Do Rich People Suck At Sports?

Or: Do poor people really dominate athletics?

This week in Vanity Fair, filmmaker Jamie Johnson used his column on "the secret lives of the wealthy" -- ooh, we hope it's like the Real Housewives of New Jersey! -- to lament his own poor tennis abilities before wondering why so many rich people fail to make it in professional sports. They have access to the greatest resources, right? The best coaches, the best facilities, all of that? Why don't those resources produce more pro careers?

As Johnson says:

Why not? The answer is elusive. It seems logical that children of privilege who have access to world-class coaching and state-of-the-art facilities should develop professional-level talent, but for some reason that almost never happens.

Hmm. Yeah. You know, now that we think about it, you rich people sure do suck at sports! Which is good for the rest of us, because it makes you easier to bully throughout your childhoods. Making your dumb rich face eat that worm is the only solace many of us will ever receive.

Seriously, though, what of Johnson's thesis? Why don't rich people make better professional athletes? Is that even valid? After all, there are pro athletes that were rich before they became pro athletes. Or, if not rich, were at least above the usual stereotype of impoverished children playing on overcrowded basketball rims in the inner-city. (Joakim Noah comes to mind, for one.) It also depends on the sport. Access to games like hockey and baseball is more limited, making their participants usually more middle-class; basketball hoops and footballs are much easier to find.

But if we do accept the premise, here's a thought as to why there aren't that many upper-crust pro athletes: There aren't that many rich people. Seriously. Whatever you would call "rich" is only a minor portion of the United States' population, and sports institutions in this country have become very good at mining talent wherever it might lie. If you're an elite youth basketball player, you'll eventually be given the same opportunities, camps, and coaches, regardless of your financial background. Fewer rich people survive this process because there are simply fewer rich people around.

Pity, that. We suppose "running the entire free world" and "living lives free from worry or toil" will have to serve as consolation.

Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, Follow him on Twitter.

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