Why Being a Writer is Better Than Being a Pro Sportsperson

At BEA there was much speculation about the end of publishing as we know it. How fewer books will be published and less money spent on them thus it will be harder for writers to make a living. I’m not actually convinced things are as bad as all that. Besides I don’t think it matters that much to most pro writers’ chances of making a living. It’s just as hard to make a living as a writer in good economic times as it is in bad. I know plenty of brilliant writers who make very little from their writing and only a handful who make anything close to a living wage.

But it’s not nearly as tenuous and fraught as being a pro sportsperson.

As some of you may know I’m a fan of the New York Liberty, New York’s Womens National Basketball Association team, and I follow the entire WNBA closely. This year there’s one less team than last so those players were dispersed to the remaining teams. At the same time all the teams have to reduce their roster to 11 players. That means that the transactions page looks like this:

    May 31
    The Seattle Storm waived La’Tangela Atkinson and Kasha Terry.
    The Atlanta Dream waived Chantelle Anderson.
    The Phoenix Mercury waived Murriel Page.
    The Chicago Sky waived Jennifer Risper.

    May 30
    The Minnesota Lynx waived Kamesha Hairston and Aisha Mohammed.

    May 29
    The Chicago Sky waived Liz Moeggenberg.
    The Atlanta Dream waived Marlies Gipson.
    The New York Liberty waived Abby Waner.

Those are all players being let go. They’ve had a couple of weeks in the pros and now it’s over.

There is a chance of being picked up by other WNBA teams. But there are fewer places—only 143—and more players than ever competing for them. Many talented amazing players are not going to make it. Some of them will find places on overseas teams, but most won’t.

Those are just the players who got picked up by a WNBA team in the first place. There are many many many college players who weren’t drafted in the first place. Some overseas players are also trying to break into those 143 spots available in the WNBA.

And if they do make it onto a team they can be traded at random to another team in another city. Often the press finds out that they’re now going to be living in San Antonio before they do.

Pro basketball players are lucky if their career lasts into their thirties and almost never into their forties. They rarely make it through without at least one serious injury resulting in surgery. When they’re older they wind up with arthritis.

I’m sure as with writing the rewards of doing what you love most for a living outweigh everything else, but, well it looks crazy hard to me and it makes me very glad I’m a writer not a basketball player.


  1. Anonymous on #

    They don’t get remaindered.

  2. Justine on #

    Very droll. Being waived is worse than being remaindered. Why, I myself have been remaindered and lived to tell the tale.

  3. Dave H on #

    And they aren’t getting rich, either. The maximum salary is only $90,000, which isn’t chicken feed, but it is what an NBA player makes in a week.

  4. Justine on #

    Exactly. Those who also play in overseas leagues during the Northern winter may be earning more money but they’re giving their bodies zero rest. Playing basketball all year round is murderous. It’s no wonder women hoops players tend to retire earlier than the men.

  5. steve davidson on #

    The real trick is to be BOTH a pro athlete AND a writer; that way, when you are convalescing from the injury, you can write about it and still get paid (something) for your time…

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