The NFL Shows Us All That Compassion Still Has a Place in Society by Timothy Watson III-July 28, 2011
It took 132 days, but enough was enough. It finally ended. In what was the most depressing work-stoppage in a very long time, fans all collectively cheered in joy, when the NFL announced Monday morning that the players and owners had finally struck a compromise. The result: an unprecedented 10-year collective bargaining agreement. And it will be a very, very long time before we miss a season of our grid-iron warriors do battle in this nation’s most popular sport.
That four-and-a-half month lockout provided many indelible images from those of both the owners and players leaving cabs on their way to daily meetings, to those of both Commissioner Roger Goodell and National Football League Players Association head DeMaurice Smith engaged in their weekly status chat with reporters. But the most lasting image, that most fans will forever remember, is that of Colts player Jeff Saturday hugging Patriots owner Robert Kraft at the media press conference to formally announce the end of the lockout.
What that image did was let the world know that there was still some compassion remaining in the world, even in business. Kraft, who was just three days removed from the home going of his longtime wife of 48-years, Myra, still had the perseverance and strength to remain committed, even to the last day, to spearheading the effort which resulted in the deal. Commonly acknowledged as the peacemaker, he bridged the two sides together. And there was Saturday at his side to show his sympathy for Kraft publically. Would not this world be a better place if we all could just ‘hug-it-out?’
Let us consider. Those two men that hugged each other were representatives of two bitter rivals. On the playing field, you never saw Peyton Manning and Tom Brady hugging each other after a hard fought loss. And you definitely would not see Bill Belichick closely embracing Jim Caldwell anytime soon.
Football players are, by both nature and design, to be the most uncompassionate and mean ones in the business of sport. And the reason for that is simple: your livelihood and reputation depends on it. Acting hard is a way of life. If you are soft, you get crushed. And strangely enough to see a very big dude hug a very little guy was very refreshing to see. It showed all of us that everybody has a sensitive heart inside them. That even bickering business owners and players can still make up after a fight.
I will definitely remember this the next time my girlfriend and I have a nasty argument.
According to the Associated Press, this morning, a deal has been made between players and team owners while the Executive Committee for the National Football League’s Player Association will vote to recertify the new collective bargaining agreement officially. Players could begin training camps as soon as Wednesday. Hooray!
LeBron James says ‘I told my team, I’m not going to continue to fail late in games’ by Timothy Watson III-July 8, 2011
Michael Jordan was great at the fade-away. LeBron James became great at 4th quarter fades. And as it stands now, James can never be mentioned in the same breath with His Airness. So let’s stop the comparisons now. They are unwarranted.
Also in contrast to Mike, LeBron jumped ship from the franchise that made him a star to join a cast of stars. Although it was to the envy and despair of the rest of the league and its fans (except of course for those in Miami), James had no problem with it. He was so pompous. He wanted the entire world to see.
Today marks one-year-to-the-date since The Decision was broadcasted to a worldwide audience thanks to ESPN. It was a spectacle. James and his camp’s intentions were for that one-hour program to bring attention to The Boys and Girls Club of America, along with his foundation, for a noble cause. But all of that got lost and forgotten when James said those magical words: “In this fall, I’m going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.”
And at the same time of the round of cheers and ovation which happened inside the Boys and Girls Club Community Center of Greenwich Village, New York, there were also jeers and boos that echoed inside many homes across the country, including mines’.
The reason: a host of several other cities were letdown in the process. That included my hometown of Chicago especially, since from a pure basketball standpoint, the Bulls would’ve made the most logical fit for him.
But James thought otherwise. And through the influence of his inner-circle and recruitment by friend and former Olympic team mate Dwayne Wade, he made not only himself but them happy too. The rest of us were mad as hell.
Also included in that group of disappointed cities that vied for the prized free agent was Cleveland, where its team (Cavaliers) had to learn first about it on television like the rest of us. And it was in that setting where he had officially disenfranchised himself from his hometown. His former employer became made as well:
“As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. This was announced with a several-day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”
What embarrassment James caused by not giving his old team at least a two-week’ notice, that’s bad. And because he was the ‘franchise player’ it appeared even worse. So just like that, LeBron went from the most-liked to the most-hated, overnight. Well it’s a shame he can never ask for a letter of reference from Dan Gilbert.
But that was then and this now.
So as of July 8, 2011, how would you assess his decision?
To do this let’s only consider on-the-court standards, not off-the-court ones. Here I will provide an analysis from which the reader can decide for him or herself.
Did he win?
Despite being dissatisfied with the failed playoff performance of his Cavaliers team in the 2009-10 season, under James’ leadership they did manage to finish with a 61-21 record. But as a member of the Heat, with a far more talented set of team mates that included two other fellow All-NBA players in Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for support, the Heat went 58-24. So changes in uniforms as well as jersey numbers for LeBron still didn’t provide a difference. Things still remained the same. Both teams still fell short of winning the NBA championship.
Was his image affected?
As cool as LeBron played-it-off, one could still tell that his ego had taken a bruising. That began on the night of his announcement, as we all recalled that image of his Cleveland Cavaliers jersey being set afire by his jilted hometown fans. And it continued throughout to the final day of this season with Dan Gilbert’s twitter vindication after the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship. “King James” went from being affable to a jerk in most eyes. And finally, after recognizing the change in perception of him from the fans and media alike, he most recently, clarified his condescending press conference remarks that followed his teams’ abrupt season-ender by later saying he’s “not superior to anyone.”
Did he appear comfortable?
After some games, it appeared that James had succumbed to the pressure of the intense scrutiny. Case in point of this is his comment after an 87-86 loss at home to Chicago Bulls: “I told my team, I’m not going to continue to fail late in games.” It’s evident he wasn’t able to sleep well some nights because of that. Peace of mind is what we all desire in life. He didn’t have any.
Did he make his team better?
Well, okay, that is obvious, as Miami went from an easy 1st round attraction to a championship-favorite contender. This past season’s version of the Heat was a hard-to-beat opponent. The Heat is already the favorite for next season again. So they will be around for a few more years to come.
Did his statistics improve?
Despite regular season averages of 26.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game (although still All-NBA type numbers), there were noticeable drop-offs in the scoring and assists comparisons from his last season in Cleveland (29.7 ppg and 8.5 apg). It meant that LeBron was not “the man” on his own team; Dwayne Wade was for the Heat.
So I know that LeBron James would still tell you, if even asked now after suffering yet another playoff failure, that he’s having fun in Miami. I mean there is a lot to like there with the tropical climate, exotic nightlife and beautiful people, but that’s as a vacationer. From this past season’s experience alone, I’m sure he had more than his fair share of drinks in that same work environment to ease the pain from a few headaches time-to-time. It was a rocky road. So here’s a toast to LeBron James for getting a full taste of life, as most of us average fans know it, including the daily stress and ridicule in the ‘real world’.
The June 30th deadline came and went and nothing changed. So came July 1st and what was to be happened as expected. No new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) and therefore no 2011-12 NBA season, at least for the time being. The two sides—owners’ and players’—were so far apart in negotiations that New York Knicks top dog James Dolan was the lone representative for the owners during last Thursday’s meeting (and that was only because his teams’ offices are just a few blocks away from the NBA’s in Manhattan).
As alienated as these two sides were, it will only pale in comparison as to how distant the fans and their favorite leagues will become the longer these labor-lockouts last. Sports junkies like me are already suffering symptoms of withdrawal from the NFL’s version that is still happening. And as of now, the business of football is “on the clock” officially, because with the start of teams’ training camps less than a month away, its season is now really in jeopardy.
So what is a fan to do?
Well here are some useful suggestions. These are “5 Things to Do in Case of a Lockout.”
- Be patient: Nothing says “loser” like crossing your fingers while checking daily updates of ESPN or other media outlets, and hanging on its’ every word. Like the latest one here, for instance, that talks about a new lawsuit which speaks to the oftentimes unscrupulous, despicable, but yet customary nature of labor negotiations as the principal parties involved “are conspiring to depress the amount of pension and disability benefits to be paid to former NFL players in order to maximize the salaries and benefits to current NFL players,” according to New York Times. Yeahhh??? You think so, really??? Of course sleeze-baIl tactics like these are used within the business of professional sport. Duh??? It is corporate America! So I used to check-in to learn about every bit of news everyday from when the lockout first began up to 60-days-into it. But now 100-plus-days-in, I spare myself the agony. Besides, all of us jeering at the TV screen all day isn’t going to make them move any faster. There’s a process involved. It’s the ugly side of sport. Let’s face it! Sure, I know that many of the NFL pundits, writers and analysts really do have a ‘hands-on-the-situation’ but remember that their job collectively is to sell interest by keeping you ‘glued-to-the-tube.’ Believe me we all have more important ways to spend our time usefully than to watch television all day. Go mow the lawn!
- Surf the Web: It’s common knowledge that most sports fans are closet nerds. And it is through our thirst for more information that we compile research. How else do you figure we can throw some of the most trivial statistics at you like how Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant has placed 4th on the franchise’s all-time total career playoff blocks list at 142, according to LakersUniverse.com. This may seem like a mindless pursuit, but interesting useless information like this not only serves as a great conversation piece at stuffy dinner parties, it also gives us fans something to ponder about as we pass the time. And the smarter we become for it.
- Go out on a date: I’m sure like myself most fans have, in the pursuit of fandom, unfairly neglected that quality time with their significant other. Needless to say, if our partners respectively are still with us to this day, that alone shows he or she has true love for our pathetic selves. And I know during these past seasons we’ve dealt with the guilt of abandonment, as we’ve traded dinner and movie reservations for a Bulls or Bears game on Saturday nights at home alone. Let’s make up with our lovers and show them how much appreciation we have for them to put up with all of us last season, by spending the next several month’s worth of Saturday nights enjoying them fully, without the distractions of a game. Plus, think of it like this, we still are saving money now because we don’t have to worry about including the price of tickets into our expenditures anymore.
- Play video games: With the invariableness of a lockout, that NBA 2K11 and Madden ’11 definitely gets more playing time now. And with Living Roster downloads, we can play with the current roster of each team as they stand. It means we can still play with the same “dream team” of the Miami Heat that lost in the NBA Finals or that hated Green Bay Packers team that won the Super Bowl (sorry, I’m having flashbacks), and recreate those games over and over again with different results. Go ahead live it up. Change the course of your team’s history from this past season! At least for now until the real season begins once again.
- Exercise: The NFL has “Play 60” and the NBA has “Fit” programs that encourages and teaches the habits for an active lifestyle intended for future generations of fans. We may be adults here but the same practice still applies. Get off the couch and move something! Before, we had legitimate excuses for not exercising like working and watching sports to use, but now with the recession and lockout, we can’t use these anymore. Take that $180 that we would’ve paid for next season’s League Pass otherwise and let’s spend it on a YMCA membership. Heck, for added motivation, let’s believe that we can actually rekindle that old dream of becoming a pro athlete! It’s an investment well spent. We will see the results as we look good and feel better about ourselves.
So I hope this list is very useful. I have given us 5 reasons on how to embrace these lockouts and keep ourselves still relevant in this wide world of sports. These all revolve around time, people, places and things which share a common dynamic with sports too. Although we can’t cheer, jeer or see them, we can still show our allegiance to the players and teams in fun but alternative ways.