Off the Record: Sports mentality shifts as free market thrives


Special To / The Advocate

Free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain free agents as spring training is set to begin.

By Joel Umanzor, Sports Editor

Imagine you are a prized employee who has excelled in every aspect of your industry.

Imagine that you have been at one company since you entered this industry and are due for a new contract.

Now imagine you have all these positives in your work experience to better negotiate a wage based on your abilities.

In the world of the average citizen this is often a good position to find oneself, but in the area of professional sports it’s become a focal point of unmerited, illogical criticism by team ownership, the media and the common fan.

Athletes in the professional sphere have always been held to the idea that they have some binding loyalty to the regions and cities which draft or develop them.

A perfect example of this reaction was that of Cleveland Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert and the entire city of Cleveland when LeBron James chose to leave his place of employment in Ohio for the beaches of Miami.

Gilbert said in a scathing open letter that James had committed a “shameful display of selfishness and betrayal.”

But I thought the free market of capitalism dictated otherwise?

We are in an economic system that has given the appearance that highly talented individuals are allowed free choice, but when the issue of high-priced athletes come about, the metaphorical goal post gets pushed farther away.

In Major League Baseball, the most two prized free agents in this year’s class are still without a team.

Both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are watching from afar as pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week.

Many criticize these players for forcing the issue in their compensation, but in all honesty, I can’t see how I would do anything different.

Professional sports has grown exponentially since the early to mid 20th century and with the amount of money being generated by teams, the free market dictates players have the freedom to pick and choose their own landing spots.

Athletes can’t even make these decisions without the wrath of the sports media raining down on them.

Another example has been the drama within the National Basketball Association surrounding the free agency of players such as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Instead of focusing on a game in which the Warriors routed the Spurs 141-102, the media wanted to focus on free agency which irked Durant.

“You know you don’t care about that,” Durant said regarding questions about the game in the post game conference.

And we don’t.

Unfortunately, for sports consumers in 2019, the sports conversation is usually less driven by fact and more by theories providing sensational coverage with little substance.