JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Each player from the winning team in Sunday's Super Bowl gets a ring and a little something extra in his paycheck -- $68,000, to be exact.
Not bad for three hours of work.
Still, when tickets to the game go for $500 and a 30-second television ad sells for $2.4 million, are the players getting their fair share of the NFL largesse?
"Hell, no," said Freddie Mitchell, the Philadelphia Eagles' outspoken receiver. "All the stuff we had to do this week and last week. It's just a huge monopoly. I feel like I'm in college again. It's not fair."
While it's hard to generate much sympathy for someone who could make more in an afternoon than most families bring home in a year, Mitchell does have a point.
Football is the country's most popular sport. The Super Bowl is its premier event. Yet the Boston Red Sox made off much better for winning their World Series championship, receiving full shares of $223,619.79.
And get this: The NFL's championship money hasn't even kept up with the cost of inflation.
The Green Bay Packers each got $15,000 for winning the first Super Bowl in 1967. According to a Federal Reserve Bank calculator available on the Internet, that's worth about $85,000 in today's dollars -- or $17,000 less than each player from either the Eagles or New England Patriots will get this year. (The losers receive $36,500 apiece.)
Even so, few players other than Mitchell seem concerned about their not-so-Super payouts.
"I'm just trying to win the ballgame," Eagles linebacker Keith Adams said. "I don't get caught up in the money."
"Money is the last thing I'm thinking about at the Super Bowl," Patriots tackle Matt Light said. "You just want a chance to play in that game. There's not a man who's thinking, 'I wish they would pay me more."'
Doug Allen, assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Super Bowl shares have not been a high priority among the rank-and-file. They are more concerned with getting a bigger share of the pie during the regular season.
While negotiations on a new labor agreement have already started -- the current deal expires after the 2008 season -- there's been scant mention of Super Bowl payouts as a potential issue.
"It's not an insignificant amount of money," Allen said. "We want it to be fair and meaningful. We listen very carefully to what the players think about it. We can elevate it as a priority if that's what they want. But they have not made it something they want us to elevate. They want to up the ante on other things."
Even Mitchell seems resigned to little change in the current system, which is a part of the collective bargaining agreement. Other than a 50 percent increase after the strike-shortened 1982 season -- from $18,000 to $36,000 for the winners -- the winning shares have never jumped more than $6,000 from one year to the next.
"That's society. You can't change it," he said. "It's definitely something we should address in the bargaining agreement. At the end of the road, maybe we can get a few more chips than we're not getting now."
But here's something to consider: At $500 per ticket (and some club seats cost $600), the projected gate for Sunday's game at 79,000-seat Alltel Stadium will be something in the neighborhood of $40 million. And that doesn't take into account what the league rakes in by selling the TV rights for its centerpiece game.
How much are players getting? If every one on the 53-player roster gets a full share, the total payout to the guys taking the handoffs, making the hits and enduring the pain would be just over $5.5 million.
NFL officials say they haven't gotten any complaints about Super Bowl compensation. In fact, commissioner Paul Tagliabue proudly pointed out that the average payroll was $100 million this season -- the first time any U.S. sport has reached that threshold.