by Aubrey Bruce
For New Pittsburgh Courier
This “golden era” of football should be renamed “the romantic period.” I know that sounds strange considering that the prime objective of the game is to run over, around or through the opponent to “pee” on the pole planted on their prime parcel of real estate. There is no event or play, theoretical or otherwise that would lead me to believe that the men who compete against each other would under normal circumstances sing a lullaby or pass out a few “Forrest Gump” box of chocolates to the guy directly facing him on third down and goal with all of the marbles on the line.
All of a sudden pro athletes have developed this pseudo-loyalty in regards to their teams.
The primary cliché that I have heard floating around for the past 33 years that I have covered pro sports and turns my stomach every time I hear it is, “It’s not about the money. I will always be Steeler, Cowboy or whomever for life.” Well, boys and girls if you believe that crock, I have a roadmap to a brothel on Mars just waiting for you complete with bottled water, shrimp scampi and fifty of Hugh Hefner’s biggest “Hooters’ finalists.”
Recently Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin vented and pouted and threatened to retire if he is let go by the team to sign more “important” players. In an article by ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley, Boldin said, “I won’t play in another uniform.” He revealed in an interview with NBC Sports Radio, “We have a saying, once a Raven, always a Raven, and I’ll always be a Raven.” Jamison pointed out that Boldin, 32, has one year left on his four-year, $25 million deal, and is due $6 million next season. “You deal with that if you have to, but, I think for me–I know for me–Baltimore is the only place I want to play,” Boldin continued. First and foremost, if a player has an agent that is looking to get “mad money” for him and his client, the only loyalty they adhere to is the loyalty with a bank teller that doesn’t require them to produce identification to complete a transaction. I am sure Boldin’s agent only prefers that his client play for an owner with deep pockets and a bigger ego. I am equally certain that in regards to Ravens QB Joe Flacco, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII, you can bet your last dollar that the team will be “financially loyal” to him, case closed. I am now going to refer to the words of my late father, Oprah Elliot Bruce. During my numerous screw-ups as a young adult, he was never physical but boy those house “arrests” often seemed infinite and were far more psychologically brutal than “water-boarding,” 10 times over. He would always look me straight in the eye and say in a deep but quiet voice, “I dislike punishing you but you were forewarned numerous times about your behavior so as the saying goes a hard head makes a soft behind.” Baltimore would be wise and prudent to draw from the pitfalls of their bitter AFC North rivals, the Steelers.
If Baltimore wants to continue to be successful they had better keep some strong bodies in the barn for Flacco to toss the rock to. He cannot throw and catch the football by himself. Remember the Ravens allowed tight end Todd Heap to slip away and it took Flacco some time to adapt and adopt Boldin as his new “security blanket.” The Ravens better sign Boldin, well if they know what’s good for them. Pittsburgh learned that lesson the hard way. A few years ago, the Steelers allowed their two top receivers to depart the Steel City on the money train. The first one to break camp was Plaxico Burress and defector number two was Santonio Holmes. However, they robbed Peter to pay Paul in order to sign “Big” Ben Roethlisberger to a juicy, fat multi-year deal in order to guarantee that their “franchise” quarterback would spend the rest of his “prime” years scrambling around in a Steelers uniform. Pittsburgh was forced to restructure deals for several players just to make sure that Roethlisberger, “got his.” Until the Steelers signed speedsters Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown, the Steelers wide receiver corps was shall I say, “a bit disrespected.” All the money that Roethlisberger banked did little for the offense. All the tea in China could not remove the fear that Limas Sweed had of testing the “deep and treacherous” waters that run across the middle of the gridiron. There is an insidious and dubious pattern that is constantly perpetrated on one hand and consistently ignored on the other. Okay, first things first. It is normal, alright, copesetic, groovy, fine and all of the other glib sayings that confirm paying a quarterback big “dineros” to stand in the pocket with all of the due protections and amenities to deliver the football. It is not only accepted, it is expected. But uh, when the boys that have to catch the ball ask for a little extra cheese on their nachos, well my friends that is an “equine” of a different color, you diggg…See, the boys who have to display their vertical leaping ability just to catch the football to keep the chains moving are likely to be the ones sitting in the “bone doctor’s” waiting room or in radiology on Monday morning. It is often said that, “you get what you pay for.” How about getting what you play for…Catch ya later, I’m out.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)