From Schoolyard Fun to Contract Buyouts

12 07 2007

by maddness

Greetings Cacophony Cafe groupies. 

Well, it finally happened…someone has given me my own structured area for rants and rambles, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.  You may get tired of me equating world peace to the feeling of a walk-off homerun, but hey, that’s how I do.  I think you’ll find that a common theme of my stylings will be placing more cultural emphasis on things such as sports and comedy, that may not get enough credit in society for shaping the way we live.  In many cases, if we just looked to the simplicity of a baseball game, for instance, and what it means…the world could be moving a lot smoother. 

“What it means”…hmm, this is a good transition to what I am currently perplexed on in the world of sports.  Sports used to mean pastimes, iconic admiration, beer and hot dogs, sun and green grass, the smell of garlic fries, autographs, tailgaiting, and was a basis for a safe, solid way of life for a parent to teach their children at young ages.  I learned many things as a child, but for whatever reason, I will never forget the Seattle Sonics game my father took me to where I finally realized how special sports were. 

As I watched former Sonic guard Dale Ellis score 53 points in 69 minutes of an NBA game, I realized that this was much more than a game.  20,000 people were united without a war or tragedy, but for three hours we were all one voice.  We all had the same goosebumps and overwhelming feeling of elation when he hit the 3 pointer from the corner to send the game into its 5th(!) Overtime.  I dare you to give me a real world scenario like this, where anywhere from 20,000-80,000 stand and cheer together without a care in the world.  Sure, there are rallies and such, but the problem is that most events in the world that unite people of all kinds stem from something negative (a war, gas prices, crime, and don’t get me started on elections).  Sports never did.  I cheered because I wanted to be Dale Ellis, I wanted to be on that hardwood.  That is why I am concerned with the way the sporting image is headed for our children. 

Young kids will still be able to admire and want to be like a LeBron James, Derek Jeter, LaDanian Tomlinson, or Sydney Crosby, that’s not where the problem is.  The problem is that the sports society is making it tougher and tougher for the James’, Jeters’, etc. to become successful at what they do, or to put it another way, it is giving them the freedom to play how they want, and not how the game was intended.  Let’s look to Chris Webber.  Fab 5 in college: A star.  First round pick by the Golden State Warriors: A star.  Turned around the Sacramento Kings franchise: A star.  And when mega star Allen Iverson “demanded” his management go get him another star player, 76ers GM Billy King sacrificed millions of dollars for Webber and his contract to play with Iverson.  A contract…a binding business agreement that guarantees Webber makes x dollars and plays for Philadelphia for x years right?  Wrong.  A loop hole surely exists in what we call a “buyout”.  It took only a year and a half (Webber had five left on his contract), for him to become unhappy in Philly.  He sat on the sidelines with a chronic knee injury refusing to return to the 76ers, who were having their worst season as a team.  Billy King had enough and had no choice but to “buyout” Webber’s contract.  He actually paid Chris Webber money to break his contract and go play for a championship chance in Detroit.  (Minor side note: It was really funny how C-Webb’s knee magically healed as soon as he got to Detroit.  Hmmm. . .) 

What this tells me, and what it would tell a father grooming his son/daughter for the pros is…don’t give in to the team, play for yourself, if you are not happy who cares about the team you are playing for? Get out of there…who cares about a contract (which a breach is punishable by law in almost all other walks of life).  And just to add to the fire, the business side of sports is not the only thing getting screwed up.  Not to pick on Webber (ok, I will), but when he got to Detroit, one thing he is noted for was “taking charges”.  Due to new rules in the NBA, if a player stands still and gets hit by someone dribbling the ball, its a foul on the offensive player.  It’s pure idiocracy.  For a 6’10” Chris Webber to get “knocked down” by 5’10” Daniel “Boobie” Gibson is crazy.  And schools are teaching this…namely Duke University.  They are actually teaching 7’0” centers how to take charges from 6’0” point guards who weigh half as much….and not only take them, but fake being hit.  (Vlade Divac, Ginobili I’m lookin at you) 

To frame exactly how this is wrong…imagine you are at your 10 year old’s basketball game and your son is about to score his first basket ever, when another kid twice his size steps in and fakes being hit by your son.  The ref takes the ball away from your son and awards the bigger kid with two points.  Or imagine how foolish someone in the playgrounds of Brooklyn would look taking a charge at a pickup game on the blacktop.  It’s crazy…teach your kid or student a follow-through, to set a screen, that a championship is the most important thing in sports.  Let your kid have fun at his/her little league game, and if he/she is not happy, tell them that brighter days are ahead, not to refuse to play until transferred to another school.  Wordy and cliche, maybe…but it’s truth people. 

Until next time, watch the NBA Summer League if you get a chance.  It is sports at its finest, where the guys compete to make the team and work harder than you’ll ever see.  They are playing FOR a chance at a contract, not for a chance to buy out of one.  It’s pure sports.

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