The latest chapter in the long history of "betrayal" in sports was written yesterday when Steve Smith chose to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith, just two seasons removed from shattering Giants receiving records and endearing himself to the hearts of most every Giants fan, will now be suiting up in the disgusting green of the Eagles. Upon receiving the news (via twitter from my soon to be brother in law who is a
I've never been a big animal person. In fact, for most of my life, I flat out hated them. They smell bad, they poop everywhere, they drool on everything, and I found them to be an utter nuisance. I am, however, getting engaged to a lady who adores them, so I am being forced to change my approach. About two months ago I found a kitten being attacked by a bird in a field next to my house, and rescued it and took it in as my own. My fiance loves it. I enjoy it at times, but it is also extremely frustrating. Cats believe, wholeheartedly, that they are better than humans. They carry this smug demeanor to them, this holy-than-thou, self righteous, our crap doesn't stink attitude that pisses me right off. While I'll admit that I've grown attached to the cat, and she has her moments where she's just adorable, I definitely understand why people would choose dogs over cats. Dogs as a whole enjoy humans much more than cats do. They want you to play with them, they can't wait for you to get home, they live for you to love them. But above all these other characteristics, dogs are extremely loyal, and this is a quality that, in sports, is in danger of becoming extinct.
This isn't an easy case to determine who is right and who is wrong. It's not your typical "I've had a few great seasons here and now I'd like to cash them in for a king's ransom and go to whoever the highest bidder is" scenario. It's not the "Yeah I know I signed the contract, but now I think I deserve more money" scenario. It's a very unique case where no one really comes out "clean."
In 2009, Smith had a franchise record 107 receptions for 1220 yards and seven touchdowns. He had done his best to wipe away the spotlight from Carolina's Steve Smith, and earned himself a Pro Bowl nod to boot. In 2010, it looked like he was going to have another really good season. Through the first nine games, he grabbed 48 passes for 529 yards and three touchdowns, which wasn't on pace to be as good as his previous season, but still very good, especially for a Giants' receiver. But Smith suffered a severe knee injury, saddling him for not only the season, but putting a serious shadow over whether or not he'd ever be able to play again at the same level. Oh, and did I forget to mention he was a free agent at the end of this year? With an emerging star coming along in Hakeem Nicks, and a deep play threat in Mario Manningham beginning to play well, it looked like Smith was only going to return to the Giants if he really wanted to. And the thing is, he really wanted to.
All offseason and through the lock out, Smith refereed to himself as a Giant. He still interacted with his Giants' fans through his Facebook page. He never once talked about fielding offers from other teams. In his heart, he was a Giant, and that is the way he wanted things to stay.
Unfortunately, Jerry Reese, the current General Manager of New York, didn't exactly see it as a "necessity" to retain Smith. He wanted him on the team, but he only wanted him on the team if he could get him at
an extremely low price the Giants price. And from a general managers perspective, he had the right idea. There were, and still are, no guarantees that Steve will be able to play again at the same level he once did. He may never be able to play in the NFL again. And this is all Jerry Reese saw. He didn't see that Steve was working ridiculously hard to get back to where he was. He didn't see that Steve constantly called himself a Giant and said he wanted to stay in New York. He didn't see any of that. All he saw were dollar signs, and this is disgusting.
Its disgusting that a guy who worked so hard and devoted himself so much to an organization wasn't treated the same way. Its disgusting that jerks and all around bad guys like Albert Haynesworth can make all the money they want and guys like Steve Smith don't get that opportunity. Its just disgusting, and I am disgusted.
Smith's actions were equally disgusting too. He clearly felt spurned by the Giants because, well, he was spurned by the Giants. And in the classic "Oh you don't like me anymore? Well I don't like you either! In fact, I like that guy you hate!" teenage drama scenario, Smith turned around and signed with the arch rival Eagles. The same Eagles who the Giants have a rich history of hating. Philadelphia, a city that hasn't had a likable team since Ben Franklin and the Continental Congress. Despite what the front office did to Smith, this can be taken as nothing other than slap in the face of Giants fans. His words of always cherishing his time with the Giants and any other rabble that comes out of his mouth hold no water. Is he a bad person for this? Absolutely not. The time and effort he put into keeping up with his fans cannot go unappreciated. The man mailed me an autographed picture of himself as a congratulations for getting engaged! But he made a jerk move. He approached a wrong with a wrong, and fought fire with fire, and in the end, the fans were the ones who really got burned. And those are really the best to ways to describe the feeling; a burn and a slap in the face.
It stings. Its not the end of the world, and you certainly won't die from it, but at that moment, it stings. It stung when Glavine left Atlanta and signed with the Mets. It stung when Damon left Boston (and the coolest beard in sports at the time) and signed with the Yankees. And of course, it stung the way LeBron left Cleveland for South Beach. It stings knowing my son will probably grow up without seeing a Chipper Jones or a Michael Strahan or a Kobe Bryant spend their entire hall of fame career with one, and only one, organization. It stings.
While each scenario is different, with different guys being wrong and different guys being slighted, there is always one loser in every case, and that is the fans. We are constantly selling and throwing away jerseys, continuously cutting ties with players, always being slapped in the face. But through it all, we remain loyal. Loyal to the teams we call our own. Loyal to the players that we grew up idolizing, and sometimes still pretend to be in the backyard. We are always loyal. And what is our reward for displaying this characteristic? We are treated like dogs.
But while it stings, we keep coming back. We keep buying jerseys, watching games, making memories, and loving our teams and our players. We are still loyal. Thank God for us, because in sports, loyalty is a rarity, and is on the verge of dying out.