Growing Up is Hard to Do
I still remember crying when the Boston Celtics traded one of my favorite players Danny Ainge to the Sacramento Kings in 1989. He was part of the core five that won a pair of championships together. Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, and Danny Ainge. I lived to watch their games, even owned a poster which featured all five (still have it), so when Ainge was traded, I was heartbroken. There was absolutely no way to convince a young girl that dealing Ainge for a center named Joe Kleine could make the team better. I felt betrayed, and I knew my Celtics would never be the same.
Not sure that irrational fanatacism ever goes away completely. We eventually understand the sports industry is driven primarily by money. But no matter how old we get, a chasm will always exist between head and heart when it comes to our sports heroes. It still hurts when our favorite athletes move onto another chapter in their careers.
Peyton Manning IS the Indianapolis Colts: the most famous player in franchise history. Their number one draft pick in 1998, he led them to 11 playoff appearances and a pair of Super Bowls; helped them win a ring while racking up four MVP awards; and became the face of the franchise as well as an ambassador for the NFL. He’s a future Hall of Famer with an Indy children’s hospital bearing his name. Peyton IS the Colts … or rather, he WAS until this week when the team cut him loose instead of paying his $28 million dollar bonus. Granted, he missed last season after multiple neck surgeries and may not be the same player when he returns; but after a few tears, the marriage ended with no backward glance. Loyalty flies out the window in the face of business.
If there’s any consolation, Colts fans, you can be sure plenty of other people feel your pain. Not that long ago, it was Packers’ fans mourning the departure of Brett Favre, and to make matters worse, he eventually landed with their chief rival. The Niners bid farewell to not one, but TWO Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young, and then they let Jerry Rice finish his career somewhere else. Johnny Unitas was shipped from the Baltimore Colts to the Chargers to play out the string. And these painful sports divorces aren’t limited to football. Lebron James stunned the Cleveland faithful by announcing his unceremonius departure on national TV. “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky won four Stanley Cup titles in five years with the Oilers, only to ask for a trade to the Kings. Albert Pujols earned a pair of World Series rings with the Cardinals but didn’t like their contract offer this winter and took the money and a fresh start with the Angels. Johnny Damon stabbed the Red Sox crazies in the heart when he donned pinstripes with the rival Yankees.
Whether it’s the decision of the player or the team, it never gets easier to see our favorite athletes wearing different uniforms, throwing touchdowns, hitting home runs, or wooing fans in a new city. When you’re a kid, you have no idea why your hero deserted you or how you’ll survive. When you’re an adult, you realize sports is NOT just a game; instead, nearly every decision comes down to the bottom line. When you’re an adult, you’re expected to be rational. You can’t cry and throw a fit and refuse to come out of your room when your favorite player is traded. But admit it — that’s what we all WANT to do now and then, right, even if the tantrum only lasts a moment? So go ahead, Colts fans, we totally understand.