Tuesday, May 26, 2009

For The Love Of The Game?

Wouldn't you be happy to play in the Majors or in the NBA or the NFL? I know I would. To make heaps of dough for doing something that I love and others love me for (when I'm performing well, of course) would be a dream come true for almost any Joe Schmoe. The heaps of dough may not come in the millions, but to make even the league's minimum for playing basketball or football or whatever sport would be something special.

Picture leaving your job and going into professional sports making the league's minimum. For most of us, it would be a significant hike in salary. Would you do it? Most would. I would. Maybe this is why some fans get so frustrated with athletes who seem to portray themselves as larger than life and above the game. No-trade clauses, vetoing certain deals, holding out for more money- it gets painful to watch year after year and takes away from the splendor that these athletes hold in society.

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When reports surfaced that Jake Peavy rejected a proposed trade to the Chicago White Sox, some speculated that he did so because he loves the National League and has grown accustomed to the pleasant weather of Southern California. Rumors of his desire to play for the Cubs, across town in Chicago, tells us that he either didn’t want to play in the American League or did not want to play for the White Sox. Either way, it gets some people aggravated to see players dictate front office decisions and interject themselves into matters that, ideally, would be left to the general manager.

Of course, Jake may also be looking out for his family's best interests. Maybe they don't want to leave their home or their school. If this is the case, Jake has done right by his family. But the question here, for our purposes, is: How much say do the players deserve in front office decisions. And if a contract is signed, shouldn't they honor it?

Players often get bad raps when they hold out for more money, prolonging the ordeal through training camp, preseason, the regular season, whatever. Chad Ochocinco is the king of chatter and we all remember his ordeal last season, and possibly this season, where he made a stink over his contract and over playing for the Bengals. Anquan Boldin is currently stuck in a similar stalemate with the Cardinals; he wants to get paid close to what his counterpart, Larry Fitzgerald, makes.

Jamarcus Russell, the 2007 NFL first overall pick, held out into the start of the season, hurting his own development and familiarity with the offense, and thus his chances of landing the starting job. Still, he does not seem to have grasped anything as of yet. Ronnie Brown, the 2005 2nd overall pick in the NFL, prolonged his holdout as well. Many blame this on the agent, but at some point, the player has to recognize that the agent may not be considering the player's long-term career when he makes these deals, but looking at it as strictly financial strategy. Professional athletes should consider what got them there in the first place: hard work, practice, development, studying , etc. When you sit, you get none of that. Call your agent and tell him you want to hit the practice field ASAP and to get the deal done already!

Anyways, it goes farther than that, even. John Elway was drafted first overall by the Baltimore Colts in 1983. He didn't like that all too much. He demanded a trade and became a Denver icon, winning back to back Super Bowls in the late 90's. Eli Manning was drafted first overall by the San Diego Chargers in 2004. He also was not pleased and demanded a trade. He went onto win a Super Bowl with the New York Giants a couple of years ago. Seems to have worked out for both players if you ask me.

Wait. Am I contradicting myself?! This argument could go both ways. On the one hand, athletes have their place on the field, court, ice, wherever, and rarely would somebody agree that their role extends into the front office. In a perfect world, the general manager and their team would handle the personnel side of things, coaches would coach and players would play.

On the other hand, players do have that basic human right to do what is best for them and their families. After all, they are all people and deserve to get as much as they can out of life.

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I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's a tricky matter. If a no-trade clause is present, most fans do not seem to have a problem with a player refusing a proposed trade. The no-trade clause was agreed upon by both parties from the start. However, when a player attempts to break their contract, or is dissatisfied with the team that drafts them, they are 1) creating the image of an immature child, 2) pissing off the fans- you know, those people who buy tickets, jerseys and are really the only reason they have a job, and 3) they show that they believe themselves to be above the game and in the process slap all those Joe Schmoes, who would kill to get into their position, right in the face.

Hmm. More on this subject another time. Perhaps in a few weeks when Chad Ochocinco decides not to show up for mandatory workouts and ESPN and Sports Illustrated set up their own camps in the Bengals facility parking lot.

Written By Danny Hobrock


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