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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What ever happened to "love of the game"?

At one time, I LOVED sports! Not playing them (Not a big fan of the possibility of pain or sweating) but I loved watching them! That was when folks played sports because they loved the sport. That was back in the day when there was a team of guys playing versus nowadays when there are just a group of individuals playing.

I used to roll my eyes whenever I would hear anyone say "there's no I in team". Well, now I completely get it. These ego driven, out of control, money loving "stars" on both the college and professional teams are not there so their team can win. They are there so that THEY can win at the expense of their team if need be.

What would I do if I had a magic wand? I would put a cap on sports salaries (that includes the coaches). I would also mandate that half of their salary was required to be put aside for the eventual day when they could no longer play their sport. Just think about it, does ANYONE really need $10M to live on for a year??? Could they not live just fine with $5M and have the other 5 go into a trust for their future - as well as the future of their children?

Too many young men are wooed out of college to go pro and are given these enormous salaries and they blow every nickel of it and then some. One day they are injured or become such a problem that they are fired and the next day they lose everything they and their family owns. At that point, what can these guys do for a living? Bus tables at the local truck stop because I would venture to say many of them wouldn't be capable of running the cash register because the only thing they really learned in high school or their very short stint in college was how to play sports.

The powers that be need to take a little more responsibility with these young men. They need to look out for their futures a bit more. Some of these guys didn't exactly have the best role models growing up (if at all) and they need that guidance and support in the new world into which they have been thrust. These owners, managers, coaches need to realize that to some of these young men, they are the only positive father figures that some of these players have ever had and then act accordingly.

If we took the game back to being about the game and the TEAM, children would have better role models, more people could afford to go to the games without stopping by the title loan place on their way so they could afford the tickets. And, the most important effect, would be that the games would be exciting again. They would be "us against them" again rather than like it is today "him against him".

Another issue I have (and this is my biggest issue) with sports is college sports. Can you please explain to me why ANY coach in the world is worth $32M??? That's what we pay our coach down here. I will say I like him. He does an excellent job. But $32M??? Our tuition goes up, costs of books/lab supplies are out the roof, students are living hand to mouth in order to get an education and yet, the University can come up with that kind of money to pay ONE coach??

Of course, I hear it is coming from "private" backers not the coffers of the University. So, these same private backers couldn't see it in their hearts to put that money into keeping tuition down or lowering the price of books? How about getting some parking for the students so they don't have to illegally park and risk their cars getting towed away? OR putting up more student housing so students can actually afford to live with a roof over their heads (that isn't attached to their car)?

We in this country have lost our focus. We wonder why places like Japan pump out such smart students who go on to invent the most awesome things and churn out some really brilliant doctors. Well, I have the answer to this question. It's because in Japan education is highly valued and everything else is secondary. Their children go to school all year...just like a job. Their money is spent on academics and if there is money left over, THEN the sports department gets it.

Sports is intended to be a past time. A hobby. Entertainment. It has evolved into a monster. It is now the focus and everything else is a hobby (like intelligence, jobs, education). I would venture to say a majority of these guys don't go to college because they want to be an attorney or a doctor (ever hear of a pro getting drafted who was in law school or medical school?) They don't even aspire to be writers or teachers (wanting to be a coach doesn't count). They aspire to be football players or baseball players, first and foremost with no plan "B" in the works.

My son and I discussed this at length and although he agrees with it, he also agrees it will never happen because we have spoiled the athlete pool. They expect to be paid zillions per year and won't settle for anything less. Well, I say, if this went into effect, we would have a new breed of players who would jump at the chance to do what they love even if it's for half the money and glory. I say if we groomed these young men to be team players instead of individual players, a whole lot of the problems plaguing our teams would disappear and we could all focus on the game and the teams and less on some player who shot himself in the thigh while illegally having a loaded firearm in an establishment that serves alcohol. We wouldn't have to worry about some hotshot who can't keep his mouth shut and hands to himself and gets suspended to the detriment of his team. Or how about the guy who tortured and killed dogs as a sport? I get SO sick of hearing all these folks talk about what a great guy dog killer is and how he has been SO wronged to be in prison. WHAT??

If these guys knew from the outset that their behavior could and would result in their either playing or not, they just might straighten themselves up. And if they didn't, well good bye. Have a nice life busing those tables. We don't need that kind of guy on any of our teams anyway. I certainly don't want to think that my ticket sales in any way contributed to his paycheck.

What about the Olympic athlete's? They sacrifice and struggle to become the athlete they are and then when it looks as if all their years of struggle, sacrifices and hard work is about to pay off, some political machine decides they can't go to the Olympics because of the country in which it is being held. WHO CARES what country is hosting it? These guys have worked all their lives for this one shot at the gold and we are going to deny them this for ANY reason??? These people are the only true athletes left in the world. These guys have strict codes to follow and it is rare (it does happen - but it is rare) that you get scandal and jail time out of any of them. That's because they KNOW that if they get into trouble, everything they have worked so hard for is gone. This is a lesson that we need to impart on our professional athletes.

There is no such thing as Superman. He doesn't exist. There are exceptional football players, baseball players, basketball players, but no Supermen. This is evident because every time we think we have got one, along comes another one who is even better. Just goes to show you that there is no such thing as an indispensable player and they all need to know that.

The last role model I would want for my kids is a professional athlete. Maybe once upon a time. Not anymore.

But that's just me.

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