CULTURE

“GOLDEN” AIR IN THE EMERALD CITY

tateThe Seattle Seahawks are world champions.  I was ten years old when the Hawks made their way into the Emerald City.  I sat for hours memorizing the names, numbers, and statistics of every player.  Those were the days of Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, and Norm Evans – all committed Christ-followers.  Even though touchdowns were few and far between, the enthusiasm of Pete Gross kept fans energized.  “Touchdown Seahawks” is etched in my memory banks.  The Hawks were not very good in those days but fans in Seattle were content to have an NFL franchise for the first time.

Thirty-eight years later, the Hawks have moved from goat to glory.  And with a young team, the prospects for Super Bowl greatness should endure for the foreseeable future.  But thanks to free agency, it becomes next to impossible to keep a winning team intact.  For instance, Golden Tate will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.  Here’s the simple math: Successful receiver + Super Bowl champion + free agent status = huge contract with another team.

I remember being so disappointed as a kid when my favorite players were shuffled off to rival teams – all for the almighty dollar.  Most players are quick to respond, “It’s only business.”  That response was utter nonsense when I was a kid.  That response is utter nonsense now!  It appears that Seahawks receiver, Golden Tate agrees.  When asked about his chances for signing a big contract, Tate responded, “Honestly, I would rather take a little less to be happy and win ballgames than to take way more and go to a crappy city where the fans don’t give a crap about the team, you win a game once a month – something like that.”  For Tate, loyalty to his team trumps the almighty dollar.

Golden Tate is a breath of fresh air.  His loyalty to the Seahawks is exemplary.  Perhaps his passion to remain with a winning team will spread.  After all, Steve Largent ran the grid iron for 13 years in Seattle,  Edgar Martinez spent his entire 18 year career with the Mariners, and Cal Ripken, Jr. played for 21 years in Baltimore.  Each of these players were committed to one team.  Perhaps those days are gone.  But if Tate gets his way, he’ll take less to remain in Seattle and thousands of little kids will rejoice.  Tate’s young fans could care less about the cash and multi-year deals.  They just want to see their hero in the end zone.

The Seahawks are world champions.  The air is “golden” in the Emerald City!

CULTURE · SPORTS

THE LOST ART OF LOYALTY: LEARNING ABOUT LIFE ABOVE THE RIM

Ohio Governor John Kasich made a stunning announcement on June 13, only hours after the Dallas Maverick’s whipped the Miami Heat and claimed their first NBA title.  Kasich proclaimed, “Now, Therefore, I, John R. Kasich, Governor of the State of Ohio, do hereby name the Dallas Mavericks organization, friends, family and fans as honorary Ohioans, with all privileges and honors therein, for the day of June 14, 2011.”

Kasich, never one to mince words, was apparently communicating a message to LeBron James, former star of the Cleveland Cavaliers who jumped ship and fled to Miami in order to claim an NBA title.

The Kasich resolution placed a clear stake in the ground: “NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Dirk Nowitzki chose to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2010, forgoing free agency and keeping his talents in Dallas, thus remaining loyal to the team, city and fans for whom he played his entire career …”

It is true that professional athletes are traded every day, often to the bitter chagrin of the player on the block.  However, too often, players sell out for their own glory.  The net result:  Cities that feels disenfranchised and thousands of little kids who feel let down.

It is also true that professional athletes are businessmen who have the right to earn what the market will bear.  But at what expense and whose expense?  And should the all-mighty dollar ever dislodge loyalty?

Where are the athletes like Cal Ripken, Jr. who played his heart out for twenty-one years with the Orioles?  Or what about a class act like Edgar Martinez who quietly and faithfully endured eighteen years with the Mariners (and many of those years were losing years)?  Where are the heroes like Steve Largent who played fourteen years with the Seahawks or Bart Starr who gave sixteen years of his life with the Packers?  And where are the players who stick it out with one team like Bill Russell and Larry Bird who both played thirteen years for the Celtics?

Some probably think that Governor Kasich took a cheap shot at LeBron James.  My own view is that the good governor simply wanted to make a point about the importance of loyalty – or lack of loyalty.  Perhaps the greater lesson is Nowitzki’s decision to remain loyal to his original team, the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki will never have a drawer full of rings like some NBA stars.  But he can proudly wear at least one championship ring – and he didn’t have to sell out to earn the right to wear it.

My late grandfather used to warn young pastors, “Never sell your soul for a mess of pottage.”  That lesson wears well in the ministry.  And it works just as well on the basketball court.