Through childhood and adolescence, the primary theme regarding the term agent was in a positive connotation. It was always a certain person, or even concept that worked behind the scenes (or on the television screen) to make the world a safer, more congenial place.
At what decisive juncture did everything take a turn for the worse?
This could possibly be a strong case of naiveté, but before the perceived innocence of the youthful sports fan was stripped out from under me by the ever-growing media market, the only real link to agents was through video games, movies, and TV Land.
There was SportsCenter, but I really just watched for basketball highlights, Top Plays, and Ken Griffey Jr. home runs. That was the extent of the program’s purpose. There was no internet to browse in search of the day’s dirt on sports figures and celebrities. I would have been too blinded to even notice such intricacies back then, anyways. Especially when it came to agents—they were assumed to be heroes back then.
Starting with the world’s favorite agent, being played by Pierce Brosnan by the time my generation was old enough to comprehend his existence, James Bond exemplified that childhood viewpoint of an agent. Suave, handsome, dangerous, righteous, the man you want fighting for your country behind enemy lines. Basically every personality trait not associated with Drew Rosenhaus . Agent 007 was my first remembered brush with the profession when GoldenEye was released in 1995—as well as the cause of my lifelong fear of crossing paths with a nemesis like Sean Bean.
But perhaps previous to that, although not entirely forthcoming in my memory, good-natured agents had been running across the TV every night—as our television downstairs was always set to Nick At Nite or TV Land once darkness fell. This was before satellite television, so we had our reasons. Either way, all three of Charlie’s Angels always played the hero. Not to mention nearly an agent of seemingly every number — from Agent 86 to Agent 99 to Agent 13 — on Get Smart .
Always the protagonist, always saving the day.
Heck, even Tom Cruise did not come off as that bad of a guy for a large portion of Jerry McGuire .
These were the overriding images we were left with on agents in the 1990s. They were strong-willed, sure-minded people working behind the scenes to secure better futures for those who put their faith in them. They made the world a better place—I was sure of it at the time. Sure, I was too young to comprehend such contract disputes provoked by the likes of Bob Woolf or the Kelly Stouffer holdout. But despite the extensiveness of the incidents in the past, the issues of agents becoming troublesome in the sports world was beyond my understanding.
Then, somewhere along the lines, came that inevitable “loss of innocence” in the sports sense of the phrase.
The name Scott Boras was berated into my skull during every baseball offseason through an increasing interest in SportsCenter. These were simply hints and rumors that a mythical agent was actually causing problems for teams concerning current and future players alike. Surely he was an outlier. Although I was too young for the Ben McDonalds and Todd Van Poppels of the world, when names such as Alex Rodriguez and J.D. Drew entered the picture, I took notice. Then came Drew Rosenhaus and the rest of the devious bunch that will bend every rule and cut every corner for personal gains.
Heck, even athletes themselves can not stay away from the soiled image of the agent brotherhood— Agent Zero gambles on team planes and threatens teammates with guns in the locker room.
How did that mirage of valiance change so quickly?
Sports fans are now peering into the beginnings of what could be a nation-wide NCAA investigation and rule changes in regards to agents contacting collegiate players too soon. Providing benefits to amateur players, such as parties in South Beach and providing luxurious homes for parents, is a real problem facing athletics in this day and age.
And who is behind the entire complication? You guessed it.
My first reaction to the latest news was a lack thereof, a simple shrug of the shoulders and a thought paraphrasing “some kids should think first before they get themselves involved with those scumbags” in some sort of way. But then the names continued to trickle out—Marcel Dareus, Marvin Austin, Weslye Saunders, A.J. Green. Too many names were being dragged through the mud, and endangering teams, all contributed to one adult who should never be involved in their athletic careers at this point in time.
Being 21 years old right now, it would be hard to turn down a free trip and party in Miami for my friends and I if the offer were put on the table (you know, nullifying my lack of necessary athleticism here). Would the right answer of ‘No’ be given in that scenario? I think and hope so.
The problem: Professional agents should not be the ones offering these free handouts. No one should.
Maybe the only reason this is being addressed right now is that I am an unabashed North Carolina fan since birth who also lives in Athens, Ga., and attends the University of Georgia. I’m a bit selfish here, this affects teams I am connected with. Honestly, at the end of the day, I could care less how many wins other teams must vacate for NCAA violations.
So now that we are all tuned in to the agents once again for all the wrong reasons, the clouds are beginning to build on the horizon, as to the future of certain collegiate athletes is called into question thanks to their contact with these “representatives” of the professional ranks. Players’ futures are being held in the balance just weeks removed from the University of Southern California being stripped of wins and put on a postseason ban thanks in large part to agent involvement with Reggie Bush. The ball keeps rolling, and those clouds just keep getting darker.
Only one thing seems clear in the here and now, one major difference from decades past.