A fan’s requiem for levity
Todd Colin Vaughan
It’s the last minute of the fourth quarter. The game’s tied.
Most players are pining for that end of season multi-million dollar- bonus and lucrative endorsement deal they’ve worked so hard for.
Everything is on the line. It’s the Super Bowl.
It’s actually the fourth hour we’ve been playing. Both teams lost count of the score several plays ago.
The boys on this field are just playing for the promise of personal pride and turkey dinner waiting for them at home. It’s the Turkey Bowl.
These two games seem to have nothing in common, but on second glance, they encapsulate the problem of professional sports. An argument can be made that the spirit of the game is far more alive in the knees of old drunks then in many finely tuned athletes.
The Turkey Bowl is a game played by best friends who have a mild interest in football, but have a greater interest in competing against each other. They remember the high school games when they felt like professional athletes; they remember the big play they made when they were heroes and most importantly they remember the camaraderie of sport.
That nostalgia for times long past is all but lost in the pro sports world.
What has become more important in that world is dating supermodels, hosting champagne parties and generally diluting the competitive spirit of making the big play.
The year of 2011 featured both the NBA and the NFL locking out their players.
The arguments centred on how millions of dollars would be divvied up amongst owners and players.
The word “millions” in that sentence cannot be overstated.
For comparisons, an NBA basketball player’s average salary is $5.15 million, according to the league’s official website. The average Canadian citizen’s salary was $31,500 in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.
That means that the average NBA player makes around 163 times the salary of Joe Canada.
Sometimes professional athletes seem to rub it in the face of their fans.
For example, way back in 2004 when former NBA guard Latrell Sprewell asked for a trade after feeling his yearly salary of $14.6 million was not enough.
“I have a family to feed,” Sprewell famously told reporters after a Minnesota Timberwolves practice.
Tough life for a prima-donna, I’m sure.
The creation of “super-teams” is also the result of this sense of entitlement.
Nowhere is this more evident than the creation of the current Miami Heat.
The summer of 2010 featured three of basketball’s greatest stars; Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh going into free agency.
See in the old days, players had a sense of pride for the team that drafted them and tried to stick with that team through thick and thin. (re: Steve Yzerman, Bill Russell, etc.)
Now, rather then hold onto honour, players can simply find their friends in the league and abandon the fans who allow for their extravagant lifestyles.
The creation of the Miami Heat has led to other superstars bullying their way out of town, most recently the trade that saw Chris Paul abandon the New Orleans Hornets for the Los Angeles Clippers.
A wise muppet once told me that the path to the “Dark Side” is the quick and easier one. This is the path these superstars chose.
Flash-forward to a pickup football game happening earlier this year in a downtown Red Deer field, behind the 7-Eleven.
A winning touchdown for the arbitrarily picked team has an aura of excitement amongst the scattered crowd.
No salary complaints. No million-dollar shoe deals. Just best friends seeing each other once a year to try winning bragging rights for next time.
We may have families to feed, but we realize that our lives as middle-class Canadians could be a lot worse.
So the next time a professional sports league drags their fans through the mud like the NBA and NFL did in 2011, I hope someone with half a brain can forcibly show them some greater truths exist in this world.
Most outrageous salaries
Kobe Bryant — $25,244,000
He’s a player who’s constantly accused of being arrogant, past his prime and a bad teammate. Bryant is also one of only two NBA players with a no-trade clause, which he can bully upper-management with.
Vincent Lecavalier — $10,000,000
Once considered one of hockey’s premier talents, this centreman’s skills have receded to not even receiving top-line minutes. Many pundits agree he’s evolving into an all-around player, but hardly worth his salary.
Peyton Manning — $23,000,000
Hard arguing with his list of accomplishments, but after missing the 2011 season with an injury, Manning’s salary could be seen as a tough pill to swallow if the Colts select a young quarterback with their pick in next year’s draft.
Tiger Woods — $62,000,000
Tiger Woods is set to make a staggering amount of money even though he has lost several of his sponsors since his infamous incident in 2009. Nice to know a repeat philanderer can still pay the bills though.