A saucy female perspective on sports pop-culture

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Oatmeal vs. Outfield

When I was young, there were many things I didn’t like. For example, I hated eating oatmeal before school, I hated babysitters, and I hated summer camp. As much as I hated that mushy bowl of lukewarm oatmeal, I finally decided to throw a fit and protest eating it. My mother was hardly pleased and laid it on thick by forcing my protest outside, to the cold garage, so she could continue getting ready in peace and I would be forced to stare at the offensive bowl and come to terms with my childish behavior. I’m not sure if I ever did eat that bowl of oatmeal, but today I eat it everyday before I go to work. No, my mother didn’t force me to like oatmeal, that came over time, but she taught me that no temper-tantrum will ever spare you from doing something (or eating something) you don’t like.

Let’s be honest, professional athletes have it pretty good. Although they worked very hard to get to their level of play, they are paid oodles of money to play sports. If there’s anything to protest, it’s the fact that they never have to set foot in an office and log nine-hour days behind a desk. Sure, they workout, promote their team, work with charities to raise money for good causes, and they are forced to travel for games. Really sounds rough, right? I’m sure there has to be some drawback, like when you get traded from Miami to Seattle or perhaps your salary takes a minor cut from $4 million to $3.5, but you can make up the loss with endorsements. Here’s what I don’t understand…the public temper-tantrums from the Terrell Owens, Gary Sheffields and lately the Alfonso Sorianos of the world. These are men who are considered icons, legends, and playmakers in their field, but their recent public behavior has been appalling.

We all can recall Terrell Owens’ antics both on and off the field, including his contract dispute and public remarks about his fellow Philadelphia Eagle teammates. Although he’s a standout receiver in the NFL, he is also branded as a high maintenance player and a trouble-maker. Gary Sheffield, a seventeen year veteran of pro-baseball and currently a member of the NY Yankees made a big stint at the top of spring training this year when he started media reports about his displeasure with the Yankees organization and the end of his $39 million dollar contract, fearful that he won’t get picked up and could be out of a job. The latest public spectacle has come from the hands of Alfonso Soriano. Soriano, a recently traded player to the Washington Nationals, refused to take the field during his spring training debut. The team had made it clear that Soriano would play outfield and not his usual position at second base, leaving that to their current star player. Soriano expressed his displeasure but never indicated that he would refuse to play baseball at all. It was a major embarrassment to the team on Monday night when the Nationals took to the field and everyone expected to see the All-Star player run on to the green…only to see an empty left field. Should Soriano continue to protest by not playing, there is a good possibility that he could be disqualified.

Um…this is sports, in particular this is baseball. Above all else, this is a T-E-A-M sport. I would love for someone to explain to me why it is such a big deal to have to play outfield versus second base. It reminds me of high school when I was forced to dance in the back line of my dance numbers. Sure, I wasn’t thrilled I didn’t get to be front and center, but I dealt with it. More recently, I had the distinct pleasure of performing in a show where I was more or less a glorified stage prop. As much as I loathed the director and the production, I had to remember that there were easily 100 girls back in New York waiting tables who would GLADLY be “stage prop on the left.” These men make millions of dollars, live a life most of us will never be able to experience, and their job for a living is to play a game they have loved since they were a kid. Clearly they never did grow up because no rational, compromising, and mature adult would ever act so infantile! To constantly stir up controversy over contact negotiations, or to publicly create division within the team because of your displeasure with the line-up is ridiculous. We are forced, as people, to do things we don’t like everyday. We deal with the discomforts and we move on. When we see it necessary to fight for a position, for money, or for rights, we will raise our own call to arms. What is so despicable is that these three men are role-models in the eyes of some kids. They lead by example, due to their position, and I think they commonly forget this fact. Is it really “justice” that Owens and Sheffield are seeking in their contract negations? Is Soriano really protesting a prejudice or unfairness against him? No. These men are being cry-babies. They are living the dream that so many others have failed to live. They are privileged individuals who are gifted with a talent and who have been blessed to lead such lives. They got greedy and selfish. Would they have ever committed such a public scene at the start of their career? I hardly think so. They know what is right and what is wrong, so why do they choose to create the discord between the team and management? There is always one in every group, one who fails to see the greater good. It’s a shame that so many of these sour apples seem to appear in our favorite teams, but they also create the drama that ESPN reporters live for. The key to being a successful and likable celebrity is to make sure that your talent is level with your humility. Take George Clooney, for example. The guy is devastatingly handsome, amazingly talented, but uncommonly humble. He never acts pompous or appears to be any more important than the John Doe next to him. He’s on top of the A-list because he’s not pretentious nor does he create controversy. These sports stars should take a page out of George’s book and then maybe people wouldn’t object to a salary raise when they ask for one. Humility, graciousness, and respect is what makes a celebrity a superstar. These men are superstars due in part to their talent, but horrible celebrities due to their lack of tact and honesty.


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