Trade deadlines more thrilling than actual games
Todd Colin Vaughan
There was probably a time when athletes never left the team that drafted them.
When future free-agents didn’t ball-bust the team they play for to trade them out of town before they leave for nothing.
When ownership groups didn’t decide to go into cost-cutting mode and break apart teams right after championship runs.
It was likely in the some-what mythical era of sports — only recognized by baby-boomers who relentlessly speak of the time between 1970-1990 — when all the major league sports were in a boom and Ronald Reagan was tearing down the Berlin Wall with his bare hands between shoots for his next blockbuster film.
But that is, allegedly, history. The present has a much different paradigm, where players are free to choose where they want to play from year to year and loyalty between an organization and its own players is only for the public relation cranks.
Yes, we are now in the dystopia of future sports where the most exciting time of the year is not the championship or even the playoffs. The most thrilling time of the year in major league sports is the trade deadline and the draft.
Both times when players who seven-year-olds once cheered for are sold for pennies — sorry nickels — on the dollar.
The story lines, as previously mentioned, are the same. You know, the melodrama of prima donnas not being treated fairly in their $15-million deals. But, the National Basketball Association has examples of some particularly disturbing trends.
Atlanta Hawks power-forward Josh Smith oozes with athletic potential. Despite his penchant to hoist bad shots from inside the 3-point line, Smith is slated to be the one of the most sought-after free agents in the summer of 2013.
And he knows it.
The Hawks started the 2012-13 season at a blistering pace, but have since cooled down due to injuries to some key reserve players.
This cool down coincided with rumblings from Smith about being unhappy and the suggestion was made that Smith has indeed asked for a trade out of Atlanta to another contending team, which he will likely receive before the Feb. 21 deadline.
Most of these rumblings have remained cordial and behind close doors, but it nevertheless carries the scent of disloyalty. It is, however, very familiar to the happenings of the 2011-12 season, where a personal friend of Smith’s lead a much more public circus on his way out of Orlando.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ newest problem was the Orlando Magic’s nightmare for the last two years.
The three-time defensive player of the year, Dwight Howard, has transformed himself from the anchor of a championship team to an undisciplined, whiny malcontent who punished his fans in Orlando for expecting loyalty.
Howard and his agent spent the better part of two years sending mixed messages regarding the center’s intentions for his free agency. What this misinformation essentially accomplished was a losing season in Orlando, disillusioned and betrayed Magic fans and an eventual trade to the Lakers for a package no better then a bag of basketballs and a peach basket.
Howard used his leverage as a superstar to bogart his way out of town and is now currently facing the much heavier media scrutiny of Hollywood, which is far more punitive to athletes who are acting juvenile. This is likely poetic justice for Magic fans and a bag of shit for Lakers fans.
Why is this happening?
The point of these two issues is that from the trade deadline to the draft, the fan-bases of NBA teams are being held captive by whoever the particular marquee free agent will be the following summer.
The dastardliest ploy of these athletes is the sad faces they show in the post-game media when they feel they are being mistreated by their employers.
Maybe it started with Lebron James and the decision to abandon Cleveland and join the Miami Heat. Maybe it was when Shaquille O’Neal left the Magic in the ‘90s for the bright lights of Hollywood. Or maybe it was when Peter Pocklington sold Wayne Gretzky to the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings in the ‘80s and Edmonton subsequently died as a city.
The point is that you can’t expect to turn on the television, or drive to the game, and see your favourite players anymore. They already have found their way elsewhere.
But we, the fans, remain. The only loyalty left in sports.
I was hard on baby-boomers earlier in this column but, in actuality, they have a mythical sporting past that they can rely on when their teams betray them.
Unfortunately for me, I missed that era. When I enter my twilight, I won’t have players or owners that I remember as honest.