The Michigan Daily Friday, March 21, 1986 Page 11
MARK MY WORDS
By Mark Borowsky
Fans' criticism .. .
.. .greed in itself
P ROFESSIONAL sport, baseball in particular, has been accused
of many wrongs, but none the more awful than "depriving
the fans." We have all heard about fans being cheated when a player
holds out, players strike, or a free agent jumps from team to team. All of
this is pursuit of one thing: money.
Money does funny things to people, or so we are led to believe. Not only
does it supposedly cause one to change friends and tastes, but morals as
Greed is the moral result of becoming rich, and wanting to become rich
is the moral result of greed. Nowhere is this theorem more widely cir-
culated than in regards to sports, where players have been accused of
simply playing for a buck and to hell with everyone else, namely the fans.
Upon reflection, however it's hard to think of anything so ridiculous -
or even hypocritical. When an athlete is accused of being greedy because
he holds out for money or leaves one team in pursuit of big money
elsewhere, the accusers are only concerned with the athlete playing for
their favorite team. That's where the real greed comes in.
We want a winner. Give our city a winner. Bring our town a
team that it can be proud of.
And it is this attitude of winning at all costs that has led owners to bid
the salaries of players, baseball in particular, upward and beyond.
Everybody wants to see a winning team, but no one, for some reason,
likes seeing players getting a million dollars a year in order to do it.
Why this is so is a mystery to me. After all, it's the owner's money that
gets pitched around like vintage Phil Neikro knuckleball wildly and all
over the place. But more than the owners, the accused culprit of greed is
the free-agent system, first initiated in baseball in the early 1970's.
The strange thing is that in sports it's called "free agency," but in all
other aspects of life it's freedom of choice. Whereas is all other ways of
earning a living moving from one company to another is commonplace, in
sports it's a disgrace, a perversion of the system.
Suppose that Joe Fan wants or was offered a job with the same working cond-
itions, but two or three times the salary, more benefits, and in a different city. If
he takes the job, very few people would question his integrity or, God for-
bid, his morals. In fact, most of us would call him a fool if he didn't take
But when Tigers' rightfielder Kirk Gibson attempted to get more
money and security for what he thought he was worth, that heinous word
greed came to describe Gibson's motives. Because Gibson declared his
intent at a time when owners decided to crack down on free-agents, he
received no takers, and was forced to sign with the Tigers in their terms.
Gibson's foray into the market and subsequent demand for a five year,
multi-million dollar contract only was met with the usual criticism: He's
not worth it. He's greedy. Why should anyone pay that kind of
money for a baseball player?
This is a hollow, weak criticism. Most fans couldn't care if Gibson
made two hundred dollars or two million. What fans want Gibson to make
most is production. Bring in those home runs and rbi's, and give us a
Take this attitude to its logical end, interjecting the popular "jocks and
drugs" theme, and the real perversion becomes apparent. Many fans,
though certainly not all, care more about the playing ability rather than a
player's character. Keith Hernandez was given a standing ovation in
New York despite testifying that he used cocaine. Michael Ray Richar-
dson was welcomed with open arms several times despite his drug
problems. Closer to home, Michigan State's star guard Scott Skiles'
brushes with the thrills and excitement of drunk driving have been
largely ignored by MSU fans because of his spectacular season.
The reason, of course, is obvious. They can play, they help the team,
One thus perceives as the fan's viewpoint as narrow, short-sighted, and
distorted. Winning dominates the consumer's demand, and it is this more
than anything else that has driven player's salaries up.
In turn, what fosters this win at all costs mentality is the fact sport is
easily accesible and lends itself to emotion. But when the emotion lends
itself to accusing players of greed when fans would do likewise and
ignoring players' character in favor of their ability to play, then money
has done funny things to people indeed.