football is a better sports career than NASCAR or FIFA or NHL or MLB or NBA or PGA etc
- For sports where there are multiple levels of "professionals", he will be good enough to make the top level in the world or whatever country we move to in pursuit this insane obsession I have.
- I'm not concerned about his short or long term mental well-being from all the ruthless training I'll impose on him, so let's not deduct the years of therapy he will need after his career is over. He'll thank me in the end
- I don't want to factor in things like endorsement revenue, since I think he'll be good enough to make a pro sport team, but not great enough to make money endorsing stuff.

I've kept this to male sports, because I also have a daughter who plays sports and I'm keenly aware at how female athletes get the shaft when it comes to career and success professionally. But that is a discussion for a different thread...
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Old 01-25-2019, 04:18 AM
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Golf - long career, minimal physical stress, zero injuries.

But then, I care more about my child’s healrh and happiness than how much they make.
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Old 01-25-2019, 04:45 AM
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From here, based on 2013 numbers, https://infogram.com/sports-with-ave...gxop47k0j1dpwy, it looks like the best would be the NBA.

Taking the average salary times the average length of career gives $26.4 M for the NBA. An average MLB player would have a lifetime earning on $20.8 M. NHL players would have an average of $13.2 M while the average NFL player would only have $6.5 M.

Of course, assuming you could train you hypothetical son to do anything, perhaps training them to be an average quarterback could be a winning strategy, as quarterbacks tend to last longer and get paid higher.
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Old 01-25-2019, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by GMANCANADA View Post
- I'm not concerned about his short or long term mental well-being from all the ruthless training I'll impose on him, so let's not deduct the years of therapy he will need after his career is over. He'll thank me in the end
What about the damage to his brain from repeated impacts? Even if he never gets a concussion, frequent impacts from tackling in American football or heading the ball in soccer can cause long term neurological damage.
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Old 01-25-2019, 07:33 AM
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I agree with golf. You can play for a really long career, no hard physical impacts, you get fame and endorsement deals, earn large, but still enjoy a very family friendly lifestyle, (no sudden trades to Detroit!). Also the sport itself seems largely controversy free. No uniform, no heavy pads, no team dynamic to navigate.

That’s a lot of upside, if you just want room to be you, I’d say!
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Old 01-25-2019, 07:37 AM
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This is subjective enough not to be a good fit for GQ. Fortunately, we have a forum for which it is a good fit. Moving to the Game Room.
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Old 01-25-2019, 08:20 AM
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I'm confused. From your terms, to get on the top level - the international circuit - they are by definition a superstar (at least within their sport).

Anyway, chess and snooker players seem to have long careers. I would not recommend Scrabble - I know a top-level player and Scrabble doesn't pay. For a more physical career, I would suggest motorsport. There's a lot more to motorsport than F1 and drivers are still active into their 50s and 60s.
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Old 01-25-2019, 10:14 AM
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Left-handed MLB pitcher. If he's even halfway decent (by MLB standards), he's almost guaranteed of a long career. And, even the middling players on a team make good money.

The downside, compared to some others that people have suggested, is that there *is* a non-zero injury risk, though it's "tear up my elbow," not "repeated head trauma."
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
Of course, assuming you could train you hypothetical son to do anything, perhaps training them to be an average quarterback could be a winning strategy, as quarterbacks tend to last longer and get paid higher.
Every young man dreams of being the next Charlie Whitehurst.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:26 AM
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Every young man dreams of being the next Charlie Whitehurst.
Clipboard Jesus!
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:44 AM
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I was thinking baseball but the suggestions of golf sound convincing.

Baseball's advantage is its strong minor league system. Even if you're not playing in MLB you can still make a living in the minors. And baseball players have relatively long careers.

The problem I see with basketball and football are the careers are too short. But those two sports seem to have better college support so you might see better opportunities to shift into a coaching position after your playing career is over.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by GMANCANADA View Post
- I don't want to factor in things like endorsement revenue, since I think he'll be good enough to make a pro sport team, but not great enough to make money endorsing stuff.
Do you want to factor in opportunities to make money in things like coaching or broadcasting after his playing career is over?

Last edited by Thudlow Boink; 01-25-2019 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:57 AM
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It's unclear to me what "average" golf career means. Does that mean you qualify for each event and just make the cut? My (non-fan) perception of golf is that there are a lot of "pro" golfers that are just making a living and a handful that do really well.

If you are saying "median salary for median career length" then I think NBA or MLB has it. If you add in quality of life (nixing NFL and probably soccer) then I still think MLB or NBA, but golf moves up because you can keep playing as a senior or become a club pro somewhere.

Some more data here (although I can't vouch for it's accuracy and at least one of it's charts seems to be labeled wrong): https://erikrood.com/Posts/salary_dist_sports.html
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Old 01-25-2019, 12:11 PM
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Even if you're not playing in MLB you can still make a living in the minors.
My understanding is that, unless you're a top prospect (and under contract with the major league team), minor league salaries are *very* low, to the point that players in the lower levels of the minors frequently wind up living with host families as they don't make enough money to actually live on.
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Old 01-25-2019, 12:47 PM
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My understanding is that, unless you're a top prospect (and under contract with the major league team), minor league salaries are *very* low, to the point that players in the lower levels of the minors frequently wind up living with host families as they don't make enough money to actually live on.
Yeah the average minor league paycheck in the lowest level of play (A) is $1,300 a month. That works out to $15,600 a year. That’s barely above the poverty line for the US for a single individual (forget it if you have a family) and barely above the federal minimum wage (and below the state minimum wage in most states). That’s not something most people could or would want to try to live on.

Also, my numbers assume working 12 months straight which baseball players don’t do. So if your only source of income is baseball, you wouldn’t even be able to eat all year.

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/04/...spute-over-pay
https://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybr...age-exemption/

Last edited by Atamasama; 01-25-2019 at 12:51 PM. Reason: Added links.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:05 PM
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Kicker or punter in professional football would be pretty good I'd think- long careers, very low risk of injury, and relatively high pay.

Of course you have to get there first; is this poll taking into account relative difficulty of getting said pro sports career? I'd think that trying to be the kicker for one of 32 NFL teams is a lot harder than getting into the rotation as a lefty pitcher somewhere in the major leagues, or onto the PGA tour.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:21 PM
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The problem with golf is you're essentially running your own independent business, and if you don't perform, you don't get paid. The PGA tour is as pure a meritocracy as there is in professional sports; you earn more than everyone you beat, and everyone that beat you earns more than you did. And to even get onto the tour you have to be one of the top 125 players in the world, and you pay all of your own expenses. It costs somewhere between $75,000 and $110,000 or more, minimum, out of your own pocket, just to be on the tour. If you make the cut, you're fine, but if you don't, you move on with nothing.

Even a mediocre football or baseball player has a huge organization around them that fully provides medical support, athletic training, meals, travel, travel expenses, coaching, uniforms, etc. If you're under contract you are 100% taken care of. You may never even see the field but if your teammates win, you still get to share in the glory.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:22 PM
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The problem with golf is that endorsements aside, you have to win tournaments to make big money as it's not a team sport (usually). In baseball, a very good to great pitcher can play 10 or more years on a crappy team making 20 million a year, all of it guaranteed whether the team wins or loses. And he would get all his money from a signed contract even if thee team cuts you.

Edit: Ninja'd!

Last edited by FoieGrasIsEvil; 01-25-2019 at 01:23 PM.
  #19  
Old 01-25-2019, 01:37 PM
Dale Sams Dale Sams is offline
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I'd say soccer or baseball if you truly love the game.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:38 PM
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Kicker or punter in professional football would be pretty good I'd think- long careers, very low risk of injury, and relatively high pay.
If you're among the very best ones, this is true. There are a handful of kickers and punters who are consistent, reliable, and enjoy long careers (e.g., Adam Vinatieri, Stephen Gostkowski, Shane Lechler, etc.). But, beyond them, the specialist positions often see a lot of turnover, and an awful lot of them actually wind up with fairly short careers.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 01-25-2019 at 01:38 PM.
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Old 01-25-2019, 02:43 PM
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Cricket used to be an utter non-starter in this, and it's still not great, but a pro cricketer can now get signed to a variety of T20 leagues and earn their millions that way. Not many get to do it though, and I don't think it's quite in the same league still as some of these other sports.
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Old 01-25-2019, 02:57 PM
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You'll probably have to define "average" a bit better. The average player of any sport is not a professional player. You have to be in the top (tiny)% of players to be a professional sports player.

It's fairly easy to define an average for specific leagues. There's an average MLB player salary. But that doesn't cover local and farm players. The average player who plays baseball professionally probably is not in the MLB.

It's harder for things like golf and tennis where leagues aren't as well defined. There are "open" professional tournaments. Do we consider the average of all players

That said, I think that people are sort of right that golf is a good bet, except... golf is dying. There are fewer people playing it and they are older and older. Golf courses are closing all over the place. Golf would have been a great suggestion 20 or 30 years ago. If you're training your child right now, I think the NBA is a much better choice. It's still on the rise and is more popular with younger and more affluent fans.

In the 1970s, professional bowlers made more than NFL players. Be wary of focusing on a sport in decline.
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:11 PM
GMANCANADA GMANCANADA is offline
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I knew this was way more complicated then I imagined in the pub!! I appreciate the fact that since my son plays pro level he would already be elite. But I imagine Junior to be average elite, not superstar elite.

I checked a couple of the links posted, based on that I've realized that Mr. Walrus is correct - I don't think "average" is a good measure of salary potential. When I looked at the NBA numbers - I was blown away at how high the "average" was, but upon further inspection, that number is quite skewed based on the massive salaries paid to the biggest name players.

I think perhaps median is a better measure?

For what its worth - I'm already down about baseball. A lifetime ago, I played at a high amateur level. Although I was shitty, a couple guys I played with had major league farm team tryouts. Unless they were a 1 in 100,000 player, they were told they'd spend years in the minors daily bus travelling and making nothing and very few would ever go to MLB. I think when the years in the farm system are factored in average MLB players fail the grade. I picture his future selling used cars and people pointing to his picture on the wall and saying "Junior used to play in the majors...". No thanks.

Another friend's son made NHL - good money for a few years, between $250K & $400K / year. But he retired in his late 20's. He couldn't compete with the speed and stamina of the early 20 year old kids that were coming up. He's now selling used cars.

I also considered golf: as DCnDc notes - it's also very tough. A friend's son is an amazing golfer and on a scholarship somewhere in AZ right now. He had a fantasy of PGA, he's only 3rd year uni, but every weekend and every tourney that fantasy fades. As some of you guys noted, one bad week and you lose money after you pay for your travel, hotel etc. I suspect that's where there are so few golfers from "economically disadvantaged families", that persevere to the PGA, you need somebody with a large bankroll to support you. I'm hoping Junior can make it more on his talent.
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:31 PM
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Why is golf considered to be an "injury free" sport?

Ask Tiger Woods about his back! Performing ANY sort of constant motion time and time again for years will almost certainly result in an injury.

Years and years of swinging a golf club as hard as you can at a small ball sitting on a tee is bound to eventually cause some kind of injury to your body.

Swinging a golf club is certainly not a natural motion like walking.

Golf is less likely to cause you an injury than most sports, but Tiger didn't need several back surgeries because he was in a car accident.
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Old 01-25-2019, 10:06 PM
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It depends it lot what you mean by average or median. If you are the 400th best baseball player, you are still a starter. If you are the 400th best basketball player, you probably aren't even in the league. So an average basketball player gets paid more, but the level of talent to get there is going to be much higher.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:19 PM
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Why is golf considered to be an "injury free" sport?

{snip}

Golf is less likely to cause you an injury than most sports
You answered your own question.
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Old 01-26-2019, 04:21 PM
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Golf is less likely to cause you an injury than most sports, but Tiger didn't need several back surgeries because he was in a car accident.
Not a car accident but Tiger's injuries were probably more from the the intense military training he started after his father died. Not to say he doesn't have issues from the repetitive motions of golf from very early childhood.

http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/sto...rl-woods-death
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Old 01-26-2019, 07:59 PM
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You answered your own question.
"Less likely" does not equal "injury free".
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Old 01-26-2019, 08:06 PM
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"Less likely" does not equal "injury free".
Sealing envelopes isn’t “injury free” since you can get a papercut, but relatively speaking it is. It’s an activity that’s unlikely to lead to routine injuries. It’s low-impact and non-contact.
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Old 01-26-2019, 11:48 PM
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Not a car accident but Tiger's injuries were probably more from the the intense military training he started after his father died. Not to say he doesn't have issues from the repetitive motions of golf from very early childhood.
Indeed, and even when he first turned pro (and was still pretty slender), Woods already had a very athletic, powerful swing. I remember reading an article during that time (probably in Golf Digest, which my father subscribed to for many years) in which several golf coaches discussed Woods and his swing, and postulated that he would eventually run into injury issues due to it.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 01-26-2019 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 01-29-2019, 02:41 AM
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I'm going to say soccer simply because there's so many leagues and if you are willing to travel you can eek out a career if you have some talent. I know a guy who was in his mid 30s making $50,000 a year as a coach/player for a minor league AMERICAN team.

In terms of "you had one job" there have been NFL players who have milked the bottle as "long snappers" and as mentioned before, kickers and punters.

What about race car divers? Even in middle age, many of them can talk their way into seats.


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Old 01-29-2019, 08:03 AM
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I'm going to say soccer simply because there's so many leagues and if you are willing to travel you can eek out a career if you have some talent.
The same is true of basketball. The NBA is the big time, but there's bunches of other leagues out there in other countries.
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