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Whiny Players, Managers, and Owners…Oh My!

Do professional athletes live in a box? Really? Are they so isolated and cut off from the rest of society that their life experience is SO drastically different from the basic human experience grounded in interactive, give-and-take, other-inclusive relationships?

I am so tired of watching grown men act like 6-year-old boys in a play room full of coveted toys. “ME! ME! ME!” It’s all I seem to hear. Statements that start with “I this…” or “I that…” seem to flow from the mouths of those associated with professional sports.

“I won’t be there if he’s there.”

“I won’t come back until he’s gone.”

“I can’t play under these conditions.”

“I want a statue of me.”

“I want a better seat on the plane.”

“I don’t want to be treated this way.”

“I think he shouldn’t do that.”

UGH! What a bunch of damn babies. Does anyone in the sporting world still remember they aren’t the center of the universe?

I was explaining my opinion of a person to a friend the other day…how I don’t think that person is “selfish” but rather “self-centered.” I think that explanation applies here. You see, to me, a selfish person is one who acts in a way that is only beneficial to them at the clear expense of others when other options are available to them at little to no discomfort. A self-centered person, on the other hand, is one who does not knowingly/consciously act at the expense of another but simply defaults to how everything impacts them with little to no regard for the impact on others.

Self-centered could be used to describe many whiny professionals in sports today. Take the Cleveland Cavaliers owner who ridiculed and bombarded Lebron James for his “decision.” Sure, it sucked losing Lebron…but it’s not about you, dude. Lebron is a big boy and can do what he wants, but the owner couldn’t handle the idea that the world doesn’t exist for his benefit. Of course, you could probably say the same of Lebron (who was by no means “selfish” with his generous donation to charity as a result of the decision) when he flexed his “self-centered” muscle and planned an entire evening on national television to broadcast a decision that deeply hurt and irritated the very fans who had pledged their first-born to his basketball skills.

Or consider Kareem Abdul Jabbar on Mike and Mike in the Morning today. Huge controversy with the Lakers! HUGE! BIG STUFF! Kareem is all kinds of irritated and frustrated with the team. Why? Because he doesn’t have a statue yet. Wait…that’s it? Surely there’s more. Oh…good…there’s more. He also got a small seat on the team plane.

Ummmmm….okay. START A PETITION! GET KAREEM HIS STATUE AND A BIG SEAT ON THE PLANE! Hell, while you’re at it…get the damn statue a seat on the plane, too. If it’s so damn important to him, he might want to travel with it. And it’s not like fans in L.A. will be able to look at a Kareem statue and not think of the national media attention it took to get it, anyway.

Young Laker Fan: “Daddy, what’s that statue stand for?”

Father of Young Fan: “Well, son…that is a testament to self-centered players everywhere. It stands for the almighty athlete with an I’m-not-appreciated complex.”

Here’s the thing…I honestly believe there is a portion of pro athletes today (not all of them) that have experienced human life SO differently than the rest of us that they honestly have no idea what a Not-Focused-On-Me world looks like. From very young, they’ve been watched, groomed, trained, and praised to excess. Their entire world has revolved around them. Everyone loves them. They’re the best player on the team. The scouts showed up to see them. The school (high school or college) promotes games as “See (insert name) play here!” experiences. Boosters want to throw money at them. Writers want to write about them. Teams want to wine and dine them.

It’s been all about them most of their conscious life. Like adult infancy.

As a result, they never truly experienced life like the rest of the world does…a life where relationships aren’t all about you. The “take my ball and go home” philosophy is NOT applicable to every damn situation in life. When things don’t go your way, you don’t get to up and leave, quit, demand a trade, sign with a different team, refuse to participate, etc. You deal with it. You compromise. You resolve. You apologize. You forgive. You shut up and listen. You offer perspective. You empathize.

You engage in relationship.

Instead, so many athletes seem so used to their world revolving around them that they truly don’t have the relationship skills developed through normal human experience to adequately resolve issues in an adult manner.

Okay, okay…I’m sure you’re wondering why this issue hit home for me today. Let me tell you…it’s about Ozzie Smith and Scott Rolen.

I absolutely love Ozzie. He is the player that drew me to major league baseball and the Cardinals. He is responsible for the utter love and obsession I have with the game. I can never say enough about how much I respect and love Ozzie for his time as a Cardinal.

But damn, dude. This thing with Tony is just ridiculous. Wait…scratch that…the way you’ve reacted to it is ridiculous. So he pissed you off. Big deal. So things didn’t go the way they should have. Big  deal. It’s called life, man. It’s not all about you. You were a great Cardinal…still are a great Cardinal…but this “take my ball and go home” stuff is beneath you. You’re better than this.

This morning, I read Ozzie’s comments stating that when Tony is no longer with the Cardinals, Ozzie will come back and “take his place in Cardinal history”…or something like that.

Really? So…not on Opening Day when fans cheer you like crazy? Not when your number was retired and thrown on the wall of Baseball Heaven? Not when thousands of fans turn out just to get a damn teddy bear with your jersey on it? You mean you only want your place in Cardinals history when you can have what you want and the world realigns itself to please you? Sheesh. Even my 12-year-old knows how to resolve issues better than that.

And Scott Rolen…come on, man. You come over here, you’re revered by fans, you win a World Series…and then you have a few relationship problems with Tony – your manager…your boss…who had the gall to bench you for a game with a shoulder injury…the same shoulder that just, again, put you on the DL…because you weren’t performing and opposing pitchers knew how to carve you up high and inside – and then that’s it for you? You do remember that series, don’t you? You know…the one where your replacement that game hit a key triple…and then you came back after the game and hit something crazy like .400 for the series? You know…the one where Tony’s decision to bench you turned out to be right?

Again…I absolutely love Scott Rolen. When he was here, he was my favorite Cardinal (even above Albert)…and I still follow him as a Red…but come on. You came in here, you played up the “I was a Cards fan as a kid” angle, you dropped the “Cardinal for life” crap…and then Tony hurt your feelings and you left. Now you’re a Red…and suddenly, you were also a “Reds fan as a kid, too.”

Tell me something, Scott…was it the fact that Tony benched you that hurt more…or the fact that the move worked?

And don’t think Tony is escaping my wrath here. The guy (whether Marty Brennaman likes it or not) is an iconic manager in MLB…but his “my way or the highway” crap goes too far at times. For a guy who claims so much allegiance to the game’s history and great players, what he did with Ozzie was just plain wrong. For a guy who respects veterans the way he does and despises public media disputes like he says, the way he called out Rolen in the press was just stupid.

But at least he tried to get it right in the end. At least he offered the olive branch(es) to Ozzie (shame on you, Ozzie, for rejecting them). At least he settled things with Scott…mostly.

I’m just so tired of watching this “me first, last, and only” crap from guys that are supposed to be better than that. Give any one of them one year in the life of an average citizen and there’s no way they pull that crap…because they would know the world does not exist to appease them. When things get tough, the world does not change around you. You change within it. You apologize. You discuss. You resolve. You compromise. You forgive.

You take your ball and you keep playing.

Alright…I’m going to end the rant there today…I’m sure I’ll think differently about this in the morning, but I’m just sick of watching grown men act like children because they never had to grow up.

And I’m scared to death I’ll have to watch the same thing happen all over again with Albert this winter…



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