01 February 2011

Remember Where You Came From

I work a job that isn’t dependent upon anyone knowing my name, asking for my signature for anything other than my mail pick up, and there’s never hoards of people waiting for me to walk out of the building to mob me for pictures, autographs, or anything I own.  Yet, I wake up and walk to the shower like so many other famous people do- with one foot in front of the other, with arms over my head as I yawn and groan the whole way.  I put my socks on, pants on, and even my shirt, just like they do, they don’t have some magical power to do it with.  My paycheck is dependent upon the work I do, the performance in which I do my job with, and the knowledge I have for my field.  Have you ever heard of me? No.  Probably not, unless we’re friends.

So, how is it different for a professional athlete then?  Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Albert Belle, Barry Bonds, Kevin Garnett, and so many others make their living off of us.  If you think these guys get paid to play a sport because they are good at the sport, that’s wrong.  These guys get paid because they put butts in seats, sell merchandise, tickets, and memorabilia.  Oh yeah, they are good at their sports too- but it takes a lot more than just being good at your sport to get paid.  If we, as fans, boycotted the NFL, NBA, MLB, or any other professional sport, for an entire season, said we aren’t going to watch it, attend it, or buy anything to do with it, what would happen?  Imagine the fall out when Peyton Manning takes the field in Indianapolis, not a person in the stands, no tickets sold.  Imagine SportsCenter airing the highlights to a viewing audience of 12.  Quickly, the NFL would go from a billion dollar industry to the XFL- a lost sport that no one cares about anymore.

So, if I were to tell you, that I would pay you $10,000,000/year to entertain the crowd, get the fans hyped up, and all you had to do was play a sport for me to watch- would you do it?  Honestly, it’s that simple- yet we so many athletes who forget this, and they bite the hands that feed them.  Barry Bonds would told kids he wouldn’t sign autographs for them because he wasn’t sure if they were going to keep it, or sale it.  He said it wasn’t right for them to make money on his signature.  Excuse me?  So what a 12 year old little boy wants to make $50 on your name? You make $500,000 per game- what is $50 to you?  What about Albert Belle, he told people he wouldn’t sign autographs in Baltimore as a member of the Orioles, unless he was booked for a show and got paid to do so.  Umm, excuse me pompous, you do get paid!  LOOK AT YOUR BANK ACCOUNT FOOL.  Are you flippin’ kidding me? 

Most recently, Kevin Garnett, of the Boston Celtics, a member of a storied franchise, rich in tradition, history, and heritage, mouthed off to a ball-boy in Los Angeles when asked for his autograph.

            “You’ve got a better chance of catching Bin Laden”

Seriously? KG, after the life you’ve lived, the years you spent in Minnesota, wishing you could be on a winning team, a team that meant something, and now here you are, standing toe to toe with a fan, in a rival city, asking for your autograph, and you’re going to act like this?  This makes me sad to even say I’m a Celtics fan.  How fast they forget as athletes, living the gravy train life, that their so-called life could end to exist in the way they know it, if we as fans stopped cheering, stopped buying their jerseys, chanting their names, or anything else.  Maybe they should be asking for our autographs, thanking us for what we do- we make them who they are, we pay their salaries, and we provide the lifestyles they have become accustomed to.  Why not stop for 30 minutes, and sign a few autographs for the people who gave you this lifestyle.  All they are asking for is your signature, the same name you’ve signed your whole life.  No one is asking you to play a pickup game after, no one is asking you to come down to the local Y and school some punks, and no one is asking you over for family dinner on Sunday- they are simply asking for 20 seconds of your time to sign your name, most of them having spent hours of their time to get in line, buy a ticket to see you, spend the money on the ball they want signed, and wait anxiously for that moment to see you- so don’t be a jerk.

It was reported, that as a member of the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan would be seen for hours on end in malls around Chicago signing autographs for fans as they passed by.  He wasn't paid to do it, he did it to repay them for their support.  He had SIX NBA CHAMPIONSHIPS, ONE GOLD MEDAL FROM THE OLYMPICS, an NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, and his NBA Jersey retired in 3 cities, only one of which he played for.  I don't see anyone retiring Kevin Garnett's jersey, let alone teams he never played for.  Players could stand to learn from Jordan, he's still teaching today how to be a better player.

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