Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Akron Grill or the Cheescake Factory?

Wow, I posted three straight weekends, and since there is some benefit to readers from being predictable, here's another post. (Sadly the tempo free stats will be getting a DNP - coaches decision this week.)

“A superstar player decided to take less money and sacrifice individual glory to try to win championships, but it’s not OK because he’s not having to work hard enough to win them, so they don’t count as much. To announce his decision, he created a special TV program that wound up generating millions of dollars he donated to the Boys & Girls Club, but he’s a bad person because it was egotistical.”-Kevin Pelton points out the irony at Basketball Prospectus

“Big freakin deal, Cleveland. Signed, Seattle.” -Bill Simmons reader comment on ESPN

I guess the fact that these were my two favorite comments means I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Cleveland fans.

Part of that is probably just pettiness on my part. As long as the Vikings are near the top of Bill Simmons’ Levels of Losing, I just don’t have a lot of empathy when bad things happen to other cities. Everyone says Cleveland has not won a title in 50 years. But if you grew up in Cleveland and have not cheered for Ohio St. winning a national title down in Columbus, then that is your own fault. (Sort of like being a Cubs fan and not fully enjoying the White Sox recent World Series.) I just do not believe that Cleveland fans have had nothing to cheer for in their lives. Perhaps if the Vikings were two-time Super Bowl Champs, I’d be a bigger person, but I’m not.

But I think my reaction is a little more than my personal lack of empathy. I think part of it is a general acknowledgement of what pro sports have become. The days of players spending their whole career with one team are over. ESPN has a list of “lifers” in MLB, long-term players that have stayed with one team. And the list is incredibly short. I simply no longer hold it against players for changing teams. When Kevin Garnett won a title in Boston, I smiled. And when Joe Mauer signed with the Twins I was happy, but I didn’t feel he was obliged to do so as a hometown player. If Mauer had gone the way of Johan Santana and moved to New York, I would not have batted an eyebrow.

And maybe that is why I have grown to like college so much more. Players are only making short-term commitments. We know that even under the best of circumstances they will be gone in four short years. But no matter where they go and no matter who they become, they will always be alumni of the university fraternity. Dee Brown and Deron Williams will never have another shot at a national title at Illinois, but they will always be Illini.

Moreover the spontaneous support of team is so much more genuine with a university. I remember when Illinois lost in the national title game, the fans held an unplanned pep rally to congratulate the returning team. It was an unbelievable experience.

But watching part of the extravagant welcoming ceremony down in Miami where Wade, Bosh, and LeBron received keys to the city, none of it felt genuine. Perhaps it was the callous celebration when nothing had been accomplished yet. But I think I was more offended by congratulating people for making a business decision.

When you graduate from college, people celebrate. When you switch jobs to take advantage of a new opportunity, you go out and have a nice quiet dinner with your immediate family.