There’s No “I” in Team but there is in Selfish

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“It’s about the team, I don’t think about individual statistics.”

How many times over the years have we heard that line from players in all sports? Or another dandy, “I don’t read the papers.” Now in fairness, this isn’t to paint all players with the same brush because it is quite possible some may indeed not read the papers, simply because they can’t.

It got me thinking a few weeks ago while reading the sports page about the NBA and a few of the players lobbying for the MVP award. Well actually that’s being kind, Houston Rockets James Harden says he’s the best player in the game. Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers had already claimed that distinction while Russell Westbrook was too busy passing off an easy bucket to grab an assist to continue setting a record for triple doubles, to keep his name in the race. He claims he’s the winner regardless. And oh yeah my favourite self-serving athlete, Lebron James was “resting” for the playoffs while his team was in the midst of a losing streak.

Then there’s Michael Jordan at 50, making noise about returning to the NBA because the players aren’t as tough anymore and he’d dominate. In between calling out the self proclaimed “King James” (Lebron) he couldn’t resist letting the world know he was still the best ever.

Shaq suggested he was mad at Canadian Steve Nash for winning back-to-back MVP’s in 2005 and 2006 because he was more deserving. Outside of Shaq, these guys may be right, but how about concerning yourself with winning and leave the awards in the hands of the voters or fans? And by the way, let me be the first to thank you for doing your job.

Wade Boggs could be considered the most unassuming baseball Hall of Famer, yet epitomizes the word selfish in sports. Consumed by the notion he had to hit everyday to get paid, rarely would he sacrifice himself, move a runner by going the other way or try to gap a ball late in a game to help his team. I must admit I always thought of him as a great hitter like Tony Gwynn and it wasn’t until his marital problems became public that his self-absorbed behavior was revealed. When he hung on for the MLB minimum salary at age 41, it was simply to get to 3,000 hits.

Alex Ovechkin, star goal scorer in the NHL whoever, I’d classify him as the Wade Boggs of hockey. His team lost 5-3 but he scores two goals and he’s happy (in Boggs case it would be a couple hits). Ovechkin’s lack of respect for the Tampa Bay Lightning after scoring his 50th in their building, with the infamous “hot stick” antics, says it all about this guy. His 3-minute shifts, playing the whole power play, are selfish examples of why he’s a coach-killer and his team will never win. How can a franchise in the USA trade a 50-goal scorer that is the face and draw of the team? They can’t. They’re stuck with this stiff.

We get the point that while it’s great to be a team player and win, it is also about earning a living. When a player negotiates a contract, inevitably his statistics will become a factor in the process. But selfish greed prevails in these circumstances and the recently departed Blue Jay Edwin Encarnacion is the poster child for that script. He allowed his agent, who had incompetently misread the market for his client, to turn the fans against management. The public is used to morons like this, but it’s Edwin who’s to blame; he could’ve easily accepted the Jays very generous offer and stayed.

Scottie Pippen once refused to play the last minute of a game because the possible game winning touch wasn’t going to him. The minute the NHL announced it wasn’t attending the Olympics next year, Ovechkin said he was going anyway. Of course he is. He misses one game, suspend him from the league without pay and block him from playing in the NHL. It’s a privilege to play in the greatest league in the world and if so called Great 8 doesn’t like it? Go play in Russia; zero loss. My bet, he’d take the money.

Pittsburgh Penguin’s Evgeni Malkin is another beaut who will take nights off and been known to sulk if not playing with the guys he prefers. The sad part; he’s extremely talented and like all these guys, has become the modern “me” athlete.

Vince Carter, the day of game 7 for the 2001 Eastern Conference final, chose to attend his college graduation that morning. Raptor fans are aware this clown missed the winning shot on the last play of the game later that afternoon.
Two of the highest paid players in baseball at the time, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, once charged fans $5,000 for a meet and greet with them. No, the money wasn’t directed to a charity.

Brett Farve was another one who wouldn’t let go and embarrassingly left the game a washed up has been.
Randy Moss in a career defining moment said, “I play when I want to play.”

We have our fill of jerks that call out teammates and it’s never their fault when things go wrong.

Guys like Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson and Lebron will use the word “we” in losses and “I” for wins.

A lot of these athletes miss the limelight, fan adulation, media and all the trappings that go with fame and that is sad. See Michael Jordan.

Jaromir Jagr defying the dreaded incurable disease A G E, is still playing in the NHL at 47. While noble and a great marketing tool for the Florida Panthers, it’s really about the money. If not, why did Jagr bolt the NHL a few years ago and now decide to comeback if he really cared about the league?

The world will always be filled with guys like above but with pro sports becoming younger, shorter playing careers on the horizon, the selfish self-serving athlete will be hopefully, minimized.

Having said that, most athletes have the self-centered gene to a certain degree. Even the selfless “team first” types are driven to beat the opposition, feeding their own egos. You don’t think players like Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, Larry Bird or the late Gordie Howe didn’t have egos? They certainly did and it’s what drove them to greatness.

The difference between them and the selfish player today is that those iconic figures let their play on the ice, court and field do the talking.