The success of professional sports is based solely upon the fans. Without revenue from fans – and the advertising dollars spent on them – the big name athletes would have to bag groceries on the side just to pay the bills. Because of this, fans’ perceptions of players is very important to a franchise.
Just look at one of the biggest stories from the opening of baseball season: A-Rod and his struggles with Yankees fans. Despite going yard 35 times last season and driving in 121 runs, the perpetually demanding New Yorkers booed him. And while I’ll admit that I’ve felt that Rodriguez was filthy long before he started playing for the Yankees, the guy is damn good on the diamond. And his solution for the grumpy folks in the stands? He’s hit 7 bombs in 11 games to open the 2007 season. I hope that New York enjoys having A-Rod being on pace for 104 homers this year.
Simply put, there are some athletes who just seem like they enjoy themselves more than others. With millions of dollars in your bank account, it would be pretty easy to forget that your job is only a game that children play for free. Laker Ronny Turiaf is a guy who gets it. He only averages five points a game, but any time he scores its like he just won a championship game. Although I’m beginning to like Kobe again since he is by far the best player in the NBA, I have to love guys like Turiaf because they are so stoked to play the game.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the son of Satan, Barry Bonds. Bonds is undeniably going to be remembered for a long time; the question is whether he’ll be known as the guy who rivaled Aaron and Ruth, or if his legacy will have a more Pete Rose-esque tinge to it. I don’t know what his true feelings are, but Bonds seems like the only thing he cares about is squeezing as much money as he can from the game. He even withdrew from the MLB Player’s Association because he felt he could make more money on licensing issues by himself. That’s why any of the twisted children who actually like him have to play as “Jon Dowd” or “Reggie Stocker” in their favorite baseball video games, instead of their juiced-up hero.
Ultimately, fans have a lot of influence over the careers of professional athletes. I highly doubt Peyton Manning would have been suspended for a year if he pulled a Pacman Jones and made it rain with 70 large in a strip club. And of course there are guys like Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen who are garbage players but stick around because the fans love them (and their dance moves). Of course, none of these guys can touch Rasheed Wallace, who is by far the greatest athlete and person in history.