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Monday, July 30, 2007

I hope this is the last hockey story of the summer....

By Dick Hirsch
Just to explore the other side of the issue, let me describe a few hypothetical situations:
First, let’s say you are a broker in the Buffalo office of Smith Barney, a mainstay of the operation for years, and you get a very attractive offer proposing you quit and move yourself and your business to Merrill Lynch. The offer is accompanied by the promise of more money and more potential.
Next, place yourself in the role of a television weatherman, a distinct on-camera personality, appearing on the local network outlet where the ratings indicate the lowest number of viewers tune in to the newscasts featuring your forecasts. You get an offer for more money and wider acclaim from a station with a reputation for stability.
Finally, pretend you are a seasoned marketing executive for a business that handles payroll preparation and provides other financial services for businesses, large and small. It’s a competitive world, and a competitor, determined to lure you to his company, proposes a situation you cannot resist: more money, an extended contract and other benefits.
(Bear in mind these are all hypothetic situations, and any resemblance to actual situations and real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.)
Putting yourself in those settings, would you take the offer and move to a new job? Yes or no. Hey, the last time I looked, it was still a free market economy, where individuals had the basic right to make their own choices about where they work, live and play. I think most people would consider all the ramifications, consider the loyalty factor, and then take the job and move on to a new situation, still doing the same job, but with a better deal.
If my reasoning is correct, doesn’t freedom of choice apply to professional athletes, who are just like the rest of us, only younger and paid salaries that are ridiculously inflated? I say that the decisions made by Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, the co-captains of the 2006-2007 Buffalo Sabres, to move on to other teams should be viewed with understanding, not contempt.
It is an astonishing fact that the Buffalo media spent most of July devoting countless space and time, chewing over every aspect of the story, searching for someone to blame. Maybe it’s true that the writers and broadcasters are mostly cheerleaders, rather than observers. During the season there were predictions that Drury and Briere might depart, but when it happened, the reporters and editors seemed aghast, insulted, outraged, behaving like a bunch of sophomoric cry babies. Maybe we should mark that down as one more indication of the bankruptcy of the Buffalo media’s news judgment.
They want someone to blame. There is no blame. It’s business. It’s life. If you are good at what you do, eventually a competitor will decide to see whether he can’t get you to join his operation, thereby adding strength while damaging the opposition. There are adjustments Drury and Briere will have to make in New York and Philadelphia. They are sacrificing the adulation factor: they will merely be faces in the crowd in those cities, while here they were international celebrities, recognized and deified on both sides of the border. They will lose whatever that is worth.
As I was reflecting on all this useless rhetoric, I thought about a lesson learned years ago from a man named Bob McAdoo, probably the best basketball player to ever wear a jersey embroidered with a Buffalo logo. Playing for the NBA Buffalo Braves and later other teams in the 1970s, he was at one time Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player and five times a member of the NBA All-Star Team. “That’s twoooooo for McAdoooooo,” echoed consistently through Memorial Auditorium. After four productive seasons in Buffalo, he was unhappy, wanting to play where the lights were brighter. He was traded to New York and later played in Los Angeles, but as he departed from Buffalo he uttered some words of wisdom that have resonated with me ever since:
“I don’t care where I play,” he said, “as long as they pay me.”
McAdoo was one of the greatest scorers of his era, but he was never regarded as an insightful philosopher. However, he surely summed it all up very neatly that day. Meanwhile, will I be the last columnist in Buffalo to spend time in July writing about the departure of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere? I sure hope so.



At 8:38 AM, Blogger david m said...

And if the hockey team management doesn't renegotiate Brian Campbell's contract, he will be the next major player to go.


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