Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our minds around the reality that sports–especially football–are cold, detached businesses. One where calculated decisions are made with bottom lines in mind–whether they be dollars or wins.
The time we spend rooting on our favorite teams and players is an emotional investment, and for that reason we treat our relationships with said teams and players as personal endeavors, even in instances where we’ve never had any real personal connections. For that reason, it’s hard to understand the indifference. It’s hard to come to terms with the callousness of the ledger-mentality.
When the Chicago Bears couldn’t come to terms with Brian Urlacher, words like loyalty were thrown around, both by fans and Urlacher himself. Now, as the Bears have cut ties with legendary return specialist Devin Hester, Urlacher is using his new platform as an analyst for Fox Sports 1 to question the organization’s loyalties once again.
When the franchise announced that they wouldn’t be retaining Hester’s services, Urlacher claimed he was shocked and was adamant that Devin Hester should have been afforded the luxury of finishing out his career as a Chicago Bear.
After all, Hester’s 19 return touchdowns tie him for the most of all time with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, and there’s no doubt that seeing Hester break the record in Navy Blue and Orange would cement his legacy as one of the most electrifying athlete’s in organizational history.
However, this lingering idea of sentimentality that Brian Urlacher seemed to think entitles people like himself and Devin Hester to what essentially amounts to a lifetime contract–a deal that would pay them for what they were rather than what they are just to allow them the comfort of finishing out their careers in one place–is exactly the kind of privileged behavior that we should detest from professional athletes.
There’s a scene in Mad Men where prodigal young advertising copywriter Peggy Olson barges into Don Draper’s office upset that he received critical acclaim for a campaign their firm put together and she was at the center of. She expresses that she feels under-appreciated and would be grateful if Draper and the company would show thanks every once in awhile, to which Draper replies:
The same logic applies to Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester and any other athlete that thinks they deserve a deal, not because they bring value to the team, but as some feeble-minded concept of loyalty. The same logic replies in reverse to any team that thinks they deserve a hometown discount from an athlete whose clearly proven his value on the field, as well.
We celebrate sports as a meritocracy, and as such, players should be paid whatever the free market determines their current value to be.
But, because time is such an emotional investment, we continue to personalize these business relationships and allow sentiment to outweigh logic and reason.
Brian Urlacher was offered a contract by the Chicago Bears that they deemed fitting of the value that he had shown as a 34-year old linebacker, and he obviously didn’t agree. However, rather than one side cowering to another because of some abstract sense of loyalty, they ultimately decided to part ways.
In a way, had Urlacher and the Bears parted amicably, that may have been the most fitting of all ends. Instead, Brian Urlacher has continued to take swipes at the organization for what he’s deemed a “lack of loyalty.”
He even went as far as to cite the Pittsburgh Steelers’ re-signing of Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller as unimpeachable evidence of an organization done right. The reality: Polamalu and Miller still have determinable value to the Pittsburgh Steelers and they’re being paid accordingly–not based on the players they were half a decade ago.
Football is a business dollars and cents AND wins and losses. The Chicago Bears didn’t owe Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester anything anymore.
That’s what the money was for.