The Lunchtime Take-Out: It’s All A Business

I had lunch with a friend today (hence the lateness of today’s Take-Out), and we were talking about the NFL playoffs when the subject of Eli Manning came up. Manning and the New York Giants look like the hottest team left in the playoffs right now, and they may even be on their way to another Super Bowl run like the one they had in 2008. Eli Manning

Big whoop, I say. Eli Manning is a whiner, and I doubt I’ll ever view him as anything but.

For those of you who may not remember, Eli basically pitched a hissy fit back in 2004 on draft day and managed to get himself traded from the San Diego Chargers to his team of the present, the Giants, for Phillip Rivers (who I still say is a better quarterback, despite the fact he’s never won much of anything). It was a stunningly immature display, made even more amazing by the fact that Eli’s dad, Archie, managed to get into the middle of the whole argument somehow. Apparently this was lost on the Mannings, who were tickled pink that poor Eli wouldn’t have to descend into the perceived depths of hell in San Diego to forge a career in the NFL.

Since 2004, the sports world has been overrun with players demanding to be traded from one team to another. Just today, I heard on ESPN Radio that Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has officially labeled the Los Angeles Clippers as a team he’d like to play for. Never mind the fact that Howard is still under contract to play in Orlando until the end of this season. Drafted, under contract, signed as a free agent … doesn’t matter. Guys want to play where they want to play, and heaven help the owner, manager, or coach who dares to stand in their way.

I’ve always said it’s interesting that professional athletes will always say things like “It’s just a business” until someone actually tries to run their team like a business. For example, most folks who refuse to come in to work simply get fired; they don’t get to renegotiate their contracts. As a fan, though, whenever I begin to think of professional sports as “just a business” I begin to have a great deal more sympathy for the athletes involved. If I can just think of it being someone’s job, things take on a different feel.

Here’s what I mean: Let’s say you work at a mega-successful company, earning more in one week than most folks earn in an entire year. You drive a nice car, live in a luxurious home, have every toy and gadget you could ever dream of … and your boss is a total jerk. Or the person who works in the cubicle next to you is making every day miserable for you. In this situation, most folks would begin getting their resumés together at the very least. In the most extreme situations, they might just up and quit altogether, taking their chances on the open job market. At any rate, they’re going to be looking for a way out of their current situation.

Granted, if you’re under a contract, you should probably have the integrity to fulfill the contract. If you had a chance to move, though, and you could do it without sacrificing your income (or being taken to court), wouldn’t you do it? Before you start giving out reasons you wouldn’t, think about that job from your past you totally despised. Not every player is going to get along with every coach and vice-versa. Not every coach is going to get along with the team owner. Is it worth millions to be miserable every working day?

I certainly believe we have some totally out of control athletes in the world of sports today. I also think, though, there are some “normal” guys who just want to be in a situation they feel like they can thrive in. And if Simon & Schuster were to show up at my door tomorrow with an editor’s office waiting for me, you’d better believe I’d do whatever it took to get there. I would put Eli Manning to shame.

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