We live in a strange time in sports where every detail of a player’s contract is analyzed by experts before it’s even signed. TMZ seems to have cameras and smart-phones everywhere just waiting to catch a player, coach or Jerry Jones saying something off-color. It seems we live in a sports era dedicated to tearing down our most beloved sports figures, or at least watching with a bucket of popcorn as they implode on themselves.
But have we forgotten… they’re human?
It’s easy to forget. For all we know, they’re just little super-human images on our tv screen or robots we gaze at from our $80 field-level seats. They make lots of money playing a game almost everyone has played at one time or another. All those hours I spent in my back yard dreaming of putting on a Phillies uniform and hitting a homerun in front of thousands of screaming fans.. they get to LIVE that. Every day.
We don’t know them personally, but we love to speculate on what’s going on in their heads. When Cliff Lee signed a deal with the Phillies for “less” than he could have gotten elsewhere, websites everywhere filled up with every opinion imaginable as to “why?” Why would he take less money? Why didn’t he want to play for the Yankees? What is he, scared? Scared of the big apple and all the pressure?
Most of them say it’s not about the money, but when I think about it, why else would these guys do this if it wasn’t for the money?
Think about it. They push their bodies to the limit for all but a few weeks out of the year which accumulates to more exercise in a 10 year career than most people do in a lifetime. Ask any former NFL lineman, most of them struggle to walk by the time they’re 50. Darren Daulton had over 10 knee surgeries and kept coming back. They’re pushed to come back early from injuries and risk further injury, and the great ones are expected to play hurt. A lot of them are bought, sold and traded like commodities on the New York Stock Exchange, moving from city to city dragging their families along with them. And then you add in the pressure from fans. Fans who expect them to perform like cyborgs and win at all cost. If you win, they love you and expect more from you. If you fail, or decide you want to take your talents elsewhere, they’ll hate you and take every opportunity to express that hatred.
Take a look at that. It’s just a fraction of what these guys go through. The lucky ones get to endure it for maybe 15 years. The insane ones keep quitting a coming back. Would you really want to do all of that? They do. And the only rational explanation I can think of… The money. If you take all of that into account, what other reason would any sane person want to be a professional athlete?
We sometimes forget that they’re humans, and they make decisions like humans. Not media-driven robots. It seemed like such a foreign concept to most people that Cliff Lee made a decision based on what he and his family wanted, and not where the baseball world had pre-determined he should go.
ENTER: Top 10 Free Agent Pitcher
COMMAND: New York Yankees offer most money
COMMAND: Pitcher must accept offer
ERROR: Pitcher chooses Philadelphia ALERT! ALERT!
In the end, he chose Philly not because he was scared of New York, or thought he couldn’t handle the pressure, but because it’s where he and his family wanted to be. It was a human decision just like the ones we make every day. When we are looking for a job, what do we think about? A nice area to live, an environment we are comfortable in, a competitive salary, friendly co-workers.