Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coming Off the Bench

There have been several recent stories of big-name athletes unwilling to serve their teams in reduced roles as they get older and their skills gradually ebb. What troubles me in this are the overwhelmingly petty attitudes of greed, selfishness, and entitlement that are manifested. Whereas these athletes once seemed to derive their strength and identity from the roar and approval of the crowds, their team-first go-all-out tenacity, and even their seemingly generous acts of community service, they now are reduced to bad-mouthing the same organization that rewarded them as multi-millionaires and positively promoted their images to the world.

Upon closer inspection, the veneer that covers these "stars" is seen as thin and worn. Notice that whenever they participated in community service, a camera crew was always present. The supposed services really were just staged events that only stroked the star's ego and puffed them up further. Whenever new contracts were negotiated, if the offered amount did not fully meet with their over-the-top expectations, they complained to the press and anyone else that would listen to them, that they were not being respected. You could clearly see how much the teams and communities really meant to them when they inevitably threatened to take their services elsewhere. In all of this, one should not be fooled by the aura surrounding some of these prima donnas. They are mercenaries and mercenaries only.

When their skills start to decline, do they accept whatever role the team believes is best? Do they continue to set the best example possible for their fans? Do they work to make the most of what they have? Do they work harder and longer? Few actually do. I find this to be a real shame. Team leaders are not necessarily those who have the best all-around games, but those who set the best examples. Those who can communicate to the younger players what it takes to achieve greatness. Those who can pull the various inflated egos together for the sake of the team. So, while coming off the bench may not be the most glamorous role on a team, it is a role that just might give the team its best chance to win.