Apparently, there’s a group of folks out there who think it’s cool to film their own death. I’m not one of them. I understand catharsis and all, but standing in front of the camera, pouring out your soul and then, poof, you’re gone…that’s pretty hard to watch. But I did watch. I couldn’t pull away.
The Rocky Mountain News is dead. One hundred and fifty years of news reporting in Denver slid down the greased pole last week and all its hundreds of employees followed in tow. One day you’re one of America’s greatest papers and then, poof, gone. And the last thing the employees did before the lights went out was film their own obit. You can watch it now at rockymountainnews.com. I did, and now I can’t close my eyes.
It’s chilling stuff, and not only because it’s the latest in a storm of waves pounding away at my chosen profession. It’s because this is the daily reality we face as Americans. No money, no credit, no jobs. Folks are losing their paychecks, homes and livelihoods at unprecedented rates. People can’t afford to eat, can’t afford to see the doctor, can’t afford to buy clothes – and by “people” I mean damn near everyone. College grads, MBAs, entrepreneurs…you name it. Bankruptcy isn’t just for dropouts and ne’r do wells anymore.
My heart goes out to those who have already been affected in one way or another by this new Great Depression, knowing that it’s only by the grace of God that I’m not out of work myself. And it’s when I hear stories like the whoppers I’m about to tell you that I get a little upset:
First off, Manny Ramirez is a punk. So is Andre Smith. I wouldn’t touch any one of them with your 10-foot pole.
Manny’s a pro baseball player, a 36-year old left fielder who played with the Los Angeles Dodgers last year after being traded from Boston in the middle of the 2008 season. Now, he’s a great hitter, perhaps the best the game has to offer at the present time. But he’s old. And he has a reputation for not being a team guy, not hustling, running out fly balls, etc. The media coined a term for it years ago when the slugger was in Cleveland – “Manny being Manny.”
Well, Manny made $20 million dollars in L.A. last year, a fine chunk of change in any economy, much less the one we find ourselves situated in as of press time. This season, despite that 1972 birth date, Manny wants more dough. A lot more dough.
A free agent in 2009, he and his “super-agent” Scott Boras made the rounds throughout MLB, trying to land a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $30 million per season. But nobody was buying. So, Manny’s team re-approached the Dodgers. The Dodgers offered two years and $45 million. As of press time, Manny turned it down.
Hitter or no, valuable or not, here’s what I say to Manny Ramirez: @#!$ you.
Have you lost your mind, Manny? You managed in these hard times to pull off a near-impossible feat – you got a raise. You’re past your prime and you dog it on the field, but you still got a raise. Are you sure you work for the Dodgers and not AIG? Do you understand the message you’re sending to fans and on-lookers across the nation and around the world? Do you have any clue what your fellow Americans are going through outside your little bubble? How they pine and pray and live each day for news that they can make another house payment, or find a new job, or make that doctor’s appointment they’ve been putting off.
You’re a punk, Manny. A rich one, but a punk nonetheless.
Now, before you Manny fans retort with the obvious argument, allow me. I know athletes have a short window of time to make their money, and I know that teams will always sacrifice a player – regardless of their circumstances – in favor of the bottom line. I know all about the axiom “get what you can while you can.” But there’s a fine line between pursing a fair salary and all-out greed. This is all-out greed.
Now, since no other team is apparently interested in paying Manny what he wants, he’ll likely end up with the Dodgers, making somewhere around $25 million per season. And he’ll be disappointed. As I write this column, however, my attention is drawn to the TV in my living room. Charles Gibson is reporting from California regarding that state’s particularly sour economic condition and wouldn’t you know it – he played right into my hands. As it turns out, there was an open house at Dodger Stadium this week as the team gets set to hire ushers for the 2009 season. Five hundred minimum wage jobs available – 4,000 showed up. I guarantee not one of the lucky 500 job-getters will be disappointed.
If you think Manny’s a bum, how about this Andre Smith character? You all know Andre – Birmingham kid, former Alabama football player. He’s a damn good left tackle, and damn good left tackles don’t just fall out of the trees. NFL teams covet a guy whose specialty is protecting a quarterback’s blind slide, and that makes Andre very covetable. So much in fact, that he was projected as a No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
But Andre showed up to the NFL Combine overweight and out of shape. The biggest job interview of his life, and he was woefully unprepared. So he left before he could workout, but didn’t tell anybody. Just up and went AWOL. The NFL folks had a fit trying to find him, and when he was finally spotted, his agent offered up a boilerplate apology.
Well, the media that covers the NFL, and there’s a whole bunch of them, spent the rest of the combine railing against Andre Smith. Now, folks are moving him down the draft board, maybe as low as the late first round. CNBC’s Darren Rovell figures that such a move could cost Smith more than $20 million.
Can you imagine pissing away $20 million for no better reason than being stupid and lazy? Who am I kidding? Most of you can’t imagine pissing away $20.
What’s worse is that there has been no word out of Andre’s camp from Andre himself. No explanation as to what in the world he was thinking or what he plans to do to restore his once shining reputation. He has no concept of public relations; his agent apparently has no idea how to stop the bleeding.
But, even if Andre is drafted late in the first round, he’ll still see more money on that day than you and I will in our lifetimes. And that’s fine. After all, I suppose he’s earned it on the field. But it would be nice if he and Manny and the rest of their ilk would at least act like they appreciate and realize how truly blessed they are to have such a fat bankroll. Or, for that matter, a job.
You and I certainly would.