Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Olympics and WBC are Awesome to Watch, but Really Fuck Over Owners

This will be my first and last post ever siding with any owner of a professional sport. It was announced today that Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez will miss 8 weeks with a thumb injury he sustained diving for a ball in a WBC game for the Dominican Republic. Ramirez's injury came because he made a risky play, a play he would not have made in a meaningless exhibition game. Hanley Ramirez makes $15.5 million to play for the Dodgers and approximately $0 to play for the Dominican Republic.

This isn't a new phenomenon. Players have been sacrificing their knees, wrists, and shoulders for years in the name of patriotism and at the expense of their employers. Playing for your country is a great honor and it speaks volumes that the top players in the NBA have decided to spend their summers for Team USA, France, Spain, and Germany. However, it is fair to say that the NBA careers of Dirk, Manu, Pau, and countless other players have been negatively affected by playing for their respective countries. That'd be a decision they'd gladly make again if it were entirely up to them, but of course that isn't the case. These players feel a tremendous amount of pressure to play for their countries and give it their all at a time when their bodies have yet to fully recover from the grind of a full season, or at a time when they should be training for the upcoming season with their teammates.

The owners pay millions upon millions to players and have their financial bottom lines directly affected by the performance of their stars. Nonetheless, capitalism masquerading as patriotism takes the most valuable assets in a billion-dollar business and loans out their talents to other huge corporations for free. It sounds crass and wrong to call players "the talent" or "an asset" in a business, but on some level, that is what they are. Players have a finite number of dives and charges and jumps in their bodies, and every time they do it for someone who isn't paying them, they are hurting their employer.

The counter-argument to all of this is that sports fans love watching the World Cup, the Olympics, and even this year the WBC. Of course we do, and of course the stakes of country as opposed to merely city makes things even more exciting. This is all well and good, but it doesn't change the fact that owners are still getting screwed.

Mark Cuban, evil genius and blowhard, has summed up the issue nicely in the past saying: "If you look up stupid in the dictionary, you see a picture of the USA Dream Team playing for free for corporate America so the U.S. Olympic Committee can make billions of dollars.... And it has nothing to do with patriotism and it's all about money." Cuban's right that it is all about money. Nike, Wheaties, Visa, and a bunch of other corporations are making money because of these players.

The solution is simple. 1. Pay the players. 2. Give owners a share of the profits. 3. Shorten the damn regular season. 4. Allow owners to prohibit their players from playing in the games.

The last option would be unpopular for a lot of players, but there is a competitive advantage to potentially be gained from refusing to allow your players to risk their health. This week it was Hanley Ramirez getting hurt, next summer it will be someone else. The owners don't deserve our sympathy, but we should at least stop pretending this has anything to do with patriotism for anyone but the players. The players and owners are taking all the risk for their careers and in the name of country, while the USOC and other corporations are reaping all the benefits.

To paraphrase Deadspin writer, and best dude ever, Drew Magary: NO MORE FREE LUNCHES BITCHES.

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