Jamir Miller Takes His Lumps
There was a time, not too long ago, where I saw everything through the prism of commerce. I tried to apply normal financial and moral laws to professional sports and found myself constantly annoyed that they were not obeyed. The reason that they didn't apply, of course, is that the NFL is a monopoly which exists in its own economic bubble and whose moral lapses are tolerated because of its position. The fans always return. The revenue is always maximized.
In light of this, I guess it's easy and normally well-accepted to continually blast both NFL owners and players for their greed. The latter, with Jamir Miller taking center stage, is what Terry Pluto does in his Sunday column which leads the newswire. Like most fans, I'm not approving of the money-grubbing which drives the costs to fans up to the threshold of financial pain, and the tolerance for business ineptitude which led to the Browns being swiped from their loyal fans in 1995.
Perhaps it's because I've been an unabashed fan of number 95, but I can't bring myself to join in the journalistic piling-on we're getting as Jamir Miller requests a new contract. To start with, I'm not a journalist In conversations with people who are, I sense no sympathy for Miller and his desire to capitalize on a brilliant 2001 season.
While he's being blasted for wanting a bigger contract, we should keep in mind that players like Miller have something in common with fans. We both are dealing with a monopolistic enterprise in the NFL which will dispense with us when we are no longer considered to be of value.
Exhibit 1: 1995.
Exhibit 2: Every June 1st.
The bizarre NFL economics are tilted against both fan and even against players who are generally considered to be paid far in excess of their societal worth. While even the 50th mane in a 53-man squad makes as much as many CEOs, there are no guarantees in NFL player contracts, just as there is no definitive promise that your favorite team will not move to another town when it can get a better deal. Players are tossed away when management believes that the pay they recieve could be better spent elsewhere. No one is immune. Everyone is replaceable.
Before you blast Jamir Miller remember this: the NFL has built the rules that it lives by. By creating an environment where contracts are shredded when no longer convenient for the team, they have created the environment where valuable players have to get what they can, when they can. Which is exactly what Miller is doing.
Promise and Precipice
I had an opportunity to attend the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the National Football Foundation's Scholar Athlete Awards last week. This site's namesake spoke at the banquet, on the occasion of deservedly being given the Distinguished American Award by the Northeast Ohio Chapter.
As part of the program, the foundation feted a number of promising scholar athletes, who had excelled on and off the field. Or had at least met the standards for excellence currently employed by our public education system, which I think mostly involves not bringing small-caliber handguns onto school property. But I'm a cynic and prone to digressions, and shouldn't doubt that these young men did do well academically.
Among the scholar athletes were highly touted Buckeye recruits such as Justin Zwick, Maurice Clarett, and Mike D'Andrea, in addition to graduates headed toward other institutions of higher learning. There before us were two dozen promising young men dressed in their best suits, who tried hard to remain cool and stifle yawns as they looked out over a sea of people who had gathered to honor them. They made me recall my own youth of promise, although it was a promise more academic than athletic in nature.
Eighteen years is an age on the brink. I remember my senior year in High School, and the mixture of enthusiasm and optimism about the future. I recall the hazards I toyed with every weekend and the feeling of immortality that one has before life's rigors become clear. I was prepared, I thought, the conquer the world. All I had to do was apply myself and doors would open before me. In my confidence, I really didn't even think I had to apply myself. I was special.
With that feeling of independence and invicibility guiding me, I nearly flunked out of college my freshman year. But I had an in-depth knowledge of my college's drinking establishments. Woo. Hoo.
But unlike some of today's college athletes, I would not be coddled if I failed. No one would pat me on the back and make everything alright if I blundered into a bad situation. If I flunked out of school, I was gone. If I became a slave to alcohol, or gambling, or drugs, or whatever weakness was there to ensnare me, there was no one to cover it up. No one to bail me out and let me resume my activities no worse for wear. As I finished my first year, and went on to a minimum wage job in the manufacturing sector to help pay for the next, I faced the prospect of failure starkly, up-close and personal.
We all know the dangers of fame and the dangers of an apologetic support system. Of all the dangers facing young men, perhaps the most insidious are those where excuses made by others and there is a lack of accountability for ones own actions. We can look at Terry Glenn, Mark Chmura, Lawrence Phillips, Darryl Strawberry, Steve Howe, and others going back forever to understand how easy it is to falter and fall. As I looked over the fresh young faces staring back at me, I wondered how many Bernie Kosars there were in the group. How many Steve Largents there were. And how many Art Schlicters. How many of these seemingly invincible young men would survive to serve a productive role in society, and how many would chose another path.
We heard from Jim Tressel and other coaches of Ohio college programs, past and present. Some of the young men, I'm sure, come from families which are quite different from mine. Perhaps they are not as properly supportive as the one I was lucky to have, and the one that Bernie has.
After my indulgent freshman year, I managed to turn it around thanks to the demands I put on myself and the help of others. I continued forward to gain a Masters degree and attain a high-potential position with a successful company upon graduation.
Who will be there for these men if they falter? Will they hold up a mirror or provide an excuse? Young men, even ones as promising as these, need help to become what they are capable of becoming. One can only hope that the parents and coaches present that night are up to the job. I thank God that mine were.
'Scuse Me, While I Scratch My Head
I'm still trying to come to grips with Butch Davis' mid-round linebacker frenzy the April's draft. While one or more of these player profess the attitude toward the game that Davis' adores, and may be the eventual answer in the Browns linebacking corps two years hence, it has been trumpeted that their immediate value to the team will be on special teams. They are considered upgrades to our special teams units... an area which embarrassed Davis in 2001.
That the Browns may have acquired players with future promise who can help immediately on special teams could make this draft a tremendous success when viewed in 2004. Still, given the focus on special teams, how could the Browns afford to part with Tarek Saleh, who was one of their best special teams players over the past two years? How could they ignore the availa