Monday, August 9, 2010

Are You Ready For Some...Contract Renegotiating?

Those of you who follow this blog (yeah, both of you) know that while I may venture to the topic of sports somewhat frequently, when I do so it’s to comment on an issue that transcends the games themselves. I’m not a play-by-play guy, hold minimal interest in chronicling happenings that take place in every city on every team each and every season. I may follow the minutiae of football and basketball and boxing and tennis because of my passion for them, but this doesn’t mean I care to report on the daily grind that others already do quite adequately. I only raise my voice and pen if I feel there’s something unique and compelling about a situation. My two cents are always at the ready, but I try to use discretion with offering them.

There is very little one-of-a-kindness to Darrelle Revis holding out for a new contract from the New York Jets rather than fulfilling the obligations of the one he’s currently working under. Every year in each professional team sport there are a number of athletes who want to renegotiate their contracts. Rather than waiting until they become free agents, if they’re coming off a big year they opt to capitalize while the getting is good and their bargaining power is at its peak. If this sounds a tad unreasonable of them, I suppose we should keep in mind that they can be traded to undesirable locales at any point management decides more bang for their bucks can be obtained from someone else. Even in the case of coddled superstars, when they’re nearing the end of their careers and their talents are on the decline, they are suddenly seen as expendable when just a few years earlier they were treated like royalty. The modern day athlete has concluded it makes the most sense to be primarily loyal to self. Athletic careers are short, especially in a rock-em sock-em game like football, so players need to make as much as they can as fast as they can before their run is over. For every athlete with a post retirement plan (coaching, broadcasting, starting a business while flush with cash to put into it, or perhaps actually entering the career his college major was to prepare him for in case the sports thing didn’t work out), there are many more who come up with no better plan than to make as much as possible in their playing careers and hope it won’t run out before the ultimate retirement.

Since this scenario is so commonplace, why am I writing about Revis’ tussle with the holders of purse strings for the Jets? First, because this is my beloved Jets we’re talking about. Second, because Darrelle Revis is a phenomenal talent. Only so many of those come around, a pretty small percentage end up in green and white. Third, the Jets look as good coming into this season as ever, their future no less promising than it appeared back in 1999 when they were supposed to follow up a trip to the AFC championship game with one to the Super Bowl. Jets fans know all too well how that worked out and why things fell apart. Over a decade later and we find ourselves in the same situation, fresh off a trip to the AFC championship, poised to take the next big step so long as nothing goes wrong. Revis holding out for the season would definitely qualify as something going terribly wrong.

If only there was no pesky salary cap to consider, the Jets organization could simply follow the blueprint laid out by the Yankees and spend what needed to be spent to secure the best available talent. What does that get you? A championship about once every four years, that’s what. Yet even with a salary cap in place, dynasties are possible when talent is combined with smart decision making. Several NFL franchises have managed to field repeat champions, but the Jets sadly are not among them. They won it all in 1969, Super Bowl III, a mighty long time ago. If the long delayed trip down the road to glory is to finally be traveled upon once more, surely the Jets need to be at full strength. They can’t afford for the guy who is clearly their top player on either side of the ball to sit this dance out. But the longer negotiating drags, the more difficult it becomes to believe things will work themselves out for the best.

Most Jets fans aren’t rooting for Revis to get every last dime he’s asking for, nor are they pulling for ownership to put him in his place. They just want this dilemma to be worked out fast so that come opening day Gang Green will be operating at full capacity. Those who say different (no shortage of opinions being given on Twitter and Facebook) are either shell shocked from years of frustration and are now venting incoherently, or else they aren’t real Jets fans, or knowledgeable football fans for that matter. Anybody who has paid any attention to the sport knows how few and far between cornerbacks of Darrelle Revis’ caliber are, just as they know how difficult it is to put together a legitimate championship contender in the NFL. Sure, the Jets might still be fairly good without Revis. But with him they have the potential to be great, and nothing less than greatness will do this year for long suffering fans. Jets fans thinking about the situation at all rationally desperately want Revis’ services to be retained, but not at so high a cost that they can’t afford to place quality pieces around him going forward. If overpaying him means the team is not able to maintain sufficient talent where needed elsewhere, the future will not look exceptionally bright. The Jets may be screwed short term if they don’t make Revis happy, screwed long term if they give up too much to bring that happiness about. If you have a win now at all costs mindset (which the Jets themselves seemed to possess with acquisition of well past prime players such as Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson) then the answer is simple - pay the man what he wants. Compromise is necessary if a dynasty is the goal. If neither party is willing to bend, hope is lost before the season even begins. At least in 1999 Jets fans were able to make it to Week 1 filled with optimism before it was cruelly dashed.

My advice to Mr. Revis is to look at guys like Alex Rodriquez and LeBron James, superstars who invited scorn and ridicule from fans that once idolized them by attempting to make themselves bigger than the game rather than allowing the fans to inflate them the way they did with Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, and the Jets’ own Joe Namath. Let the people declare you king, don’t put the throne upon your own head. That might work out fine in individual sports such as boxing where a charismatic guy like Muhammad Ali could effectively proclaim himself to be the greatest, but part of what fans value in athletes who play team sports is an ability to be a team player. And in the defense of A-Rod and LeBron, they at least pulled off their shenanigans when free agents. The Mets did their best to make Rodriquez look like a jerk when he pulled his diva routine on them, perhaps recognizing he was merely using them to gain greater leverage with the Yankees, but A-Rod did most of the work. By the time it was his turn to be busted as a steroid abuser there was little sympathy to be found. And LeBron single handedly transformed from icon to punch line while taking himself out of NBA GOAT consideration with “The Decision”. Take my talents to Miami indeed. The lesson learned? Handle your business quietly and respectfully, and if others choose to make a lot of noise about it, so be it.

Revis should not foolishly alter his image from spectacularly talented yet impressively humble guy to yet another Me First Schumuck so long as the Jets are trying to do reasonably right by him. Brett Favre doesn’t need any more competition in the largest ego category. It’s still possible for Darelle to remain likeable, be highly compensated for what he does exceptionally well, and to possibly win one or more Super Bowl rings in the bargain. From this endorsement deals will flow and money will be the least of his problems. That is how sports legends are created. Revis deserves to get as much as he can get, but also needs to recognize when enough is enough, that it’s time to stop being a businessman attempting a hostile takeover and resume being a football player. And whatever he does from here on out, I’d highly advise staying far away from the Latrell Sprewell “I need to feed my family” card. It simply doesn't look so hot on a millionaire. If this hand is played right by the participants, everybody in Jetsdom can be a big winner. If played wrong then everybody involved loses yet again, and the chorus shouting SAME OLD JETS will grow louder. The thing Jets fans desire most is for their team to avoid finding yet another new way to screw things up.



  1. "Let the people declare you king, don’t put the throne upon your own head." Well said. Excellent post!

  2. All Jets fans saw this coming about three months ago. As Jets history goes, something big always screws it up; this will be it...

  3. Outstanding post! I think you summed up the situation brilliantly.