This column is for non-sports fans who would like some enlightenment and hopefully humor without being sports fanatics.
Loyalties and Legacies
“I didn’t do it for the money.”
Any time you hear that from a pro athlete when he signs for another team, just respond by saying “Bullshit.” In these days, it is invariably all about the money.
This is an unfortunately excuse accepted by the dedicated fans of teams who watch their favorite players jump ship or get dumped via trades by millionaire owners to save some of their precious bucks with eye-watering contracts elsewhere, while sales of BoSox and Pats replica jerseys carry on and we chumps have our hearts on our sleeves and loyalty be damned.
But the legacies exist.
Local icons often lose the plot about what they mean to the faithful. We can forgive the Bruins’ Bobby Orr from limping off to Chicago in his last years, because “Numbah Faw, Bobby Aw” will live in the hearts of Broons’ New England fans forever. (As well as being a signature line from Robert Mitchum before he takes a bullet in the head in “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.”)
But can you imagine Carl Yastrzemski going away to be a designated hitter for the San Diego Padres? Or Ted Williams being a pinch hitter for the Cleveland Indians? How about John Havlicek coming on as the sixth man for the Detroit Pistons?
Or think of Larry Bird or Kevin McHale making up the numbers on the bench in Utah? No, these legends had a clue about what to do – and did it. They understood what legacies and loyalty really meant.
Thank all gods, Yaz, Teddy Ballgame and Hondo did the right thing, and walked off into the sunset with the love of every loyal fan.
And the most royal bend-over-for-the-bucks came when the Sox ownership shipped off former MVP Mookie Betts to the Dodgers and Andrew Benitendi to Kansas City, that was a spit in the face to Red Sox Nation. A decades-long possible premiere outfield for the BoSox of Betts, Benitendi and the now (unfortunately) shaky Jackie Bradley.
Yet the fans stay strong. But for how long?
The recent idiotic clash in Major League Baseball between the royalty and the players exposes how much the system is geared to the almighty dollar, not the loyalists in the stands. How does a guy/girl who works their ass off 24/7 for not necessarily minimum wage, but not a few thou an hour, reconcile their fandom with the obscene amounts paid to .250 hitters with an average glove who should pumping gas instead of cashing a check that is insulting to real working men and women?
On another front, there are the rare exceptions, usually among those who understand the concepts of loyalties and legacies.
Recent ones include this guy named Tom Brady, of whom you may have heard. He is the God of all that is Patriots Nation, and will be forever, even after his bullet-to-the-heart of his fans’ departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where of course, he won the Super Bowl first time around.
But he definitely understood the concepts of loyalty and legacy while collecting six Soopah rings hereabouts. He was never the highest-paid QB in the league, in part because he would allow the Pats management to take a portion of his salary to use to get better players. Imagine that!
Although he never said that he knew his New England legacy was assured (it is), the many rumored claims as to why he left for Florida are legion. One, supermodel wife wanted him home more often with the young imps; he hated the wonderful New England weather in the fall and winter (scream and salute “Tuck Rule” here); he now hates coach Bill Belichick; he now hates owner Bob Kraft; he wants a George Hamilton cancer tan; or he wanted to play with Gronk again (and how did that work out, Bucs fans? Yowzah!)
But he didn’t do it for the money.
There comes a time when money no longer rules, and attachment to a community – and one’s investigation of how their personal legacy will be perceived – that can change what is at the heart of pro sports. Immediate dollars or long-standing dignity?
And most importantly, respect from the loyal fans. Which should be number one.
But the real deals didn’t do it for the money. Think about it.