Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Worthy Target of Outrage

Ozzie may be kinda dumb, but is this really worth getting all worked up over?
If there's one thing I know about sports fans, it's that they loooooove to have themselves a good controversy to be outraged over. Whether it's a radio host accidentally swearing on the air, or an internet editor putting up an innocent, though unfortunate, headline, you can be sure the sports world is waiting on their collective high horse, ready to pounce at a moment's notice. Perhaps this tendency is mostly a creation of the media, or perhaps it speaks more to an unfortunate societal trend. I tend to think the latter is more likely, as these constant bursts of outrage seem to be more and more commonplace in any and every social forum.

Regardless, this is the way things are. People are sensitive, for whatever reason, and there simply is no room for error in today's sports world. Want to know why interviews with players and coaches sound like a friendly chat with R2-D2? Well, here's your answer. Even a slight slip of the tongue could set off a firestorm that can, and has, dramatically altered careers. Certain idiots like Tim Hardaway -- who informed Dan LeBetard, WHILE ON THE AIR, that he HATED gay people -- deserve to be crushed in the media. But most, like the ESPN online editor who posted the Jeremy Lin headline, are innocent victims of a sports society that really just needs to chill out for a bit.

That having been said, since the whole of the world seems to be out looking for blood these days, I'm going to give you exactly what you want. I'm going to pander to everyone's whims and cut someone's head off, right in front of your eyes. But, who will it be?

Of course, the most obvious target of outrage would be Ozzie Guillen, who made some pretty weird comments about Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. To be fair, I understand why many in the Miami area would be a tad upset about any seemingly pro-Castro comments. Fidel Castro is one of the most despicable human beings in the history of man-kind, and any scenario in which you are saying something about him that doesn't involve Stephen Strasburg repeatedly throwing fastballs at his crotch is not a good place to be in. That having been said, it's not as if Guillen endorsed the Holocaust or anything. In fact, Guillen didn't even endorse Castro! His comments were taken pretty out of context, and the extent of the outrage is far beyond reasonable at this point. So no, I won't be lopping off Ozzie's head today, though he did get five games lopped off...for no good reason.

Another potential target would be Gregg Williams, who had the gall to instruct his defense to hit the 49ers really hard. The nerve! OK, OK, I'm obviously underplaying it a bit, and the part about taking out Michael Crabtree's ACL really is worthy of disdain. But the rest of it? Not a single problem. Why should I recoil in horror at the thought of a professional football player hitting another professional football player really hard? Isn't that kind of what they're supposed to do? And yeah, I understand why Kyle Williams wouldn't be too thrilled at the prospect of Saints defender testing his concussion out, especially in light of all the recent research. Guess what? Welcome to football! Welcome to sports in general! Besides, didn't we already know that the bounty thing was going on? If anything, this tape made me think the bounty system was less serious than I thought! So no, I'm not going to cut Gregg Williams' head off...especially since Roger Goodell already did.

And in case you were wondering...no, I am not cutting off Tiger Woods' head for kicking his club. That was awesome.

While all of these guys certainly deserve a dirty look and a disapproving shake of the head (not Tiger, remember), they don't deserve the level of outrage they've received. However, there is one guy out there who deserves every bit of outrage the sports world can muster.

Lamar Odom.

Yesterday, Lamar Odom officially quit on the Dallas Mavericks. Lamar Odom, a professional basketball player who makes over $8 million per year, quit on the defending NBA champions during the stretch run of their playoff push. He didn't get hurt, he didn't experience a personal tragedy. He quit, plain and simple. Yet somehow, a rather toothless comment from Ozzie Guillen* has received all kinds of anger, while Odom has received little more than a collective shrug.

*Let me ask a fair question; does the Castro comment even rank in Ozzie's top ten of crazy/weird/controversial comments? I'm serious. I'm not even sure.

How can this be? How can a season long travesty like this reach its culmination with little to no reaction from the sports world? After all, Guillen's comments are nothing more than words. They have no on-field impact, and they won't in any way affect the Marlins' playoff chances. Odom's tank job, however, may wind up defining an entire season for a franchise that just won the championship. It more than shames the sport, it compromises the very integrity of it. And yet, there seems to be no outrage.

Odom's tale began in the offseason, where he admittedly did little to keep himself in shape despite knowing full well that the Lakers would be paying him over $8 million to play basketball at a high level. You know, something that kinda requires being in shape. Here is a comment from Odom regarding his conditioning, dating back to December 31:

"I'm not in the auditioning stages of my career -- that part is over," Odom said. "I'll go out and keep trucking, working hard, and when my legs come under me you'll see a different player."

Of note is that December 31, the day he made these comments, is AFTER the start of the regular season, AFTER he had gone through camp (what little "camp" there was), and AFTER he had been traded to Dallas.

Yes, Odom was put in the unfortunate position of dealing with not one, but two tragedies this offseason, but that in no way is an excuse for a professional basketball player, especially one of Odom's caliber and pay grade, to enter a season out of shape. If you want to give him a pass then fine, but I most certainly won't. Lamar Odom is 32 years old, he is a supposed professional, he has signed a contract to perform at the highest level, and I don't think it's unreasonable to hold him accountable for his failure to put in even the remotest of efforts to prepare for a season.

Then there's the proposed trade that would have sent Odom to the Hornets. After the league nixed the deal, Odom was reportedly so upset that the Lakers would consider trading him that he told Lakers officials he wanted out of L.A. Even though Odom has since come out to refute that claim, it's clear there was something amiss ever since the falling out. As it was said by many in the media, "it just looks like Lamar's heart isn't in Dallas." That's too bad, because that's where his paycheck is coming from.

And there you have it, a story that should elicit a never ending stream of anger from sports fans across the country. Lamar Odom had a rough summer, basically didn't work out for five months, got mad and offended that he was involved in a trade, decided his feelings were too hurt to stay in L.A., and loafed his way through almost an entire season...all while still working up the energy to collect his massive paycheck. Basically, Lamar Odom did nothing - and I mean NOTHING - to earn his money. Not even an honest attempt. And in the end, he just quit.

To me, that string of actions (or inaction) speaks a lot louder than a couple of Ozzie Guillen sentences. What Ozzie did was kinda dumb, sure, but it was completely harmless in the end. But while there are no victims in the Ozzie situation -- even though we all seem to be acting like he personally hanged ten thousand Cubans -- there are plenty of victims in the Lamar Odom situation.

The organization, which shelled out a lot of money and gave up a first round pick for Odom, is a victim. His teammates, who are still playing their butts off and were depending on Odom, are victims. And most of all, the fans, whose money and support is the reason Lamar Odom can make $8 million a year, are victims. Real people experiencing real consequences because Lamar Odom didn't have the integrity to play his hardest. And for all that the organization and its fans invested, this is what they were left with:

"I'm sorry that things didn't work out better for both of us, but I wish the Mavs' organization, my teammates and Dallas fans nothing but continued success in the defense of their championship."

Odom is sorry that it didn't work out, huh? Sorry that he put in absolutely no effort and likely torpedoed Dallas' season? Sorry that he took a crap on each and every fan that paid money to see the team play? Interesting. I wonder, is he sorry enough to pay back the money that he STOLE from Mark Cuban? I doubt it. For that, no amount of outrage is too much.

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