Broke's on You
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Broke's on You

ESPN reveals the lives of bankrupt athletes

  • 02 October 2012

“Just because you can throw a no-hitter doesn’t mean you can run a steakhouse.”

In fact, if you tried, you’d probably lose your shirt. That’s the premise of ESPN’s new 30 for 30 doc, Broke, which reveals the financial mistakes athletes make after their big paydays are over.

“Basically, we’re looking at what happens when you become the multi-million dollar CEO of a company without any formal training,” says the film’s director Billy Corben (Cocaine Cowboys, The U). “Something’s bound to go wrong.”

Like what? Find out below in our interview with Corben, then set your DVRs. Broke debuts tonight.

IH: You're profiling men who've lost it all. Why?

Corben: I was talking to Bernie Kosar for my last ESPN 30 for 30 movie, “The U” [on the University of Miami’s championship football teams]. He played 12 years in the NFL, three times the average of a normal player, and was known for being more financially successful after he left the game. I talked to him in 2009 — literally two months later, he declared bankruptcy. Then I started reading that 78% of athletes go broke after they leave the game, and I was inspired to do another film.

Was it hard to get athletes to talk about this?

It was an epic pain in the ass. It’s hard for people to talk about going from rags to riches to rags, sometimes literally tens of millions in debt. But some guys wanted to talk to us — it was cathartic for them, and they wanted to impart wisdom to a new generation.

So they're millionaires. How could they possibly go broke?

It’s ego. They’re invincible heroes, revered by men, women, children. And the level of confidence they have in their abilities, they think they can take with them into business. The failure rate of the businesses these guys get into — restaurants, video game companies, whatever — is like 95%.

[callout] Everyone thinks “If I had 20 million dollars...” Well, guess what. [/callout]

What can they do?

Don’t spend; grow your money. I’m hoping this movie works kind of like a Scared Straight!, and that we can make smart the new stupid. Like, it used to be cool to make it rain or wear flashier suits. Now, I think in the post-recession America, it’s cool not to be ostentatious.

What was the biggest surprise of the film?

Everyone thinks “If I had 20 million dollars...” Well, guess what, you would have no idea what the hell you would do if you came into that. Like these guys, you’d probably find a way to blow it.

Were you sympathetic?

I was surprised by how much I was. They wanted to help their friends and families. But they get taken advantage of: it doesn’t help that their salaries are printed everywhere.

Can the leagues do anything?

Imagine if your employer tried to tell you what to do with your money. Other than that, the leagues have these rookie symposiums, but you have to voluntarily go to these … and how are you going to talk to a guy who just signed a nine-figure contract?

What was the worst flameout?

Most recently: Vince Young. He hasn’t officially declared bankruptcy, but he said he’s broke and he’s looking for a job, and he did things after signing his contract, like spending $6000 a night at the Cheesecake Factory.

Catch Broke tonight on ESPN. And check out our slideshow on the myriad ways that athletes, like Andre Rison, go bankrupt. Because Left Eye didn’t burn down all their houses.

The Specifics

"Broke"

Tuesday, 8 p.m., ESPN

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