I have a confession to make. I have become disillusioned with professional sports. An avid baseball fan, I didn’t watch one game of the World Series. I haven’t watched a whole pro football game this year. Heck, I barely watch “”Sports Center”” anymore.
It’s not because I see football players in the news more than I see them on the field, not because I couldn’t stand to see those damn Yankees win their thousandth championship, and certainly not because I’m busy doing interesting things and don’t have the time. It’s because I can’t make myself watch two characterless teams stumble against each other to win more money.
Back in the day, the extra cash the players earned from winning a championship used to mean something. The athletes all wanted that money in order buy a house, a car or to invest it.
Nowadays the players can find championship-caliber cash buried in their couches. When the average baseball player makes around $1 million a year, an extra couple thousand is nothing.
After being fined for the Piazza fiasco, Roger Clemens probably lost money in the World Series. Yet the players still strive for it, which reveals the greed and avarice of professional sports.
The Yankees aren’t a team; they’re a collection of mercenaries hired by the manager to win at all costs. The money cycle perpetuates itself, so the richest team in baseball wins more money to wallow in, while the small-market teams fall even further behind.
An examination of individual players does not present much hope. The players, especially the superstars, are important because they represent the team. It’s almost as if the media has realized that the terms “”Yankee,”” “”Padre,”” “”Charger,”” or “”Laker”” have lost all meaning. Sure, there’s the history of each franchise, but with athletes hopping from one team to another each year, it’s practically impossible for a team to establish an identity.
I mean, look at the NBA — practically half the league got traded this year. Overnight, the Orlando Magic became a force to be reckoned with by acquiring Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, while the mediocre teams got even worse.
These athletes, instead of differentiating themselves from the owners, have subscribed to their system. With a few notable exceptions, most pros have sold their pride for pieces of green paper.
Instead of focusing on the sports they play, pro athletes today are concerned with more than just the game. The most blatant example of this is the commercials athletes make. Turn on the TV and they’re in ads for soup, dot-com companies, even real estate.
These commercials have absolutely no point other than to garner humor by showcasing the athlete’s terrible acting skills. I could understand if the athletes needed money, but when the league minimum salary is a couple hundred thousand, I’m pretty sure the athletes aren’t strapped for cash.
Some pros have even dabbled in the fields of music and acting, which I can’t understand. I’ll admit, some of them have real talent (some have no talent), but if they are good enough to be bored with their sport, then they shouldn’t be among the privileged few allowed to play a professional sport for a career.
So where do you go to see athletes chasing dreams and glory, instead of dollar bills? Why, you have to look no further than college teams. While big colleges have begun to focus on individuals as well, they still remain more team oriented than the professional leagues.
These athletes aren’t concerned with big contracts, nor trying to fulfill incentives — in fact, quite the opposite. They use sports as an outlet to retreat from the pressures of class and social life, while the pros have no such concept.
Whether you believe it, college athletes have more of an incentive than pros to play hard. Multi-millionaire superstars know they will not be benched no matter how badly they play, since it will be equivalent to the franchise admitting they had made a multi-milliondollar mistake.
No — first the coaches will be fired, and then the manager, and then maybe the superstar will be traded for a couple hundred thousand less than what he was earning.
College athletes, on the other hand, are quite aware of the fact that they can be replaced any time. They are reminded every day that someone is sitting on the bench behind them, waiting for the opportunity to prove they can start. The starters in college play their hearts out every day in order to ensure they’ll be playing tomorrow.
I encourage all the readers to go out and watch some college athletic events, where you’ll find pain, sweat, emotion, blood, tears and most importantly, heart.