Somewhere in America, a young NY Jets fan is thrilled because this year, his team is being featured on HBO's annual preseason documentary, Hard Knocks. The Jets surprised everyone last year with a strong run in the playoffs and come into this season with soaring expectations. The whole atmosphere is electric, and the competition is fierce. Still, the kid watching just can't understand why on Earth their Pro Bowl cornerback and 2010 holdout, Darrelle Revis, hasn't shown up to camp.
When he asks, his father will have to reply, “Well, son. Every year, some jackass sheds every hint of honor from his arrogant, shameless existence and decides to renege on a contract he had signed, which allowed him to wear a team’s uniform onto their field and carry with it the hopes and dreams of 51 other players, a bunch of coaches and millions of fans. He does this in the name of the almighty dollar, which transcends not only the sport but any legally binding documents associated with it.” It's a frustrating situation and a gruesome reminder to kids that grown-up life sucks.
It is often a beloved player, too, someone who has exceeded expectations and now wants money for trying hard. Fans are usually shocked and feel betrayed that such a player would do this, but in the locker room it is generally an accepted practice. For the most part, these decisions are respected by peers who understand that it is the love of money, not the passion for the game that is truly important.
The theory is that NFL contracts are not guaranteed. So, if a team can rip up a deal when the player under-performs, why can’t he do the same? It makes sense to the businessmen in the league, who view this time as nothing more than their window of opportunity to build a strong financial portfolio for life. For others though, staying home is not such an easy decision. The rookie free agents, for example, will chew through rope just to land a spot on the practice squad, earning nothing more than per diem and a free helmet.
The drive, the passion, and everything else that makes a sport competitive is present in every athlete at all levels until they reach the top. As soon as salaries hit the millions, it suddenly becomes too little. Greed takes over, and then it’s no longer about the game or the team. It’s about the green.