Take Me Out To The Ballgame
Sonny: Mickey Mantle? That's what you're upset about? Mantle makes $100,000 a year. How much does your father make? If your dad ever can't pay the rent and needs money, go ask Mickey Mantle. See what happens. Mickey Mantle don't care about you. Why care about him?
Calogero: [narrating] After that, I never felt the same way about the Yankees.
Much like Calogero in A Bronx Tale, there was a point in time when I was passionate about my sports teams. I used to be a Mets fan. I can admit that publicly now. They were the first sports team I ever liked; they were the cause of my earliest, greatest sports memory (even though I was asleep during the infamous grounder); they had some of my favorite players in any sport ever; and they were the cause of many a' heartbreaks.You may wonder if these heartbreaks are the real cause for the abandonment of my once beloved team, and I would have to admit that the Mets' collapse in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 seasons certainly didn't help (watching each collapse live at Shea stadium DEFINITELY didn't help) but those miserable failures are not the major reason for my decision to no longer root for sports teams.
I'm not mad at the players, mind you. I agree with Sonny that we shouldn't idolize these guys (or girls) and that in general they make way too much money, but that's our fault as consumers. We keep buying the tickets and merchandise (and cable tv packages) at the outlandish prices, so they are simply making what they are worth. If we put more value on education and health care and things like that, people in those fields would get paid more. Pay is associated with the value we put on whatever service is provided, so we can't blame the players for making stupid amounts of money. If we want to make a change, we can't keep investing our time, money, and energy on loyally rooting for them. They don't care about us, why do we care so much about them?
That being said, I still root for individual athletes. I don't idolize them by any means, and I haven't bought any merchandise in a long time, but I like specific players and I enjoy when they succeed.
And I still love watching sports. In fact, I'd say I enjoy sports more now than ever before. I'm not mindlessly attached to some franchise that doesn't even have the best interest of their team in mind. I'm no Red Sox fan, but hearing former manager Terry Francona talk about the owners ordering him to sign "sexy" players would be stomach turning IF I actually cared about the team. If you're a Mets fan, you know how maddening it can be to follow the moves of a losing organization. In fact, science says rooting for a losing team is bad for your health (note that the first picture in that article is a Mets fan). I'm sure you know people (or maybe you are this person) who lose their minds when their teams lose. Their entire day is ruined because some guys they never met played better than some other guys they never met.
Sports are businesses. Some teams are run well, some are not. I'm a...wait, excuse me...I used to be a Dolphins fan. I suffered through watching Dan Marino try to win games with no running back or defense, then I watched one of the league's best defenses try to win games with Jay Fiedler/Chad Pennington/Chad Henne/Insert Horribly Mediocre QB's Name Here. It's not worth the heartache rooting for these teams when the guys running the franchise either don't care or simply don't know what they're doing.
Everybody hates on Lebron James because he left Cleveland for Miami. First off, just looking at it big picture-wise, you wouldn't choose living in Miami, Florida over Cleveland, Ohio?! Stop it. But let's look at it in basketball terms. You play for the Cavs, a notoriously awful team with no championship history. They've had 7 years to build around you and the best they could do was bring in Shaq-Fu the Ancient; when that doesn't work, they bring in Antique Jamison as your one-two combo. Every team in the league wants you. Miami is a relatively new team that has one championship already. They have one of the best coaches in NBA history as an executive. The guy who single-handedly won their first championship is still on the team and is one of your best friends in the league and life in general. They are trying to bring in a third All-Star and continue to build the team around you. Cleveland has Anderson Varejao.
We would all leave.
He didn't do it for the money; he took less money than he would have made elsewhere. People say he should have tried to turn the team around. He did. Look at the Cavs before and after Lebron James to see what he did for that team. He can't sign teammates himself, although they might have been better off if they let him.
So he did what any one of us would have done: throw a very tacky tv special announcing his departure. Okay, that was ill-advised, but it raised a million dollars for Boys and Girls clubs, and if Lance Armstrong has taught us anything, it's that if we raise money for a good cause, people will forgive us for any negative acts we may have committed.
People slander him for joining a team with a proven superstar in Dwayne Wade. Every NBA champion had at least one other great player on his team, from Jordan/Pippen to Bird/McHale/Parish to Magic/Abdul-Jabbar/Worthy to Bill Russell and all those short white guys to Olajuwon/Smith/Big Shot Bob Horry. Even Dwayne Wade had a still-somewhat-agile Shaq. Those guys were just lucky enough to start their careers on a team with other good players.
I don't blame Lebron for going to a decent franchise. Should we blame a lawyer for choosing a firm with a proven track record over a shady firm with no clients? Wouldn't you choose to work at a successful company over a failure? That's all sports teams are: companies. Corporations. They are looking for the best dollar value; sometimes that means getting players and coaches that will win a championship, sometimes that means getting the cheapest talent available. There is no loyalty from players towards their teams because there is no loyalty from owners towards their players. Therefore, why should fans have loyalty towards any team?
I learned early on that owners will do whatever makes them the most money, despite what the fans want. I was never a huge hockey fan, but I did enjoy going to Whalers games in downtown Hartford. That didn't last too long, as the owner decided he could make more money in North Carolina. I know people who are still heartbroken about it.
Then there's the name and uniform changes. One of my favorite NBA teams just changed their team colors and name to the historically awful New Orleans Pelicans. Very intimidating. Honestly, though, if I spent money on merchandise for the New Orleans Hornets recently, I might be a little upset. Keeping up with teams is too difficult. The Hornets actually started in Charlotte before moving to New Orleans in 2002. Then, after Hurricane Katrina, they played their home games in Oklahoma City and were known as the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets for 2 years. They came back to New Orleans, and soon after, the Seattle SuperSonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now the Hornets will be the Pelicans, and the Charlotte Bobcats, who started as an expansion team a few years after the Hornets left North Carolina, will become the Charlotte Hornets, but they will keep the history of the Bobcats while the Pelicans maintain the history of the original Hornets.
Why should I (and how can I?!) become emotionally involved in all this?
I'm simply going to enjoy watching the best players compete against each other. I'm not going to hate some player just because he always beats my favorite team (unless it's Tom Brady or anyone else on the Patriots...they are cheaters and they screwed Hartford over, so I can still spend some time and energy hating them). Instead of hating on players just because they always win, I'm going to enjoy watching them pull off plays like this. The things these players can do is nothing short of miraculous, and as a sports fan in this day and age, you should simply enjoy watching instead of flipping out when your team can't stop them. Some people legitimately wish harm on athletes because they play on a rival team. What sense does that make? I can understand hating a player or coach for being a genuine asshole (see: Patriots) but just for being talented?
Another thing that really caused a downhill spiral in my fandom is the prevalent use of performance enhancing drugs in sports. More specifically, each leagues' hypocrisy towards drug use in their sports. Drug use can't be as rampant as it is without some complicity from the people running the leagues. Even if they are not complicit in the drug use, they mostly look the other way, except for a few highly publicized cases. But those who get caught, even Mr. CheatStrong himself, are just scapegoats. There are obviously much bigger problems than one or two individuals in each sport (cycling is the worst offender of all sports) yet in each league, we see a few suspensions and maybe some harsh words from the commissioner. There have never been drastic changes.
Baseball, for example, has yet to remove the taint of the so-called steroid era. As much as Dark Lord Bud Selig and the Holier-than-thou Baseball Writers of America try to disparage the players of that era, they had no problem building careers off the popularity that era brought the MLB. Watching the McQwire-Sosa home run race is still one of my best memories in sports, along with watching Barry Bonds tie and then break the home run record. I am by no means exonerating the players, they should face serious ramifications, but they were only effects of the problem, not the cause.
I still love watching sports, but I'm not emotionally invested in any teams. I am more emotionally invested in the New Britain High School baseball and football teams because I know the coaches and work with some of the kids. It's a cliche, but sports at that level are more pure, especially with the guys I know. However, I still enjoy watching pro sports more than any other level. Pro sports teams are the most fun to watch because they are the most talented, I just don't care about them anymore.
Especially the goddamn Mets.
I Love You All...Class Dismissed.