From time to time, I've been accused by my wife and daughters of staying up too late on the Internet.
It's true, there are a few Internet sports sites that I frequent on a regular basis.
I recently ventured onto one of those sites and noticed an article that listed the 50 top-earning athletes in the United States this past year.
To say that the topic drew my attention is an understatement.
The article listed each of the 50, giving the amount of money earned in two categories (Salary/Winnings and Endorsements).
In a day and time when ticket prices to professional sporting events are higher than ever and the cost of gas to get to them is at an all-time high, it's nice to know that our favorite athlete is financially secure.
Television rights play a major role as well, thanks to all those commercials.
For the third year in a row golfer Tiger Woods leads the pack, earning over $97 million this past year, including $87 million in endorsements.
No wonder a pair of Nike Shox cost over $100 a pair.
Right behind Woods is fellow golfer Phil Mickelson at nearly $46 million a year, $40 million from endorsements.
Not to take anything away from baseball, football or basketball, but we might want to invest in a set of golf clubs for our youngsters!
Basketball great Shaquille O'Neal was third with total earnings of $34 million.
To my surprise, the NFL's top earner was Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer ($31,550,000). He signed a 9-year, $119 million contract extension that included $24 million up front.
Baseball's top earner was New York Yankee captain Derek Jeter with $28 million. Teammate Alex Rodriguez was right behind with $27 million.
Five Yankees were in the top 50, with combined earnings of $113 million.
Top NASCAR driver and ninth overall was Dale Earnhardt Jr. with nearly $26 million, including $20 million in endorsements.
Another notable, former University of Tennessee and current Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, earned $21 million ($10 million salary, $11.5 million in endorsements).
For what it's worth, there wasn't a female athlete on the list.
That could change as 16-year old golfer Michelle Wie already makes eight figures in endorsements.
Auto racer Danica Patrick has a huge contract pending and currently makes $2.5 million a year in endorsements.
Look for recent Tennessee Titan draft pick Vince Young to be on the list in years to come. The former Texas star just signed the largest rookie contract in franchise history and seems to be very marketable.
Does any professional athlete play for the love of the game anymore?
When it's the "Average Joe" who purchases those high priced tickets and buys the items these athletes endorse, these sports figures should be more "fan friendly."
If it makes you feel better, the average wealth of the top 50 actually fell by $500,000 since the last list.
Word has it that endorsers are taking fewer chances on athletes and increasingly turning to Hollywood celebrities.
Look out for the price of movies!
Gary Johnson is a Times-Gazette sports writer.