Photo via CNN
What does every young kid who has ever played a sport imagine in the backyard? Whether it’s hitting the walk-off home run in game 7 of the World Series or shooting the game-winning buzzer beater in game seven of the NBA finals or scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute of the Super Bowl. All these dreams have one thing in common. Winning.
In sports today, athletes often have to choose which scenario they want more, to be on a team with a chance to win and take a pay cut or to be on a worse team but make more money. Well, go back to the feeling of a 10-year-old in the backyard, the only thing he or she dreamed about was winning.
Let’s take David West for example. West is in his 14th season as an NBA player and has made one thing his top priority, winning. After the 2014-2015 season, West decided to opt out of a $12 million player option with the Indiana Pacers to join a team he thought had a chance to win the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs. He made $1.49 million with the Spurs in one season and did it happily. He competed and had a chance to win a world championship. It’s clear that winning was his top priority.
After the 2015-2016 season, the former all-star continued his search for a ring when he left the Spurs for the Golden State Warriors. With Golden State, the 14-year veteran is making just over $1.5 million.
This is what athletes should do. Why play for a bad team for more money when you can take a few million dollars less to win? I respect David West much more for these actions as I would any athlete that elects to do so.
This issue ranges farther than simply athletes, as sometimes a front office or an owner decides that money is more important than winning.
When a team like the San Francisco 49ers, that has won five Super Bowls and is one of the best franchises in NFL history, goes from three straight NFC championship appearances and a Super Bowl appearance in the middle of that to being one of worst teams in the NFL, one would assume the ownership would be very unhappy and anxious. They would be thinking about firing the general manager or coach or making some type of change that would show that ownership stands with the fans and is doing what he or she can to increase the chance to win. The fans are upset and outraged but is the 49ers CEO and co-owner Jed York?
On Monday, December 12th after the 49ers suffered a pathetic loss to the last place New York Jets after being up 17-3 at halftime, former 49ers quarterback and current ESPN commentator Steve Young said on Monday Night Football that he thinks the York family isn’t as focused on winning as making money.
“That’s (the York’s) A-game. Their equity value in the team is their A game, it’s what drives them. It’s what drives most of the owners. It’s what matters. It’s what they think about. It’s what they talk about. And the B-game, is whether we win some games.”
Photo Credit: Cover32
This idea to me seems to undermine fans and the goal of a team… to win. Fans want to see wins and support a team. So what does it say when the owners aren’t focused about winning but making money?
It’s the same idea of why the Oakland Raiders should stay in Oakland instead of moving to Las Vegas. There is an amazing fanbase for the Raiders in the Bay Area and specifically Oakland. Uprooting a team to a different state and having it in a place like Vegas could draw a completely different group of fans. It might end up being tourists just looking for a fun weekend or a group of people who are there for a wedding.
With a new stadium in Las Vegas the organization could probably make more money for the organization, at what cost? The team and fans are having success in Oakland and doesn’t winning for the town of Oakland matter more than making more money if it means abandoning the hardcore fans who love and support the team through thick and thin?
Photo Credit: SF Gate
Money and making profits shouldn’t be the primary goal. The goal as Herm Edwards, former head coach of the New York Jets, very clearly yelled after a tough loss, is simple. “You play to win the game!” You don’t play to make money and then get lucky if you win as well. It undermines the integrity of the sport. What does that say to your fans? To your former and current players? It says you don’t really care about them or how they are doing as long as you are getting what you want.
Remember the feeling of scoring the game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, hitting a three to win the NBA Finals or hitting a walk-off home run to win the World Series when you were a kid in your backyard? A sensation of happiness and excitement hits the young child. Winning is what matters. It is what should matter and what helps bring competition to any sport. Because as you know, you play to win the game!
I’m an aspiring sports journalist with experience interviewing and reporting on collegiate and professional athletes since 2014. I study at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and am majoring in sports journalism.