Monday, July 14, 2008

Matbe we should hold a bake sale

Maybe we should hold a bake sale

According to a July 6 article on, 16 year-old Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson may already be worth close to a million dollars. Swimmers Michael Phelps and Amanda Beard already are. In his heyday, track immortal Michael Johnson earned over a million dollars a year.

Ben Askren is selling t-shirts.

That’s right, Olympian (and 2X winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy as America’s top collegiate wrestler) is selling tees online to help finance his family’s trip to Beijing - so are Spenser Mango, Henry Cejudo, Jake Deitchler, Andy Hrovat and Doug Schwab (to order a Doug Schwab t-shirt email

Wrestling is one of the original ancient Olympic sports and in all of those thousands of years winning the Olympics has been the ultimate triumph. There is no big payday at the end of the journey. Many of our wrestlers will end up in coaching. Three of the highest paid college head coaches (Cael Sanderson, Tom Brands and John Smith) are all past Olympic gold medallists. According to a Des Moines Register survey, each is paid in the neighborhood of $100,000 a year.

There probably aren’t many athletes that take up an “Olympic sport” with the hopes of future wealth. It is simply a function of “capitalism” or “business” that makes some of these athletes wealthy. At some point, corporate America realized that images of Bela Karolyi carrying Kerri Strug or of Michael Johnson and his golden shoes could sell credit cards, hamburgers or soft drinks. With the exception of the Cael Sanderson Wheaties box, this rarely happens to wrestlers. Multi-million dollar endorsement contracts do not likely await an American 55KG freestyle gold medallist.

So – in order to get their families to Beijing to watch them pursue the ultimate dream, many of our wrestlers have resorted to selling t-shirts to raise money. They need to sell a lot of shirts – it is estimated that a trip to Beijing will cost $6,000 to $7,500 per person. USA Wrestling also understands the challenge. It has launched the Fuel the Dream fund raising effort. Half of the funds raised by the Fuel the Dream drive go directly to our Olympic wrestlers – many of whom will use the money to get their families to Beijing. The other half goes to the development of future American wrestling teams.

When I was a kid in the ‘50s and 60s, the March of Dimes was quite different than it is today. If you brought a dime to school and dropped it into the slot of the collection can, the teacher gave you a plastic crutch lapel pin – which you wore proudly. I, and millions of American children, helped wipe out polio. My ten cents made a difference.

You can make a difference. Pick one of the hyperlinks above and order a t-shirt from your favorite wrestler. Wear it with the same pride that I wore that silly little plastic crutch. Or – go the Fuel the Dream site and make a contribution to the future of American Olympic wrestling (or do both).

Note: If you are aware of an Olympic wrestler that is trying to raise money to send his/her family to Beijing and I have missed them, leave a comment or send an email to and I will add a hyperlink for them in my comments.

PS My brother, Bruce, is the popular myspace blogger, The Judge. Today (Monday, July 14) is his 56th birthday. Stop by his blog and wish him a Happy Bastille Day.

1 comment:

Jim Brown said...

Add women’s freestyler, Ali Bernard.