Eye On The Ball: The year of whiny athletes, but not here in Truckee | SierraSun.com

Eye On The Ball: The year of whiny athletes, but not here in Truckee

I love reading the sports page. Always have.

On the sports page, you can learn a lot about players, coaches and facets of the game that enhance watching athletes at work.

But sometimes you learn a little too much. Like what big babies pro athletes are, and how much they really think of themselves.

Sure, you gotta have confidence to get out there in front of millions night after night. I’ll even concede that with the big bucks pro organizations rake in, players deserve above average salaries. Still, like my Dad always said, “it’s your attitude that’s the problem.” Here are a few examples:

–Shaquille O’Neal, who has not led a team to a title in his six years of pro basketball, will make $121 million over seven years. He even has the option to renegotiate that. That’s $17.28 million per year and, folks, Shaq has missed more than 80 games since he started playing.

–Pedro Martinez with the Red Sox recently signed for $75 million over the next six years. Upon hearing of the deal, Dodger Raul Mondesi immediately upped his ante from $40 million over six years to $60 million over the same period. He honestly believes he deserves it.

— Shannon Briggs made $400,000 against George Foreman, in a bout most agree was rigged.

–Mike Tyson bites part of the ear off Evander “The Real Meal” Holyfield ( a good man from my hometown who also makes too much money) and there’s actually a question over whether Tyson should be paid for the fight. Just the fact somebody wondered whether to pay this guy his several million dollar purse disturbs me.

Which brings up another problem I have. The “purse.” Isn’t this phrase just a little obsolete? Can you see Evander walking away from the fight, ear bandaged, carrying a Dooney and Bourke handbag full of cash?

–How about Indiana Pacers rookie forward Austin Croshere who makes more than $1 million per year? That’s reasonable unless you consider Croshere hasn’t even been taken off the bench 20 minutes all season.

Where I come from, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. The Pacers wasting this guy’s talent is like having a date with Cindy Crawford and staying home to watch “Saved By The Bell” re-runs.

–The Dallas Cowboys: where do they recruit, Folsom Prison?

— And, finally, Latrell Sprewell. Ah, my man, Latrell. From the files of “What were they thinking?” nobody stood behind this guy for long. He had Mugsy Bouges and Charles Barkley backing him for a day or two, then they both did an about-face and said they didn’t condone his actions one bit.

Now Sprewell has hired Johnny Cochran to get him back on the Warriors. I wish I had space for two columns to cover that, but I need to get to the good people.

1997 saw the retirement of two of the greatest coaches ever. Eddie Robinson and Dean Smith. Robinson and Smith inspired greatness in others for decades. They started in their jobs in a time when the pay wasn’t much, the work was hard and the hours were long.

I see this sort of determination in our local athletes.

The Tahoe-Truckee High School nordic skiers don’t play to crowds of thousands. The girls’ and boys’ basketball players don’t have endorsement contracts with Nike or Reebok.

Sometimes they don’t even finish the race. Or maybe they do, but at the end, they collapse from exhaustion. They’ve just poured their hearts out for a handful of parents and coaches, just for a few claps and “way to go’s” at the end of the day.

It’s hard to watch our local kids give everything they’ve got and go home to see Latrell Sprewell crying over the $32 million he might not see for a year.

If you want to see real athletes, come fill the stands at the TTHS gym when the basketball team is down 20 points against a rival . They’ll appreciate it a lot more than the pros ever could.

Jamie Ball is sports editor of the Sierra Sun.

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