I read an article today by Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com about the process by which the Boston Red Sox scouted Carl Crawford both on and off the field before signing him to a $142 million contract this winter. Carl was quoted as saying he was “creeped out a little bit” by Sox GM Theo Epstein monitoring his off-field activities from time to time.
“I thought that was a little weird,” Crawford said Tuesday. “I guess that’s what they have to do when they’re making that kind of investment.” – courtesy ESPN.com – Gordon Edes
This is an excellent example of what sports has become, not only in the modern era of large contracts, but in the global media era of what it’s like to be a professional athlete.
Granted $142 million is a lot of money, and that shouldn’t be given out lightly. There are a lot of factors a team has to consider before signing anyone, even the best players, to large contracts - how healthy will they be over the life of the contract? Has their play been getting better or worse over the last couple seasons? How do they match up against the best teams in the division? – just to name a few.
But now, teams have to consider what a player does off the field just as thoroughly as they do on the field. In the new ‘TMZ’ world where people are obsessed with every move a celebrity makes, it seems a player can’t go out for a relaxing evening with friends without it making Sports Center.
So on the one hand, I can’t blame the Red Sox at all for a least testing the waters on how Crawford spends his time away from baseball. If he has a tendency to party or get into trouble, it could mean a lot of bad press for the organization. If you’re going to invest that kind of money, you need to know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s just good business.
But on the other hand, it kind of disturbs me that its come to this. Athletes have always been held to a higher standard, and all because kids look up to them. But now they’re held to an even higher standard because adults and the media are obsessed with them. Being in the spotlight is part of what comes with being in their position, but this goes way past that. This goes past having to answer to sports writers when you have a bad game, or to answer to angry mom’s when you chew tobacco on live TV. No, this is as close as it’s ever come to sacrificing your right to be a human being, in exchange to play baseball.
It seems now that we’re only okay with athletes making millions if they’re never allowed to enjoy it.