- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2009

Memo to professional athletes…

Stuff all your money in a mattress — two, if necessary — and be done with it. Or stick your money in a risk-free, interest-bearing savings account. Whatever you do, do not invest money in a restaurant unless you actually are willing to show up to the establishment more than once a year.

Ex-Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar tells the Miami Herald that he has made a financial mess. He is going through an ugly divorce. His real-estate holdings have gone kaput. So, too, his steakhouse. He has tax troubles, physical troubles and day-to-day troubles of coping with life after football.

“I was 25, and everyone was telling me that I was the smartest,” he says. “Now I’m 45 and realize I am an idiot.”

Kosar filed for bankruptcy last month. He hopes to come out of this morass with hard work and determination, if not a good bit of luck.

His is only one of the cautionary tales popping up in the subculture of sports.

Antoine Walker, the former NBA player who appeared in three All-Star Games, is facing criminal charges because of his failure to satisfy $822,500 in gambling debts with three Las Vegas casinos.

His bad-check propensity is a fairly remarkable development if you consider he made nearly $100 million in 12 seasons.

Walker is hardly the only ex-NBA player to succumb to the temptation of Las Vegas.

Charles Barkley ran up a $400,000 gambling bill in Las Vegas last year before famously declaring: “I like to gamble. I’m going to gamble.”

Playing blackjack is possibly a better use of your funds than turning them over to Lenny Dykstra, the stock picker who was said to be a financial idiot savant.

That was the opinion of Jim Cramer, the noted cable shouter who hailed Dykstra as “one of the great ones” in the stock market.

That view looks like so much hot air now, what with Dykstra in bankruptcy proceedings and being chased by a long line of the miffed, including his dear old mother, $23,000 lighter in the purse after her son used her credit card.

The latter was a favored financial tactic of Dykstra as his flimsy financial empire started to implode. He would borrow someone’s credit card to board a private jet and then blame his failure to make good on the debt on unnamed enemies.

Somewhere along the way, Dykstra came up with the bright idea to start a glossy magazine that dispensed financial advice to professional athletes.

This is incredibly amusing considering the raw numbers behind Dykstra’s bankruptcy filing: $50,000 in declared assets vs. more than $30 million in claims against him.

Here is the baffling thing about all too many of our gridiron, hardwood and diamond practitioners: They make such an unthinkable amount of money that investment opportunities should be the least of their concerns. All they need to do is walk through the doors of the nearest bank, sit down with a manager and devise the most rudimentary savings plan.

They do not need to play the stock market, invest in real estate or get involved in business ventures that have high failure rates. They have earned the privilege to store their money in the safest place possible and never worry a day about their financial futures.

That is what you and I would do. But athletes do not think or live like us.

They have entourages to feed and clothe. They have a fleet of automobiles to maintain. They also have all the accessories that go with a fat paycheck: an agent, a trainer, a personal aide, accountants and lawyers.

The next thing they know, all their millions are not stretching as far as you might think. Before long, they are all ears when someone sidles up to them and says, “Have I got a deal for you.”

Only it is no deal.

It never is.

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