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I’m posting up outside your cubicle and telling your co-workers how you don’t deserve to be paid the salary you make. I’m at your check out stand heckling you about the raise you asked your boss for. I’ve got a bullhorn and I’m standing outside your restaurant, telling everyone how you’re disloyal because you want to make more money.
Welcome to the world of professional sports. Now you know what it’s like to be an athlete. Not only do people second guess your every move on the field, but they know how much you make and whether you deserve it or not.
That would suck. Try being Demaryius Thomas. Finally through his semi-bitter contract battle with the Denver Broncos, Thomas probably just wants to get back to playing football. It eases any pain to receive a substantial raise, but I’m sure having his loyalty questioned wasn’t fun. If you aren’t being paid what you think you’re worth, you have either asked for more money or sought out a bigger paycheck somewhere else. And if you’re good enough, you will get one or the other. For a professional athlete, there may not be a bigger payday down the road. There could be a dead end with a bad knee injury waiting for them and those fat checks will lose weight quickly.
That’s why athletes look to secure their future by taking a big chunk of change when they can get it. But in doing so they are often times seen as greedy, disloyal or Ryan O’Reilly.
Fiscal responsibility for a sports team is an important aspect to building a consistent winner. We’ve seen countless organizations blow wads of cash on flame outs that did nothing but cripple the team’s chances at long term success. The last time the Rockies spent any money on free agents, it was a one-two gut punch of Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton who lasted for a cup of coffee in Denver, before leaving in their wake a financially gun shy ball club for years to come.
Teams should do what’s best for the organization as a whole. And if not paying a superstar who is looking to cash in is going to make the team viable in the long run, that’s the unpleasant decision that has to be made. It’s smart management though and if you look at the consistent winners across all sports, you will see these decisions being made every year.
But demonizing a player for wanting to make more money when they’ve shown they are at the peak of their abilities is the sad, but expected result of when one of our gladiators steps out of the coliseum and asks to be treated like the rest of us.
This gladiatorial pageantry is nothing new and even though we put a nice bow on things by allowing these athletes to make a lot of money, they are still there to dance. And when they don’t want to dance, we assume they are insulting us. Their lives become all that more disposable when they’re not doing what we want them to. A player does represent a city – that is true. Ty Lawson’s recent troubles are a great example of it not only reflecting badly on himself, but the organization he plays for and the city he plays in. Fans take that personally.
And that’s why the Demaryius Thomas situation got under the skin of Broncos fans. Why doesn’t he like playing for us? What does he have against Denver? The simple answer is, he does like playing here and probably likes Denver a lot. But fans take it too far because they are personally invested in the product.
But you never see fan outrage when a cast member of the Simpsons wants a raise. Because we perceive
a TV network as having a fathomless mound of cash, we are offended at the notion of a greedy TV exec not paying that person. Newsflash: NFL teams have a fathomless mound of cash too. But ask yourself if you’d enjoy having thousands of ravenous fans showing up at your work and critiquing your every decision and angrily weighing in on whether you’re entitled to what you are making.
A player like Demaryius Thomas is providing a service, but it’s a highly specialized one and he’s making a lot of money – for himself and the Broncos – over the next five years because he’s worth it. He doesn’t hate the Broncos, and he wasn’t doing this as a personal slight to you. He just wants to be paid, like we all do, what he thinks he’s worth. And that, no matter what the outcome, should be good enough for you the fan. Now get back to work.