Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday's Musings on Sports - What Happens When No One Keeps Their End of the Deal?

Well before I met Mrs KB, I was a big fan of Mike Ditka. When he was a coach of the Chicago Bears he always seemed to give great quotes and his image as a coach was larger than life. Once Ditka retired from coaching (the first time) he began to dabble in broadcasting and thus had a greater venue for airing his unique views on sports and life. After making the mistake of returning to coach the Saints in 2001-2003, Ditka retired from coaching for good and became a network fixture and earned the nickname "America's Coach."

One of Ditka's regular weekly appearances is on the Mike & Mike in the morning program on Monday mornings. The hosts have joked on more than one occasion that on Mondays the show should be renamed the Mike & Mike & Mike in the morning show. During the Monday morning spot, Ditka usually comments on the previous day's NFL games and opines as to the outcome of the Monday Night game.

During this week's morning spot, Ditka was asked about the Eagles' benching of WR DeSean Jackson. For those unaware of the story - the thirty second version is that Jackson missed a team meeting, so the team left him off the active roster in their game against the Arizona Cardinals. While the game was expected to be a cakewalk for the Eagles, they wound up losing the game to the Cardinals. Adding injury to insult, they lost other WRs for part of the game and really could have used Jackson.

Ditka speculated as to the real reason that Jackson was suspended. He mentioned that Jackson was unhappy with his contract and that Jackson may have been vocal or disruptive in an attempt to force the Eagles to renegotiate or extend his deal. After giving this opinion, Ditka explained that when he played football (Ditka was also a HOF Tight End in the 1960s), players had one year contracts and if they performed well the contract was renewed. Ditka opined that if someone signs a contract they should honor the contract. To quote Ditka "Once the contract ends, you can go in there with guns in both hands and hold them up for a better deal...but when you are under contract you need to honor the deal."

My problem with Ditka's take on the scenario is that the owners often times do not honor the contracts. Unlike many other sports, most NFL player deals are not guaranteed. As such, often times a team will cut a player before the contract expires so that they can save the team from having to pay a bonus or a few years of contract on a player who has seen better days.

The fact that an owner can terminate a player at will while the player is vilified and punished for holding out or "faking" an injury is an interesting study. I have heard countless commentators pontificate about why most fans sympathize with the NBA owners and feel that players are greedy. I have no answer as to why fans favor the NBA owners, (although this may be due to the fact that personally I would not really care if the season was cancelled).

The owner vs worker scenario plays out in a story in a parsha we will read in a few weeks. Yaakov wants to marry Rachel and asks Lavan to permit the marriage. Lavan agrees and Yaakov works for seven years, but Lavan backs out on the deal and gives him Leah instead. Yaakov is then forced to work another seven years for the right to marry Rachel. However, Yaakov is not left defenseless in his battle with Lavan. As part of their deal, Lavan agrees that Yaakov would have the right to all spotted sheep, while the pure unblemished sheep would go to Lavan. Yaakov manipulates the scenario with the tools available to him by placing spotted sticks in front of the sheep while they drink so as to influence them to give birth to spotted sheep. Once Lavan sees that the spotted sheep population has increased, he reverses the deal, but Yaakov then withholds the spotted sticks and the sheep only have pure unblemished sheep. Each side attempts to work the leverage they have available to them and everyone (or no one) is truly happy with the result.

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