Monday, June 25, 2007

Athletes: It’s time to “get it”

By Jeff Glauser
The Phanatic Magazine

I don’t get it.

Can someone please tell me what it means to be “impaired to the slightest degree?” Isn’t that like being slightly pregnant? Impaired, by definition, means your ability and judgment is hampered.

Of course, by that definition, many of the highest paid professional athletes are impaired in some way already.

They don’t get it. And I don’t get that they don’t.

Multiple offenders with better nicknames than track records, like Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones, continue not to get it.

Some think they got it, but sell out soon after the greed sets in.

Those who “got it” gave back to the games that gave so much to them. They realize how lucky they were to have careers that allowed them to get paid to play games and, whether it lasted for one season or 20, have remained humble because of this realization.

They understand what the alternative could easily have been: Spending the majority of their lives underpaid and underappreciated, laboring to support themselves and their families with no guarantee that the ends will justify the means.

They all used to get it because getting rich wasn’t the option. Actually, it wasn’t really an option at all. Athletes played because it was all they knew. They played for pride. For camaraderie. For – get this – fun!

It used to be so simple. But the almighty dollar has a way of complicating even the simplest things.

Free agency, in theory, was a great idea. Being shackled to a lifetime obligation to one team resembles more indentured servant than employee.

But the reality is that players are now glorified whores. Pawns and poker chips prepared to be rented off to the highest bidder; a franchise savior one day, an unfulfilled wish the next.

As sports have grown in popularity, and as the respective leagues have found ways to exploit the business aspect, milking every cent from any possible avenue – both on and especially off the playing surface – they have, seemingly overnight, become a financial incomprehension for mainstream America.

Not long ago – as recently as the 1980’s – pro sports were just another high end profession. If you were a mediocre performer, your pay was commensurate to that. If you were in the top of your field, it was a similar gap than that of, say, a lawyer or stockbroker.

Not long before that – as recently as the ‘60’s – there was no question as to how an athlete was spending his six months of off-time once the season ended. Because there was no off-time. Just time to find another job.

Today, thanks mainly in part to the dilution of talent caused by excessive expansion, there are less transcendent stars making far more pay. An NFL punter – whose job criterion is comparatively quite menial – can expect to become an instant millionaire while resting his money-making foot for half the year.

So-called “situational” players – those who once struggled to hold on year by year in their leagues – now really have no need to refine their skills, as what was previously known as mediocrity is now phrased as “serving a role.” Some consider former NBA stiff Jon Koncak as the godfather of this.

Only a few months ago, local fans and media were praising Freddy Garcia as a would-be savior, claiming him to be worth every penny of his $10 million paycheck. Meanwhile, he was coming off an allegedly acceptable season of an ERA well over 4.00, and a career itself not much better.

When did this become good?

Kyle Korver can shoot the ball. Usually well. But at 6 foot 7, he can’t rebound, struggles on defense and generally isn’t considered very athletic. Yet, in one evening, he’ll make more playing a game than most of us will make in a year.

How are we supposed to relate?

The answer? We can’t. And it’s only a matter of time when the aggravation will finally outweigh the entertainment value.

The real icons are those who played at a star potential, yet walked around the pedastal instead of stepping onto it. Those who interrupted their careers serving up fastballs to serve their country. Those who understand that charity after such a life is not a consideration, it’s a necessity.

There are many people out there who turn to crime because they feel like they have nowhere else to turn. Perhaps at one point in time, this scenario fit the persona of many current pro athletes.

It seems as if a disturbing amount of athletes now turn to crime because they can.

And, if nothing else, the least these unappreciative jerks can do is realize they can now literally afford to no longer feel the need to be ignorant thugs.

Based on sickening daily rise in body count, we already have enough of those in Philly as it is.

Got it?

No comments: