There are few things more iconically San Franciscan than a cable car. Perhaps that is why San Francisco Giants pitcher and recent World Series champion Jake Peavy has decided to buy one for himself.
This is not the first time that Peavy has made an extravagant purchase on the heels of a World Series win. In 2013, Peavy won a ring with the Boston Red Sox and, in celebration, bought the Duck Boat on which he rode in the championship parade. The Duck Boat resides in Alabama, Peavy’s home state, and is reportedly “collecting mildew.”
The cable car will join Peavy’s mildew-coated souvenir in Alabama as a “mobile bar.”
I have to admit that there is something kind of cool about these purchases. It might just be the fact that they commemorate big moments in sports and are so culturally linked to the cities where each of those moments took place. But all romanticization aside, these purchases are pretty ridiculous.
This is not some tirade against athletes and how overpaid and overvalued they are. Nor is it a critique of the ways that athletes are falling short of some moral obligation they have to give back and share some of their wealth. Whether these arguments are true or false, they have both been made enough times.
Instead, I would like to focus on all of the ridiculous ways that athletes spend their money. Certainly there are athletes who spend their money in modest and socially responsible ways. For every respectable expenditure a professional athlete makes, there is an equally absurd splurge that another makes. The former are perhaps what deserve the attention; the latter, however, are more fun.
Running backs Arian Foster of the Houston Texans and Reggie Bush of the Detroit Lions have both bought Segway scooters for their offensive lineman. Atlanta Hawks’ Deshawn Stevenson decided to have an ATM installed in his kitchen. Boxer Mike Tyson had his infamous white Bengal tigers. International tennis star Novak Djokovic reportedly bought the entire world’s supply of the most expensive cheese on the planet.
Milwaukee Bucks’ guard Marquis Daniels commissioned a 2.9 pound, 14-carat gold necklace of his head. Former NFL star Chad Johnson bought himself a semi-truck and an aquarium headboard. Retired — and now broke — NBA point guard Allen Iverson allegedly never liked to travel with luggage, and would instead buy new clothes everywhere he went. Alex Rodriquez, allegedly, bought a statue of himself as a centaur for his bedroom.
The list goes on, and they all make Peavy’s purchases seem tame and sensible in comparison. There are very few people who would argue that athletes need as much money as they are getting — realistically, no one person needs that much money. But perhaps we, at times, value sports more than we should, and professional athlete salaries are at least in part a reflection of that value.
We derive that value from many aspects of sports — the teamwork, the grit, the physicality, the skill — but above all we value sports as entertainment. Part of that entertainment comes from the characters that sports give us. Sports have given us Mike Tyson, Allen Iverson, Chad Johnson, then Chad Ochocinco, then Chad Johnson again. Sports also give us less colorful but equally influential characters — the Derek Jeters and Peyton Mannings. They provide different things but, both on and off the field, they keep us entertained.