Although I grew up 20 minutes from St. Louis, I was a Philadelphia Eagles fan as a kid. It wasn’t actually that I liked the team or had been to the city, but I wanted to be Randall Cunningham. I remember running around the playground chucking the ball all over the field to my best friend Marcus, (who of course wanted to be Jerry Rice) pretending I was Randall Cunningham. Obviously Rice played for the 49ers, but I reconciled that problem in my head by just saying it was the Pro Bowl, so we could be on the same team. Honestly, I don’t know why they ever let us play together because as sandlot combos go, we belong in the kid hall of fame. Alas, I digress. The point being, I miss being a kid. It’s not so much the ability to just go play ball. I still play football and basketball semi-regularly. It’s not even because now I have a family and increased responsibility. Family life is great. I miss being a kid because I was still naïve enough to love sports without thinking about the business side of it back then.
Last week I went to go see the Phoenix Lifelock play the Seattle Bing…no wait. I went to go see the Phoenix Mercury play the Seattle Storm. It was the Mercury’s last game before the playoffs. The Lifelock and Bing reference is regarding what their jerseys say now. The jerseys no longer say the team name, but don the logo and name of an advertiser. I honestly don’t watch enough WNBA basketball to know if all the teams are doing that, but I know the two teams I saw do. As an adult I don’t care about the name on the jersey and understand the financial reasons behind it; as I a kid I wouldn’t though. Now, if someone wanted to pay me to teach in a shirt that said Lifelock, my 7th graders would know all about keeping their identities secure. Sadly, it seems dollars and our drive to make money have overshadowed other “more pure” facets of society in general and more specifically sports.
My bigger issue with the game was Diana Taurasi didn’t play. I don’t know the coach’s reason for sitting her, but the stats I saw said “DNP-Coach’s Decision.” I’m sure there were girls there who dream of being Diana Taurasi just the way I dreamt of being Randall Cunningham. If that was their first ever Mercury game, and they didn’t get to see their idol play wouldn’t that be terrible? I’m a grown man who has seen other Mercury games this season, and I was pissed. I can’t imagine being a kid. What if you went to see your favorite band play a concert, but after you paid for tickets you found out you were only getting a cover band. In all fairness, she might have been hurt and needed some time to heal up before the playoffs started, but seemed to me a lot like protecting their “investment” or main “money maker.” (No, I don’t say that in a misogynistic way nor assuming ownership has a slave-owner mentality.)
Players sitting out before the playoffs is what worries me about the NFL expanding to 18 game seasons. I love football. I love it a lot. I like the idea of doing away with 2 preseason games so the extended season won’t really be a longer season. I just worry about teams clinching divisions or playoff seeding early and resting their guys. If they do that, won’t the games essentially turn into “meaningless” pre-season games? If that’s the case, then fans will still have the same complaints: The product on the field does not really reflect NFL caliber play. They’ll just be louder about it because they will have paid more for the seats because it’s a regular season game. Has someone smarter than I am thought about this, but got hushed because the NFL can make more money with an 18 game regular season?
Speaking of being hushed, the story about LeBron James in Vegas that got pulled off ESPN.com amuses me. I won’t pretend to be the authority on the line between journalism and business, but I know what it looked like. It looked like ESPN feared having done something that would have pissed off one of their major “money makers,” so they decided it wasn’t a good idea for the story to run on their site. I’ll never know 100% of the truth about why the story was pulled. I do know as an adult I’m jaded and don’t love ESPN like when I was a kid and mindlessly digested everything the money making machine that is ESPN spat out.
I am an adult now. I’m no longer that naïve. I understand professional sports leagues (not to mention college conferences) and ESPN are businesses just like Microsoft or Ford. I just miss the pure, unadulterated joy of sports from when I was a kid. Although it has changed it, knowing more of the business side of sports hasn’t killed my love for it, just like figuring out there’s no such person as Santa doesn’t kill kids’ love for Christmas. Deep down I still root for Philly. Guess I’ll always be a kid at heart.