I was watching the World Series last night and was reminded of a sad reality in sports. The players playing the game rarely care as much about the team they play for as the fans do. This isn’t to say they don’t care about winning or care about their team. Of course they care. But the players don’t live and die by their team like a fan does.
Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a first pitch single to left field. After a bunch of pick-off attempts by Andy Pettitte, Rolling took off and stole second. The cameras caught Rollins and Derek Jeter chatting, smiling and laughing. The announcer picked up on it and noted that Rollins and Jeter became really good friends during the World Baseball Classic earlier in the year. The camera proceeded to cut back to 2nd base after every pitch with Jeter and Rollins chatting away with big smiles throughout.
Now I’m not here to tell people who to hang out with, but could you guys at least pretend to hate each other when the game is on? We’ve got two teams with rabid fan bases both clamoring hard for a World Series win. Yankee fans hate the Phillies and the Phillies fans hate the Yanks. Is it too much to ask that the players be into the rivalry as much as their fans?
I guess it is. Former Oilers go and play for the Flames (Grant Fuhr), former Packers go and play for the Vikings (Brett Favre) and former Red Sox go and play for the Yankees (Johnny Damon). The players don’t care. Reasons why players play where they play vary, but it’s almost never about the rivalry. Jay Bouwmeester signs with the Flames after a life of being an Oiler fan. Mike Cammalleri signs with Les Canadiens and spurns his family, all die-hard Leaf fans. The players just don’t care.
I think that is one of the reasons that fans have to respect Curt Shilling. He’s the only guy I can think of who straight out said that he hated the Yankees and would never, ever play for them. He got the rivalry and respected the fans and that’s great. Johnny Damon on the other hand, I could see him signing with the Red Sox again if the money was right. And that’s just not right.