Film Producer Alfred Spellman Talks ESPN Doc on ‘Broke’ Athletes

Documentary highlights the challenges of fame and fortune in sports

Curt Schilling had a successful MLB career but had many challenges in business management. (Image: File)

Speaking of access. Were there stories you wanted that you didn’t get?

One story that I was really interested in that occurred over the summer was Curt Schilling’s story. Here’s a guy who comes across very well on television, he’s a well-spoken guy. He had a great Major League Baseball career. The story of his video game studio is tragic. He’ll be okay and everybody will end up all right but with some of these stories you just shake your head. It’s really tragic not just for the athletes but for their families and everybody else whose been dependent upon them or being helped out. When the money dries up it becomes a very difficult thing for a lot of these guys.

It’s interesting you bring up Schilling, and of course there’s someone like Lenny Dykstra — because I think there’s a tendency to view this sort of through a racial lens, that this is a black issue.

Yeah, well, look. I think it’s a much better way to view this issue as a socio-economic/class issue. Which is really what it is. Like I said if you grow up not having a lot of money and all of a sudden you have a lot of money, that is a very difficult thing to manage. I think there’s a much more apt way of looking at this and that’s more of a socio-economic prism than a racial prism.

What do most athletes who often literally become millionaires overnight not understand about money?

It’s referred to as the ‘Sudden Wealth Effect.’ You see it with people who win the lottery, people who get a large inheritance. And really what it has to do with this upside down triange of earning. So if you’re a guy who goes to school, you get a job in your ’20s  … in your 40s and 50s most men in this country are going to earn the most they’ll ever earn in their lifetime. Well, for athletes the triangle is turned on its head. They earn the most money they’ll ever earn in their lives in their mid-to-late twenties. Particularly if you come from a background of not having money it’s really, really very hard. Who among us if we didn’t have a couple million bucks. I know I spent money on dumb things in my twenties. It’s understandable. Then there’s all the associated risks with family and friends, you know, who use you as an ATM machine. You get hit to get involved in businesses whether they’re legitimate or not. There’s all these kind of people who come out of the woodwork and it’s very difficult to say no.

Is there a disconnect? Or will there be another Broke in 15 years?

There’s a couple problems. First there’s the idea of this locker room culture. You’ve got guys coming in the locker room with custom suits. And another guy is trying to one-up the other. When you’re a professional athlete, even if you’re the 25th man on a 25-man baseball roster you were probably the best player not only in your school, but in your district and probably even your state, okay? So if you’re in professional sports you’re really damn good at what you do and you’ve been great at it since you were a little kid and you know this. You’re a competitor by nature and so I think you see some of these competitive instincts rear themselvees when it comes to whose got the best car in the parking lot or whose got the most custom suits, who spent the most money at the club last night, who’s buying a new restaurant, who’s got the latest investment scheme their uncle brought to them or whatever. So I think what you’re seeing is competition. It’s got to become cool to keep your money and not spend it. At some point it should matter what in the bottom line of your bank account than it does who spent the most at the restaurant last night. Hopefully it’ll start some conversation and change the paradigm so where that, you know, spending is not so cool as it is to be a saver.

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