Tagged: football

There’s More to Life

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The subject of this column was not inspired by baseball, I
know, but nonetheless it brings up and interesting topic.

Those of you who don’t just follow baseball may have heard
of a young man named Myron Rolle this weekend. For those of you who did not,
allow me to fill you in:

Myron Rolle plays safety for Florida State, which is great
but nothing no one has accomplished before. He’s a talented player, projected
to be a first round draft pick should he enter the NFL draft. The problem is;
Myron may not be interested in playing safety in the NFL, no, he may be much
more interested in becoming a brain surgeon.

No, that’s not a typo.

Brain surgeon.  As in
the guy who’s going to remove the brain tumor from every Cubs fan’s skull if
they don’t win a world series anytime soon.

Florida State played Maryland yesterday which didn’t mean a
whole lot in a grand scheme of the monstrosity known as the BCS (which is a
conversation I’ll have to have with Barack Obama later). And while his teammates were
busy playing the first half, Myron was busy trying to become a Rhodes Scholar.
That’s right, a Rhodes Scholar. A distinction normally suited for future
presidents, supreme court justices and a few other scientists but not normally
football players. Myron broke the mold on that one.

Not only is the guy a freaking genius, he graduated from FSU
in just five semesters! Let me put that into perspective for you: I’ll be lucky
to graduate from Penn State in five years!

The topic that interests me is this: What should Myron Rolle
do come the spring?

This topic has meaning because it raises an important
question in sports today. A lot of young athletes are recognized earlier and
earlier to the point where high school sports become nationally recognized from
time to time. LeBron James had his high school games televised on ESPN, and
this was way before we knew he could do what he does now in the NBA. Now
occasionally you have guys like LeBron and Tiger Woods who burst on the scene
and become superstars in their sport. But more often than not, you find a young
man who thinks he is going to spend his life playing a sport only to find that
his career is short lived.

I was almost one of those young men.

All my life I was convinced I was going to be a professional
baseball player. So convinced, in fact, I cared about little else besides
getting my next baseball fix. I was smart enough where I could pass by grade
school without putting forth too great an effort, a plan I still use today in
college. I was obsessed, to say the least, I even convinced my uncle to be my
agent when I made it to the show.

My parents did the right thing in warning me that a career
in baseball would be amazing, but highly unlikely. My rebuttal was usually
something along the lines of “baseball is my dream, there will be plenty of
time for everything else when I’m done.” I probably should have listened. But I
was a teenager.

 I believed baseball was my destiny until I reached high
school and discovered that all my plans were for naught. I was 5’8″ 140 pounds,
played second base and even though I had taught myself to switch hit, I
tirelessly tried to be the next Mickey Mantle. I would have settled for the
next Yogi Berra.

I’m not bad at baseball; I’m just not Alex Rodriguez. Hell,
I’m not even Ivan Rodriguez. I’m average, mediocre, good at best. Even still, I
take my glove to big league games hoping someone will get hurt and they’ll have
to call me in from the stands to play right field. A guy can dream.

So while a couple guys I played little league with were
drafted by MLB teams, I was forced to explore alternative I never wanted to
explore, which was anything else besides baseball. I have since found my niche
but I feel I am one of the lucky ones; one of the few who are able to find a
place to fit outside of that which they love. It’s not an easy task to take on,
but one that so many young men and women have forced upon them.

Take Rolle, for example. His options include the NFL or
medical school; a choice any red-blooded American would be happy with but so
few actually have. Many would chose sports because it’s more American, it’s
more to our liking. There are plenty of surgeons out there, right? He can
always become a doctor after his career is over, right?

Maybe, it if it were guaranteed, I might agree. But it’s not
guaranteed.

Say Myron does decide to go to the NFL and plays a few great
seasons.

Say he even makes a couple pro-bowls and wins a super bowl.

Let’s also say he breaks his hand; shatters it even. Then
what?

Maybe it’ll heal, maybe it won’t. Hopefully he can still use
it to perform surgery, but then again, maybe not.

Then his football career and his surgical career are both
over.

I hope nothing like this happens to such an extraordinary
human being and I hope upon hope that Myron is successful in whatever endeavor
he pursues. He represents everything that a student athelete should be and he
should be an inspiration to everyone.

The fact of the matter is, however, that things like this
can happen.

These games we play are more than a game to so many of us.
They are more than a sport, more than just competition, more than a way of
life. They are a passion. They get inside us and beg to be fed day in and day
out. Baseball is still a leech in my brain today even though my potential
career is as good as dead.

More often than not, however, they remain just that, a
passion. Those who are like me are convinced that nothing else matters in life besides
sports only to realize they may have been premature. Myron Rolle may not be
able to teach us anything about physiology or organic chemistry, but if he
teaches us nothing else, he has taught us that there is more to life than
sports. I know, I know, its blasphemy to speak such things, but it’s true, and
we need to remember that every once in a while.

Sports are great. I wish more people were as infatuated with
sports as you and I. I wish we settled our differences in athletic competition
instead of war. But at the end of the day, sports are just sports.

They are a
part of life, not life itself.

The State of Baseball Address

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Ok, so I’m in a little bit of a political mood.

President-Elect Barack Obama is going to deliver the State of the Union Address
for the next four years, so I thought I’d begin my own “State of Baseball
Address.”

barack-obama.jpg

Oddly enough, I see a lot of similarities between baseball and the U.S. right
now and not all of them are good. If you think about it, I think what’s wrong
with the economy right now is almost parallel to the problems Major League Baseball
has faced since 1994. Like the government, MLB officials have been adamant about
sticking to old philosophies and hoping they will eventually work the way they
should. Bush said that the economy’s “fundamentals” are good, but that’s just
it. The fundamentals are good, but everything else isn’t.

Major League Baseball’s lack of a salary cap is similar
to the free market system. Each team is a separate business free to do what it
likes. Teams in small markets like Kansas City and Tampa Bay struggle to
compete while the mammoths like New York, Boston and LA can freely afford
hundreds of millions to field the best teams. Every so often you get a team like the ’08 Rays or the ’94 Expos who can compete with a good core and young talent. But eventually, Longoria, Upton, Crawford and Pena will want more money that Tampa Bay can’t afford. So their time of glory is short-lived.

 

Is it fair? Absolutely.

Just? Of course.

Does it benefit everyone? Hell no.

 

Teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Philles
and Mets that run in big markets don’t want a change because the current system
is slanted in their favor. Kind of like the so called fundamentally sound U.S.
economy that gives tax breaks and incentives to huge companies. But if you want
to look at a league that is beneficial as a whole, look at the NFL.

pg2_a_goddell_selig_in_300.jpg

 If Major League Baseball is the U.S., then the NFL is
Europe. No one team has any advantage over another economically and every year,
the playing field starts off level. They share revenue evenly across the board
like free healthcare for everyone. Anyone can compete year in and year out. In
the NFL, you have a Tampa Bay Rays team every year, it’s called the NFC South.

 

As much as I am a baseball purist, I want to see the
whole league benefit. Baseball used to be
America. World Series scores used to make front page news over world wars.
When women were called on to save the factories, they were called on to save
baseball too. (Seriously, they made a movie about it!)

 

Somehow, though, baseball has been surpassed as the
nation’s sport of preference. Why? Because it’s a lot more fun for everyone
when your team has a good chance to win every season. Teams like Tennessee and
New Orleans have a legitimate chance of winning, and even one or two down years
usually lead to a few years on the high.

nfl3.jpg

 Baseball purists want to keep the game the way it is, and that includes Bud Selig. How long, though, are baseball fans going to accept the excuse for major fundamental flaws as “part of the game”? 

It’s time to level the playing field somehow. A salary cap alone won’t solve the problem, because teams like the Yankees will find a way to offer players $140 million bonuses. Maybe caps on offers? Caps on bonuses? How about every trade or free agent has to go through waivers so each team has a chance to make an offer instead of going right for the big markets.

I don’t know the answer, but I am willing to work on one. There needs to be one.

 

With the economy the way it is, it seems criminal for any team to spend that kind of money on one person. Men who work an assembly line are struggling to feed their children while guys like Sabathia and Manny are about to cash in big-time for playing a sport. That concept gets lost sometimes, but it never goes away.

 

Maybe it’s time baseball took a step forward and joined
the 21st century.

Maybe it’s time America did the same.

~SL