Monday, August 16, 2010

The Hypocritical Nature of Holdouts

Although holdouts happen every year in sports, with the majority occurring in football, the Darrelle Revis holdout has received a significant amount of attention of late. Mr. Revis believes that he does not get paid enough money for his level of performance on the field. Most football analysts would agree, after taking into consideration the bizarro-world of salary* that perpetuates professional sports entertainment; (*no one of sound mind should think that it is appropriate that professional athletes get paid millions of dollars for what they do based on the little to no positive evolutionary effect that their occupation has on society at large). Unfortunately there are two significant problems with this situation, one with Mr. Revis and one with the analyst community that supports his decision to holdout.

Beginning with Mr. Revis, one immediately questions his character when after year three of a six year rookie deal he now feels he is justified in violating the contract that he signed in good faith with the New York Jets. Clearly Mr. Revis seems to misunderstand what a contract is and what it represents and in doing so his overall character and trustworthiness should be questioned. Interestingly enough this ‘renegotiation’ issue is a problem largely stemming from the fact that there is no ability for reciprocation. While the issue of guaranteed money in football vs. the other three major professional sports (baseball, basketball and hockey) has drawn fire due to the significantly higher injury rates in football, which can void contracts, teams do not have the ability to renegotiate on their own terms and pay according to performance.

For some reason people feel it is justified for a player to want more money if he ‘outperforms’ his contract, but these same individuals would cry foul if a team forced a renegotiation of a contract based on the premise that the player was under performing. If an individual has confidence that they will perform well on the field then he should sign a short-term deal maximizing payment opportunities. Unfortunately most shy away from the short-term deal due to fear of injury, thus they take the long-term deal for monetary security reasons. Sadly the current system allows the player to have his cake and eat it too as the player has the ability holdout creating an environment where he receives a short-term deal if he performs well and a long-term deal if he does not. As for any questions regarding the ability to quantify ‘under performance’ a simple quantitative analysis of how other individuals at the same position performed and their current salaries can be used as a statistical tool to provide evidence to support or disprove whether or not the player is under performing, rendering any cry of ambiguity moot.

The inability for a team to change the value of a contract is also an issue when focusing on the lengths of these contracts. How do the New York Jets know that Mr. Revis will be able to perform at his current level three years from now let alone six, seven, even eight years from now? The history of professional sports, regardless of the sport, is littered with players that were All-Stars for a couple years and then fell off the proverbial cliff becoming no more useful than the generic bench warmer.

Some argue that the money is not the real issue instead it is respect in that the best player should be paid the highest amount for the given position. Although such a point makes perfect logical sense, in an environment where contracts are not yearly such a contention is rather silly. In fact if Mr. Revis is so arrogant that he can leave a 10 year – 120 million dollar offer on the table, but (assuming that respect is an issue) is so insecure in his own personal pride and self-image that he needs to be paid the most money of any cornerback to prove to the rest of the league and its analysts that he is the best, then what does that say about Mr. Revis?

Of course the best way to rectify this situation is to only allow yearly contracts, no multi-year deals in the NFL. However, putting aside the issue of how such rampant free agency may create ‘mercenary’ teams where teams with deeper pockets would collect all of the ‘best’ talent in effort to win a championship (such a concern can be easily put to rest with an effective salary cap), the biggest cited issue would be career-ending injury, especially in football. Such a cry regarding injury is commonly heard when discussing yearly contracts: ‘these players put their bodies and livelihoods on the line for our entertainment.’ Yeah, what nonsense; in the first place most of them do it for the monetary rewards, not for the ‘love of the game’ so they are clearly being more than fairly compensated for any potential sacrifice. Second, police officers, firefighters, military personnel, miners, etc. put their lives on the line at a much higher probability of harm for our safety, where are their hundreds of thousands to millions of dollar a year salaries?

Suppose something bad does happen and professional athlete x is afflicted with a career-ending injury, it’s over right? The interesting issue is that 99.9+% of all citizens of the United States do not participate in professional sports as athletes, yet wonders of wonders they survive and even prosper, how could that be? That seems like a valid question from the perspective of those that argue against yearly contracts because apparently in their eyes once the athlete suffers that career-ending injury he might as well shoot himself because he can’t possibly function in society without being a professional athlete can he? This inaccurate and foolish mindset underscores the fact that anyone who argues against yearly contracts does not have a leg to stand on.

The second issue is with society itself and its hypocritical nature. Forget for a moment the previously mentioned insanity that these individuals get paid such an amount of money for doing something so trivial to the overall infrastructure of society, the fact that society condones, even celebrates, this behavior in the first place is troubling. How would society react if a police detective said ‘Captain, I cleared 47 homicides last year, 22 more than any of the other detectives in any of the other precincts in the state, I’ve decided that I’m not going to do any more work until I receive a 50% raise, murderers, rapists, child pornographers and arsonists be damned...’? It is funny that sports analysts accept this behavior from individuals in their field, but would not accept it from other positions in society. Look at how people react when schoolteachers go on strike, most mumbling under their breath ‘those money grubbing teachers, they should just get their butts back in the classroom and teach.’ The fact is Mr. Revis should be ridiculed and reviled for his behavior and yet he receives far more well-wishes and ‘just pay the guy what he deserves’ proclamations despite the average NFL player making 6-8 times more money than a schoolteacher for performing a job of near infinite less importance. Overall anyone that condones this behavior by Mr. Revis should take a serious look at themselves in the mirror.

The saddest thing is that Mr. Revis’s presence on the Jets is almost irrelevant for most people tend to forget, amid all of the ‘Jets are going to the Super Bowl’ talk, that if the Indianapolis Colts did not lie down for the Jets in week 16 last year the Jets would not even have made the playoffs. Maybe the Jets should focus on improving the reliability and performance of Mr. Sanchez to the point where every Jet fan is hoping and praying that a situation does not arise where he needs to make a critical throw in a critical moment before turning their full attention to Mr. Revis.

Overall if professional sports owners ever want to get salaries under control they would be wise to demand only yearly contracts with a league-wide salary cap, thus ending these acts of futile nonsense and arrogance perpetrated by individuals like Mr. Revis. The specter of injury generating a ruined life is a silly argument when dealing with monetary rewards and guaranteed money that exceed the lifetime earnings of over 99.9+% of all citizens as a vast majority of citizens still live content lives despite having less money. Hopefully after getting salaries under control owners could share the wealth and lower ticket prices for fans, but it pays to wait for one miracle at a time, huh.

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