What a fine Messersmith you’ve gotten us into now
I’ve heard the South Beach diet could have some great effects, but I never thought it would be anything like this.
It has been some 36 years since professional athletes gained the right to move wherever they want to. And now it seems the NBA desperately wants to go back and rewrite history. But short of firing David Stern and hiring Marty McFly and his time-traveling Delorean, things aren’t going to change.
When Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosch decided collectively to play where and who they wanted to play for a little over a year ago, they changed the face of professional sports. They put in the head of athletes everywhere that they, not the owners, will dictate their own fate. That they can create or dismantle whatever teams they like and the owner that gets them is privileged to have them.
So far it’s just been the NBA, but you can bet Major Baseball and the NFL won’t be far behind.
It was 1975 when Andy Messersmith challenged MLB’s Reserve Clause, which essentially made ball players indentured servants of the clubs and their owners. Messersmith had a stellar year that season and eventually won the right to choose where he’d play. The birth of free agency.
36 years later, here we are. Salaries that are exorbitant, players running from team to team with no apparent sense of loyalty. But with the Heatles (I love that nickname) choosing to take pay cuts so they could pool their talents and win a title, we are seeing something new. We are seeing players play for the chance to win, not just the almighty buck. And personally, I find it very refreshing.
When Stern vetoed the three-team trade yesterday that would have most notably sent Chris Paul to the Lakers to allow them to contend with Miami, it was as if he was trying to turn back the clock and not only tell players where they could and couldn’t go, but to tell the teams how each of them would conduct business as well.
And it wasn’t as if any of the three teams involved broke the rules of the collective bargaining agreement. They all did what they were supposed to. In fact, I have yet to hear one sports pundit argue that the trade was bad for any of the teams involved. If anything they felt the Lakers were getting the short end of the stick.
The problem is, Stern and the rest of owners are the “ownership” of the New Orleans Hornets, having taken over after the previous deed holders nearly destroyed the franchise. Looks like Stern and the NBA wanted to finish the job off themselves.
In the end, it is a good time to take a mental snapshot of what is going on and file it away. Much like 1975, we are seeing a fundamental change in the way professional sports will be organized for maybe the next 50 years. And maybe, just maybe, it’s a change that he members of our government might want to take a good look at. Because if they ‘players’ in this great country ever get serious about taking back our ‘game’ and actually playing to win again, they won’t have a whole lot to say about it.