Have you ever just had a really bad day at work and a fellow employee comes over to you and says one of those “it’s just one of those days, huh” types of comments and you just have to give a sly smile about it given the circumstances?
Well ESPN cameras caught Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback Derek Anderson doing just that last night in the waning moments of an embarrassing loss to the 49ers on Monday Night Football. And when asked about the smile during a postgame press conference, Anderson made the unwise decision of going into defensive, freak out mode, cursing and screaming before storming out of the room.
Now, sure the media has done their best twisting job making Anderson’s half second faint smirk sound like a jolly, cackling guffaw. But would we expect anything less from them?
I mean it's Tuesday. They need a story to overanalyze, banter about and beat into submission on the countless talk shows and websites.
Want to guess what the lead story’s going to be on "Around the Horn" and "PTI" today?
Now, the difference between Anderson’s bad day at work and yours is that he earned about $225,000 for his and he went through it in front of a nationwide audience of millions.
Looking at it deeper, a lot of people are going to look at the incident and question if maybe some professional athletes don’t exactly have their “hearts and souls” in the game as Anderson exclaimed.
The fact is, all of today’s professional athletes are now rich multi-millionaires and they have one group of people to thank for that — the fans, the paying customers.
So it’s only right for those fans who invest so much mentally and financially in a franchise, a league and the overall business structure of sports to wonder why some of these high paid athletes don’t seem to be giving it their all-out effort during the three or so hours which it’s asked of them.
It would be unfair to say that the athletes simply don’t care about their performance and aren’t affected by the outcome. But the truth is that if you were going to weigh the player’s passion and the fan’s passion, the scale would tip heavily in favor of the latter.
Nowadays, athletes treat sports like a business while fans, as they always have, still treat it as their life. They are the ones who are putting their “heart and soul” into it, overpaying for tickets, overpaying for jerseys and merchandise, sticking with the team through good times and bad, living and dying — rejoicing and agonizing over every win and loss, only to so often have athletes spit in their faces with shoddy, half-hearted performances.
Was Anderson’s half second smirk worthy of vilification by the entire sports nation?
No, because if you’re going to single out Anderson as the only culprit of not caring then you’d be wrong.
The fact is Anderson simply isn’t a very good quarterback. For all we know, that might have been his best effort out there on the field last night, that might have been the best he could do.
In the end maybe Anderson’s smile getting blown out of proportion by the media actually might be a good thing. It could help serve to chip away a bit at our tolerance for lackadaisical showings in sports.
The next time an NBA team decides not to show up for the second night of back-to-back games, maybe we’ll rain them with a few more boos. The next time a wide receiver spends a game jogging his routes, maybe we’ll decide not to buy his jersey. The next time a baseball player demands an obscene amount from a franchise that nowhere near equates to his current abilities, maybe we’ll side with the team instead of the individual no matter how beloved he may be.
Maybe one day we will reach that pinnacle when losing will bother the players just as much as it does the fans.