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Money Well Spent.
December 12, 2003

by Bill Hogan



In Tuesday night's NCAA Men's Basketball action, unranked Providence beat 14th ranked Illinois 70-51 in the first game of a double header at New York's Madison Square Garden. That was quite an early-season upset.

Then the Garden crowd was treated to a match up of two top-ten teams when Arizona and Texas took the floor. The Wildcats prevailed 91-83 in the finale of the 9th Annual Jimmy V Classic. A heck of a day for college basketball fans.


Thanks to Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps and the rest of the ESPN broadcasting crew, the mission of The V Foundation for Cancer Research was once again given national exposure – at least to those of us fortunate enough to have cable.

Former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano announced the creation of The V Foundation for Cancer Research at the March 1993 ESPY Awards while giving an acceptance speech as the recipient of the first Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award. Jimmy V died of metastatic cancer the following month at the age of 47.

In his speech, Valvano asked for those who were able, to support his foundation "so that someone else might survive, might prosper and might actually be cured of this dreaded disease." The V Foundation has raised about $32 million in its eleven years of operation.

Although $32 million seems like a lot of money, it's just a drop in the bucket; especially when you consider the kind of money that's being thrown around the sports industry today. The numbers are mind boggling.

The Houston Astros just signed pitcher Andy Pettitte away from the New York Yankees. Over the next three baseball seasons, Pettitte will make about the same amount of money The V Foundation has raised in the past eleven years.

The Texas Rangers found it appropriate to pay Alex Rodriquez a quarter-billion dollars to be the team's shortstop for ten years. Seems to me there are better ways to spend that kind of cash. Cancer research, maybe.

On Monday, somebody with a lot of money to burn paid $275,000 for Yankee great Mickey Mantle's 1957 MVP award. Hundreds of other items belonging to The Mick also were auctioned off with price tags ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I don't know what kind of financial shape the Mantle family is in, but if they're looking for a charity to donate some of the auction's proceeds, The V Foundation is a good place to start. Mantle died of liver cancer in 1995.

The NFL has a 12 billion dollar television contract with CBS, FOX, ABC and ESPN. Nike has over a billion dollars worth of endorsement deals with various sports super stars. Major League Baseball, the NBA and even NASCAR pull in television revenues in the billions.

The word million is becoming meaningless in the sports world. Sports executives talk about billion dollar deals without blinking an eye. To spend a couple of million dollars on a Super Bowl halftime show has become trite.

All the while, volunteers at The V Foundation for Cancer Research endlessly and selflessly toil at basketball tournaments, golf outings and bike-a-thons raising about the same amount of money annually that Shaq makes doing Burger King commercials.

$32 million is the take from beer sales at the concession stand or the most a team will pay for a back-up point guard; walking around money for Tiger Woods or LeBron James; barely enough to fly the players and their families to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.

It seems like something's out of whack; it seems like there should be more money available for something as monumental as finding a cure for cancer – even if it means paying a decent middle reliever a little less.

Ask the owner of the Texas Rangers, the CEO of Nike or the guy that bought Mantle's MVP award and they'll probably tell you that it was money well spent. Nah. Sending a kid home for the holidays cancer-free is money well spent.

If this topic sounds familiar, it may be because I wrote about the Jimmy V Classic and The V Foundation last holiday season. I'll probably do the same next year and the year after. I believe it is that important.

There are many great charities dedicated to helping the sick and the poor – they all need as much help as we can give. If you're interested in learning more about The V Foundation, go to www.jimmyv.org.


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