The movie Jerry Maguire said it best.
“It’s not show friends, it’s show business.”
It’s the reason Darnell Dockett is on the wrong side of a very petty argument right now with former teammate, and current Cleveland Brown, Karlos Dansby.
The worst kept secret in sports is this, it’s part of the entertainment industry and when you boil it down to its base level, it’s business. That’s why any argument based on loyalty is one that seems archaic, if not childish.
“[Dansby] chased the money,” Dockett told media at the Cardinals facility. “I’ve got a lot of respect for our guy that left, I love him like a brother. But we were one or two pieces away from really making a lot of noise.”
Loyalty? In sports, specifically the NFL, is it possible for there to be such a thing?
In an industry where the only thing guaranteed is your career will come to an end after lasting at best a sixth of your lifetime and, in football, contracts can be voided at a whim there shouldn’t be. Players have to look out for themselves and their interest the same way teams do.
That’s why it should come as no surprise what Dansby said to the Northeast Ohio Media group in response to Dockett.
“It pissed me off big time,” Dansby said.
And it should.
This isn’t Madden 15 where the number of zeros on a paycheck are fictitious and the only priority you have while pressing x, y and z is building a champion. This is the real world where dollars and cents matter when there is limited time to earn them.
As fans we don’t want to look at it that way. We want to think these guys do it for the glory and do it for a chance to let us all share in the excitement of hosting a championship trophy. That’s part of it, and for some athletes it’s more important than for others, but there needs to be a sense of reality in the way this is looked at.
Loyalty in sports is meant for the fans. It’s meant to be a bond between a franchise, the city and the people that live in it. The people who turn to the game as a way to connect as a community. It’s a tribal mentality that we have longed for since before man could walk upright. It’s a way we can connect beyond language, economics or political differences.
Loyalty isn’t meant for the teams (the employers) or the players (the employees) in sports. Even when players spent entire careers with one team it wasn’t based on an emotional connection. As a matter of fact, most of the time it was because they didn’t have a choice. Free agency didn’t used to exist and teams controlled whether a player stayed or went on their way. Those days are gone and even the best and most dedicated athletes usually wind up playing for more than one franchise. Guys who play their entire career in one city are the exception and no longer the rule.
Dansby had every right to get what was best for him. In business, most of us would probably do the same. Dockett reacted emotionally like many fans would and did. It’s admirable and unique. It’s even endearing. He’s a rare breed who has played with one team his entire career and seems to feel a connection to the franchise and fans.
Oh, but that could change. At the end of the season we’ll likely find out if it’s about loyalty and friendship or if it’s about business for 9-0. That’s when saying ‘show me the money’ may become more important than chastising someone for chasing it.