Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hard to feel sympathy for hoop stars' demands

I don’t know about you, but if somebody paid me $10 million a year to bounce a ball on the floor and throw it through a metal hoop and I faced the prospect of not getting paid for a year, I would give some deep thought to stashing something away for a rainy day.

You know, like preparing for a year without any income to pay for the essentials in life — for example, food, shelter, jewelry and tattoos.

The prospect of no professional basketball for a year does not have a lot of people hyperventilating, except for the little people whose existence depends on helping customers find their seats at an arena, selling programs and hot dogs and the hundreds of other routine tasks that go along with a sport whose participants are millionaires and whose bosses are billionaires.

It is difficult to shed a tear for these people, who cannot agree on which side will get the most out of a contract that would support the Department of Defense of several small countries forever.

To see the players holding out a tin cup and asking the owners for a few billion dollars more is a pathetic way of looking at the world of Big Business.

Although I have no great admiration for the owners, it seems to me they should get more than half the money pot because, after all, they have a much larger investment than the players.

I mean, who pays the light bill at the arena while the players are out there, dribbling around and pretending they are grown-ups when you can tell simply by the way they are dressed that they clearly are not.

The players play for a couple of hours, take a shower and go – well, we know they don’t go home.

But they go someplace. The papers are filled with stories about where they go. I don’t know about basketball players, but football players go to nightclubs, where they stay out until dawn and occasionally get into situations that require the attention of the authorities.

Meanwhile, the owners have to worry about getting the arena cleaned up, paying the help, arranging a plane to get to the next game and finding a little time to spend with the family.

All the players have to do is show up for the next game, cash their paychecks and find out where the hot spot is in the next town they will visit.

For these reasons, all of them logical, the owners should get a major share of the money pot. The players should be satisfied with the millions they are paid for playing what is essentially a children’s game.

But the players union issued a statement that the owners have a plantation mentality when dealing with the players. Hah! If life in the National Basketball Association is anything like living on a plantation, I say they couldn’t tell a cotton gin from a dry martini without a program.

And unfortunately for the people selling the programs, they will be out of work until the billionaires and the millionaires can find some common ground on which to split their differences.

Meanwhile, what are the players’ agents going to do for walking-around money? They might have to find real jobs. Egads! What a depressing thought.

I don’t know about you, but as a boy and young man I took hundreds of showers with other kids my age after gym class and after sporting events and whatever, and I never, ever, saw a coach, a teacher or any other adult in the shower with the kids.

It was just unthinkable. I haven’t checked with the girls’ teams, but I seriously doubt if their showers were populated by adults, either.

If an assistant coach ever came into our shower because he wanted to “horse around” or “touch kids on the legs” (Ex-Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky actually said that in an interview) my old man and a couple of other dads would have run him out of town before he could have drawn a deep breath.

That situation should have been recognized for exactly what it was 10 years ago, before it ever got out of hand and before the word “horseplay” was ever uttered.

It is a rotten shame that a fine university like Penn State had to be besmirched before Sandusky got the heave-ho.

The first instance of “horseplay” in the shower should have been the one and only — and definitely the last. Two such episodes is one too many. Ten years of it is intolerable.


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