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December 23, 2010

Comparing Decisions

Derek Shackelford

There is something about sports and, in particular, certain athletes who may make the casual observer express their opinion. Two athletes over this past year have not only grabbed the sports spotlight but they have infiltrated some of the mainstream media headlines.


The two athletes that bear mentioning are LeBron James and Michael Vick. Now there are certainly a couple more who could be placed in the sport spotlight crossover into mainstream media medium pendulum, but for casual opinion sake Mr. James and Vick have attracted the bright lights.


There is no mistaken the athletic talents of these two men. Both are premier players in their respective sports of basketball and football, which happen to be the most popular sports in the world. These sports have crossover appeal among generations and their international popularity has soared over the past decades with regular season games being played on international courts and fields.


So there may be no one who has not heard of LeBron James or Michael Vick. Let’s take each one separately, and then, possibly, find parallels between the two.


LeBron James is the two time Most Valuable Player of the National Basketball Association. The talents he displays are remarkable. His size, strength and grace are unprecedented in a sport which has produced so many great players.


However, it is not his talents that come into question by some.  It was the decision to move from Cleveland to Miami via free agency. For so many years the Cleveland Cavalier franchise was considered the doormat of the league because of its consistency for losing. Mr. James almost single handedly changed the franchise into a consistent winner, a recognizable franchise and – not to mention – an increase in the economic value of the team. He was directly or indirectly responsible for roughly 48% of the economy for the city of Cleveland during the basketball season.


No wonder there was so much anger over his leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. The anger was displayed by people who burned his jersey, labeled him a traitor, and even garnered a terse statement from team owner Dan Gilbert.


It should be noted that since Mr. James left the team, the value of the franchise has dropped by nearly $200 million. For the casual fan it was not his abrupt departure that caused the furor, but apparently it was how he announced it he was leaving.


He held an hour-long special on ESPN to state his intentions of going to Miami. This could equate to rubbing it in to a Cleveland fan. Why did he choose this way to make his intentions known? The answer is simple – it is because he could and we would watch and then talk about it.


Michael Vick has placed himself in the discussion for the Most Valuable Player in this year 2010 – 2011 National Football League season.  His play has been nothing short of phenomenal and his maturation as a quarterback has been on display week after week.


Come on, Philadelphia Eagles fans, raise your hands if you thought for one moment your team would win the NFC East Division this year. The excitement that Vick brings to the football field will make any casual observer say “Wow.” No quarterback in the league brings the combination of passing and running ability that Vick does, not to mention he is a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators and players.


His current life story does have a redemptive touch to it.


Vick served 21 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to dog fighting charges. He was suspended by the league, and the Atlanta Falcons, his previous team, waived him during his time away from football. There are some who have not forgiven Vick for his crime although he acknowledged and paid the penalty for it. There are some who root against him because of this and do not believe he should be allowed back on the football field. To think that everyone is cheering for him would be somewhat naïve.


It is rather interesting how we, as a culture, gather opinions on people we do not know personally, but only through a television screen for a couple of hours. I have heard comments around what type of individuals Mr. James and Vick are without any personal connection or contact by the one stating their displeasure with them.


A person has every right to express their displeasure about another; but when their arguments have no merit, then it reduces their credibility.


What do these athletes have in common besides popularity? Their age may have some influences on their decision making.


There are some important lessons that we all could learn from these two who are in the media spotlight. Both are millionaires, which leads us to know that money does not shield one from criticism. Also wealth does not preclude us from making bad decisions.


So, before we criticize Mr. James and Vick, let us take a look in the mirror at ourselves. What kind of decisions were we making in our middle 20s with no millionaire status? Better yet what kind of decisions are we making in our 30s, 40s, 50s, etc., with no media, no cameras, and no tape devices following us?


Our bad decisions are not paraded before the world. A little humble pie is needed, and, by the way, sprinkle a lot of grace on top of mine!


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