Thursday, December 8, 2011

Spare me the loyalty speech

Spare me the loyalty speech
By Aaron M. Smith
Don't blame Albert Pujols for heading to Anaheim

A young reporter at a small community newspaper sits at his desk, taking calls from little league baseball coaches, and writes the names of the ten "Stars of the Game." He better include little Johnny, too, even though he hasn't had a hit all season. His parents may call. The writer has been doing this for two years now, sometimes writing features on flower gardens in the community or covering Grand Opening ceremonies of local sports apparel businesses or new coffee shops.

The phone rings again. This time it's an editor at a large metropolitan newspaper. They have received the reporter's resume and would like to interview him for a job as sports editor. He accepts their invitation, goes to the interview, and wows the editors with his writing samples and energy for the job. The editors offer the job to the reporter on the spot. He accepts. He puts in his two-week notice and leaves the community paper for a higher paying, higher circulated newspaper. Everyone understands and congratulates him for this great opportunity.

No one, however, questions his loyalty. No one writes into the paper and hopes this reporter fails at his next job. No one calls in to curse him out and no one threatens this reporter's life.

It's ridiculous to think this would happen in any profession ... medicine, the law, or corporate. So why is it OK and justified in the sports world?

Today, Albert Pujols signed a 10-year contract worth around $250 million with the California Los Angeles Angels of Southern California More Specifically Anaheim. Immediately, comments rushed into sports websites calling Pujols a traitor. People said he wasn't loyal to the Cardinals and "turned his back on us." Never mind the last decade Pujols gave to the city. Pujols is arguably the best player to ever play the game. He gave a decade to the Cardinals, leading them to two World Series titles. St. Louis was a contender in most years he was there. Not good enough? Please. Not loyal? Enough already.

The Cardinals didn't want to pay Pujols that kind of money for 10 years when it's obvious what happens to even the best of players from age 30-40. He's already given the Cardinals the best of his career. Cardinals fans should be thrilled. They don't have to mortgage their team's future for what Pujols gave the team in the past. That's baseball. Pujols saw that he could make more money in a bigger market and took the opportunity. Good for him. Who wouldn't take that? I bet all the people screaming "he ain't loyal!" would take that in a heart beat.

Pujols isn't the only professional sports player that hears that criticism when he or she leaves the city that drafted them. LeBron James can't step foot in Cleveland without his life on the line. Now, before I go any further, how LeBron handled his free agency with the whole "The Decision" debacle on ESPN was ridiculous. He should be criticized for that. However, he should not be ridiculed for leaving Cleveland. Loyalty has nothing to do with it. He saw a better opportunity with Miami and took it. Whether you agree or not has nothing to do with it. People leave jobs and careers all the time without ridicule. Why can't professional athletes?

How about coaches? When Brian Kelly left the Cincinnati Bearcats to coach Notre Dame, people were in hysterics here in Cincinnati. They held up signs at games with "Kelly who?" or "Good Riddance." Why? Because he took his dream job at Notre Dame for a mountain of cash more than what Cincinnati could pay him? How could he? C'mon people. Fire your criticism off somewhere else. Before Kelly was coach at Cincinnati, the Bearcats had no history of winning. None. And now they are on the map. Fans should have thanked Kelly for that. But instead, there are people around here who hope Notre Dame loses more than they hope Cincinnati wins. That's just nuts.

So basically, what I am saying is, spare me the loyalty speech. These athletes and coaches have every right to leave his current situation for better opportunities. I don't need to hear that LeBron owes Cleveland or that Albert should have stayed in St. Louis or that Brian Kelly didn't earn the right to leave for greener pastures. So keep that to yourself. Unless of course, you pass up every promotion or better job opportunity that comes your way because you want to be loyal to Sid, the guy who gave you your first job mowing his grass and cleaning out his garage. When that happens, you can complain all you want.