On "Greed"
appetite for destruction, Dept.


Q.  Can you blame any athlete for maximizing his contract?  Would YOU give up money?

A.  It depends on many variables.  What is your own definition of the word "greed" as a personality trait?

Greed in my definition is an intense and self-focused desire for much more of a thing than one actually needs, especially pertaining to money, power, and reputation.  George Washington "gave up" power when he refused to become King of the new republic.  About 90%, 95% of the discussions you see in sports argue that athletes should not fail to maximize the cash they extract from their original signing teams.  SHOULD not do so!

Here the argument is that athletes should be unselfish towards their colleagues by demanding loads of money.  Hokay.  As opposed to being unselfish towards anybody else, of course.  And as opposed to their real motivations being to amass enough money to purchase a sports franchise.  Grab that cash with both hands and maaa--aaake a stash.  New car, caviar, four-star dayyy-dream.  I think I'll buy me a foooootballllll team ...

We're guessing the Counselor doesn't mind being on the minority side of a 98-2 debate, especially when the 98 haven't thought it through.  There's a little trick to doing well in debates:  take the stronger side of the issue.

;- )


In some situations, "maximizing" the money I extract from people is appropriate and something I in fact do.  In other situations, factors other than $$$ come to bear including unselfishness, loyalty, relationships, life balance, legacy, the lifestyles of family members, environment, example, keeping an informally understood promise, etc.

Some people have spent their lives giving up money ... :- )   or power, or fame, or playing time, or whatever.   Some of the rioting in Milwaukee seems to be based on the feeling that it is a social injustice to maximize earnings.  It depends on who you sympathize with, maybe?


Kam Chancellor last year seemed to be overcome by a feeling that he needed "fair" (more) money even though he is lavishly wealthy.  Michael Bennett this year seems to have a different attitude.  If there is a single "live wire" point to today's F-500 post, it's that I'm relieved Michael Bennett is in camp.  He is a great player, making what is it, a third of what it would cost to buy a player like him?  It's one guy's opinion, but here's mine:  I wish the Seahawks would hand him a bunch of money, or at least guarantees, and simply deal with every following Seahawk holdout by saying "you ain't Michael Bennett.  You'd rather be in Jacksonville, we can arrange that.  We've got Wilson and Sherman and Pete locked up and we'll figure the rest out without you.  Try me?"

Ken Griffey Jr. pursued a lifelong dream to play for the Cincinnati Reds, as opposed to hiring Scott Boras and plotting his free agent tour in Alex Rodriguez fashion.  

Current Mariners who I believe to significantly less overcome by greed than, say, Alex Rodriguez is:  Kyle Seager, Dae-Ho Lee, Hisashi Iwakuma, Nelson Cruz, and Adam Lind.  

Tom Brady apparently gave up $24MM to the Patriots so that he'd have a better chance to win the Super Bowl.  You got the impression that Griffey and Edgar and Buhner did the same, and that Randy Johnson offered to.

There are some athletes who are more self-focused than others, it seems to us, and Seattle has been blessed with more than its share of nice guys.  Big hit by Seager to clean 'em off Sunday, wasn't it?





Edgar was the ultimate unselfish ballplayer.  He was his own agent and played for pennies on the dollar his whole career.  Moyer was likewise. That's why they are beloved.


Boras-style greed (as it's perceived) is a turn off to most.  Since 99% of the population cannot relate to the high stakes involved, most people take on an attitude that "these guys get millions to play a kids game - they should just suck it up".

I'm a contrarian to a point.  Guys that maximize the cash-grab as if that's their championship ring are a turn off to me.  A-Rod had me (and my father who knew him and interviewed him many times) fooled in that respect.  Guys who want to be paid market value?  I have no issue with.  Guys that give a discount to teams in order to accomplish goals other than money have my admiration.  Guys who play for far under market value (willingly) may have the admiration of many fans, but also have to understand that they affect market value for others. 

Each player has to decide what fits within their goals and choose which goals are most important, since many might be somewhat mutually exclusive.  I think it's a tougher balance than most on the outside realize.  I could write a ton more on this, but just don't have the same kind of available time to post as I used.  Great article (again) Jeff.


As with most things, it's a matter of the heart. 

As a matter of economics, there is the kind of greed that plays a real and useful function in the marketplace. It inspires ideas, risks, hard work, efficient work, and responsiveness to markets. On a large scale and a reasonably fair playing field, it very much results in the betterment of all to some degree. This kind of greed does not require a heart disdainful of the needs of others. Indeed, watch Shark Tank and you see some entrepeneurs whose heartfelt goal is to provide jobs in areaa devestated by economic dislocation. Even when less altruistic, greed devoid of malice can still prove beneficial. And the U.S. is proof that all five of the beneficial qualities listed above can result in an economy which provides real, long-lasting security benefits for a country.

Of course we've all seen the kind of heart that seeks only to indulge itself in more and more pleasure, more and more self-worship, with a disdain that the effect on others is utterly immaterial. This latter is the real putoff. 

So there's economic greed, and then there's personal greed. The latter is the dangerous one.

The real subject, and the real driver of economic jealousy is the sense among working people in the modern world is that (1) the game has been increasingly rigged in favor of large corporations and connected people that are (2) increasingly remote from their lives. It's true that one can point to the exact same things throughout history, but many people feel the degree of large and the degree of remoteness has become intolerable. What they feel is not directly influenced by the context of history. They just know that "those in charge" aren't bothering to truly listen and respond to their concerns.

The racial underclass (Black Lives Matter, for example) includes this but adds many other extreme grievances and frustrations. My personal opinion is that many of the grievances have some legitimacy, but too many of their cultural leaders follow a quasi-Marxist ideology that is much better at destroying than it is building.

Much more here to ponder than I have energy or time to spend, but to me income inequality is more tolerable when people feel they have some real chance at moving up a little.


is not only tolerable, but desireable in its purest sense.  I'm not talking about the inequality with respect for being paid the same for the same "job", of course, but that concept has been completely co-opted by the social justice crowd.  So much so that sheer number of (perceived) grievances has drowned out a few legitimate ones.

But, back to inequality.  It's the inequality that inspires many to make a decision to improve their lot (and by extension) and others' lots in life....


Income inequality isnt just desirable (within reason), but unavoidable.  The drive to get as many people as possible into a pack of absolute equals (as defined by equality of outcome, rather than equality of opportunity) only makes more people poor.  The current example is the demand of fast food workers that they should make $15 an hour.  I want to be sympathetic (it is blamed HARD to live on 8.50 an hour no matter how many hours you work), but demanding a wage that the market really won't sustain because the wage the market will sustain isn't really enough to live on only hurts the poor.  Why?  Because the poor who need those jobs as a stepping stone to better jobs (especially young people who, if not gainfully employed, may get bored and end up in gangs) will watch as those jobs vanish and are replaced by automated ordering stations and robotic burger flippers (both of which already exist and are on the market).  And even if you could somehow force McDonalds not to fire people to accommodate a $15 minimum wage, the next thing that would happen would be that the price of McDonalds' food would go up...and the poor folks who have to eat a lot of fast food because it maximizes your bang for buck will suddenly find that, though their salaries are higher, they're no better off because so are their food bills.


--if you state (correctly) that automation and robotics are already taking jobs from people making $8.50 an hour, how does that square with this becoming a threat if those people make $15 and hour?

--if you chose to feed yourself by shopping at Safeway instead of McDonald's, would you not rather be making $15 an hour?


1) Automation is already moving into the market, but the pace of this move is at least partially controlled by the cost of labor.  In Australia, where automated tellers already have replaced just about every register employee in McDonalds stores, this change immediately followed a huge hike in the minimum wage.  And in the western US, where a number of states and cities have chosen to increase their local and state minimum wages, employment in the service industry is now collapsing.

2) If you choose to feed yourself at Safeway, where the employees make $10 an hour now, your food prices will still go up when the minimum wage increases to $15 an hour.


Official report of the UK experience:

  1. The minimum wage has done its job well. Before its introduction the lowest paid fared worse than other workers; since 1999 they have done better, including since the onset of recession in 2008. This has happened without evidence of adverse employment effects. 

Full report available here....


When you send $10 per month to a rural family in the Philippines, it buys them chicken and rice for a month.  The folks in America making $8.50 an hour have cell phones, do they not?  Do you know any specific person who cannot afford a cell phone?

In Sumner where I live, there are three food banks within walking distance of each other.  The state of WA issues debit cards for free food also.  Poverty in America isn't the same thing as poverty during the Great Siege in Russia during WWII.

None of which is to say we shouldn't do all we can to maximize OPPORTUNITY in America.  That was the premise of the DOI.


Capitalism argues that self-interested motivation is natural.  I think if we argue against that, we're kidding ourselves.  But there comes a point where you move from healthy motivation to exploitation, in any realm of life.  Agreed.


I agree with you that the U.S. is moving frightfully towards corruption and a rigged system.  For example, the RNC and DNC congressmen who would rather lose the election than give up their feathered nests.


How do we deal with that?  When BLM has a fraction of its protest that deserves attention, how do we separate that from the hatred and do it in a way that the population can process easily?


Yes, people need to feel there's hope.  Which was the campaign slogan in 2008.  Not sure why hope didn't move forward from there, are you?


Would be interested to hear you expand on that.  President Obama shouldn't be disappointed in his own success or lack thereof, in providing African-Americans with a better outlook on life?  If you don't believe so, cool; would enjoy hearing more detail on that point.

In particular, my question goes to the issue of how a President handles his bully pulpit, and where the state of racial attitudes and dispositions are in America.  You believe he said the right things, and the deteriorating BLM-style attitudes are wholly due to Congress' actions?  I don't get it.  Was Congress doing better things in 2005 than it's doing now?

White America put an African-American President in office; you're not going to see Egypt put a Jewish man in office, for example.  They thought that African-Americans might appreciate that, but it seems that anger is much higher eight years on.

I'm not trying to be obtuse.  Many Americans are puzzled as to why many African-Americans seem to be much angrier than they used to be.


1) in 2008, Obama took 43% of the white vote compared to 55% for McCain.  So 'some' whites helped elect him...but most did not. (Roper)

2) Does Black Lives Matter reflect African Americans overall?  

Is life better for you than it was 50 years ago? Percentage saying yes:(Pew, 2016)

--Whites 28%

--Hispanics 41%

--Blacks  58%

Among whites, 41% support BLM, 28% opppose (Pew)

3) I believe BLM beliefs are based on black people being killed for no apparent reason by white cops.  Feel free to disagree. 

4) Obama's blame.  He had two years with House an Senate majorities but decided his superior intelligence and reasoning power could win over Republicans in Congress.  My complaint is he did not use the bully pulpit at all to chastise his political opponents for fear of offending them.  We all see how that worked out.

But confession--it took me five minutes to figure out that 'BLM' meant Black Lives Matter--I couldn't figure out what the Bureau of Land Management had to do with all this!  :)


And yes.  Like your point about some portion of the Black Lives Matter movement being partially rooted in real injustice by white police against young black 'toughs' that do not get the presumption of innocence from them.  Trust me, I've got my issues with that fraction of police who enjoy bullying, even hurting, people.

Several SSI denizens have acknowledged the grievances that are real -- but that get hijacked and twisted into something they weren't meant to be.


On the 50 years ago point:  honestly, my question is how that polling question applies to precisely 8 years ago.  In 2008, we all took it as a given that blacks would regard life as far better for them in 2016 than in 2008.


But yeah.  You could be right that the deterioration in race relations is due to white politicians in D.C.  Honestly don't know.



1) I am appalled by the taking of innocent lives, whether by police, terrorists, or whomever.  But I also feel that BLM is doing itself a huge disservice with some of its tactics.  Remember when they refused to let Bernie Sanders speak in Seattle?  What good did that do them?

2) A matter probably for another time, but I'm projecting (from my own associations) that the clear majority of police offiers around the country are horrifed when another black kid is gunned down by a white cop for no reason.  Why?  Because it makes their own jobs more difficult/dangerous.  Why don't they speak out?  Union solidarity?  Military-grade devotion to the platoon?  Threats from above?  I don't know, but something's wrong there.  


...under Obama black unemployment is up, black food stamp dependency is up, black gun violence is up (those three things tend to be related, and all of them are at least significantly contributed to by...), black out of wedlock pregnancy is up, as is the black divorce rate.  Obama doesn't control all of these things even to the smallest degree, so I'm not blaming him for all of that...but I don't think it is particularly accurate to claim that Obama has been of much benefit to African American communities.


When you say that a corporation shouldn't have the ability to influence elections, I have two questions for you:

1) Do you realize that the NY Times is a corporation?  That regularly prints material intending to influence the elections? (I'm certain that you do realize this...and I'm certain that you realize that regulating a corporation's ability to speak politically could have a chilling and eventually tyrannical impact on freedom of the press)


2) Do you realize that corporations are easily outspent by unions attempting to influence elections these days? (you will no doubt counter that unions represent the will of the people, not the will of shareholders, but I'll just say that shareholders are people too...the average person with stock in a company is middle class...if you own a 401K you are a shareholder in dozens of companies)

Not to mention the ethical question of "why shouldn't someone who owns a business have the right to speak politically using profits he rightfully earned in legal economic activity?"


So let me just add a couple things in response.

First--tangentially--I never really understood the obsession of the right wing with the impact of the NYT.  It's paid subscription base is about 220,000....with a'readership'about twice that.  

Fox news averages 2.37m viewers--and that's just in prime time--doesn't count the rest of the day.  In other words, six times as many people watch Fox News in prime time as read the NYT at any time of the day.

Anyway, on your main point about unions vs. corporations, here's the important difference:

"Federal rules require unions to publicly disclose all political spending and itemize payments over $5,000 with the date, name and address of the recipient, and purpose of the payment. Critically, this includes spending done through third party groups.

Corporations are under no similar blanket federal obligation to disclose their use of corporate resources for political purposes. They do not have to disclose political funds they route through other groups such as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups and 501(c)(6) business associations – and these tax exempt non-profit groups also are not required to disclose the source of their funds."

As I think I've done before, I can not recommend highly enough the book Dark Money by Jane Mayer.

And finally, the last point is this: do you, like me, support some limits on 'special money' (whether union or corporate) spent on elections, or not?

Nathan H's picture


I was wrong.

I had said that Bennett would hold out and he did not.

I ain't hidin'. Still lurking and firing a potshot comment once per blue moon.

But I will endeavor to do better in the future.


I think that greed is a loaded word.  It means something like ambition with bad motives.  

C.S. Lewis stated that there is a right and wrong manifestation for every personality trait. For example, a competititve person might get more things done but be cruel or prone to gambling.  A fearful person might not take enough risks but might be more prudent, and not take enough risks and so on.

What motives do professional athletes have?  Here's a list, not in any particular order:

1. Desire to dominate opponents;

2. Love of the game;

3. Love of artistry, desire to reach your own potential;

4. Gold;

5. Glory; 

6. Gals;

7. Sense of obligation to people paying for your contract;

Motives 2 and 7 are the only motives that are always good.  You can't enjoy the game too much, and you can't uphold your end of the bargain too much.  The player I see exemplifying these two motives is Robinson Cano.  He loves baseball. He plays stickball in his spare time in the DR.  He promotes the Mariners at every turn.  He spends his off season helping the Mariners general manager recruit free agents.  He spends time mentoring younger players.  He always supports the manager and general manager.  He helps the Mariners at the Dominican Republic school/ scouting facility.  When he needs surgery, he gets it done within two weeks of the end of the season so he can get a jump on rehab and be ready for the next year.  He is always in good physical condition, and he plays when he is sick and injured.  Kyle Seager is the same way.

Both of these guys have a greed to them as well.  Seager is particularly greedy for succcess.  In a tie game, you can see him become consumed by blood lust.  How many walk off line drives into the right field bleachers and off the wall does one man have to have?  If raking were a pathology, Seager would be clinical.  He is the proverbial gulper catfish of the fish tank.  His modus operandi is eating rivals headfirst, three RBI's at a time.  Bloodthirstiness is what we like about Seager, isn't it?  He lives to punish his opponents and click his heels after the latest splash fest.

That's why he has a $100 million dollars, while his UNC bash brother Dustin Ackley is almost out of baseball.  I get the sense that Seager doesn't care about his $100 million as much as he cares about his next three hit game.  

I don't think that the love of money is as addicting to athletes as the love of the glory shot.  This is because: At some point, money becomes un motivating.  $252,000,000 doesn't buy you substantially more than $100,000,000.  You have your $5,000,000 mansion, your fleet of cars, your boat, a few cabins in various places and all the travel you can stomach, and that's all you want.  The price tag for a lifetime of decadence is about $15,000,000.  More than that, what's the point?  

The guys who are extremely motivated by money are the ones who grew up dirt poor.  Marshawn Lynch only had one set of clothes, and not enough food to eat when he was growing up.  His mom was always broke.  Alex Rodriguez was raised in a single mom grinding poverty as well.  Robinson Cano grew up in grinding poverty.

For these guys, a record contract is important to them.  To them, money is precious, and getting paid what you are worth is a principle.  

Players from a middle class background, like Felix Hernandez and Kyle Seager, are the ones willing to give the hometown discount. Note that they both grew up in a traditional home with a mom and dad and enough food.  Hernandez' parents own a trucking company.  He had his own bedroom growing up.  This isn't exactly the hard knock life of playing stickball in the dirt in the DR.  As a result, he doesn't really care whether he makes $175,000,000 or $225,000,000.  

The Seahawks example of a non-greedy player, Michael Bennett, (and Earl Thomas)  both had active and involved fathers and an apparently middle class background.  The greedy player, Kam Chancellor, grew up dirt poor with no dad.

Now there is such a thing as a person using conspicuous displays of wealth as a way to put down others, or make himself feel more important than others.  I'm thinking of Donald Trump.  He uses his inherited wealth to splash his name, and people that aren't as rich as he is are losers.  Boo and hiss all you want for this kind of money lust.  But, I think that the Donald's greed stems from a sense of inferiority or inadequacy.  I don't think that there have been any professional athlete that ever felt inferior or inadequate.  At least not enough to get pleasure out of putting down ordinary people.  To reach the bigs, they have already bested a 1,000 rivals.  They don't need to tell a twenty something business grad that he is fired.

There may be some bad motives in sports, but money lust is the only one that we aren't complicit in.  I want to see Seager hurt, humiliate and crush the Rangers.    I want to see Felix's next Orc stomping.  That's the main point of tuning in.  However, I think that the money motive is largely innocent or at least mitigated.  Cinderella has been burned by poverty, so now she has an unhealthy hoarding relationship with money.  This does not make her bad.  She just has some warts.  Don't begrudge Marshawn his Lambo or treat his greed the same as the Donald's.

Just noodlin'.


Look, he'll probably be the greatest player EVER to wear a Mariners uniform...but I wonder why we keep inventing ways to make him the hero of a human being we wish he was.  

--I don't think he ever said it was a lifelong dream to play in Cincinnati.  He said he wanted to be closer to his family--which was in Orlando.  I agree, closer than Seattle--but close enough to drive home after a game?  Or shoot down and back on an off day?

--if that were his dream, why didn't he veto the next trade to the White Sox?  To be closer to deep dish pizza?

I agree it doesn't seem like his greed was for the money.  But it's hard to believe his first look at Safeco (after hitting in the Kingdome) showed a greed of personal power in the form of the HR record.

This is relevant to the previous discussion on heroes.  There are no heros--just humans.  


And personally, I'm not especially a Junior fan, Diderot.  I think you missed several other critiques of his personality. :- )  Don't think the older crowd here is much confused about the fact that athletes are human beings.


You could be right about the Reds.  I vaguely recall his commenting on it good-naturedly throughout his time here, that before he was done he'd like to play for the Reds at some point in his career, commenting on it being where his Dad came up, his time in the locker room with Bench who remained a fixture there, etc.


Griff went to Cincy and it turned sour pretty early, such as with the first-year kerfuffle over his number.  He put in what, 10 years with a losing Reds team before thanking them for trading him into a pennant race?  Could be that after a decade of missing the playoffs, it became a higher priority for him.  Ten years is long enough to change your mind about a few things...


For sure Griffey enjoyed recognition more than I'm comfortable with.  No argument from me there.  Would only add Mojo's essential point, that his sheer joy in baseball seemed to come first, and that was the difference-maker for me.



Junior has had enough adulation to last any of us 1,000 lifetimes, and here we are, feeling the need to immerse him in ever-further depths of it.  I honestly never understood the Hall of Fame in the first place, why it is such a huge blinkin' deal in baseball.  Half the time I don't know who was elected that year.

The fans enjoy giving him their appreciation, though, so power to them.  And best wishes to Griffey.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.