Got in my car this morning, and turned on the radio as I do only to be bombarded with this story that Manny Ramirez doesn't care if he loses the ALCS.
My local ESPN radio affiliate must have played the clip four times while I was in the car:
Why should we panic? We've got a great team. .[If] it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like it's the end of the world.
There then followed a spirited discussion between the hosts on whether or not Ramirez had committed blasphemy in allowing that maybe this playoff stuff wasn't the end of the world to him. The dialogue was one of the rare ones in which Golic and Greenberg agreed.
They both stressed the professional nature of the professional athlete, maintaining that, basically, if an athlete became so wrapped up emotionally in the fate of any one particular team he's on, it would prevent him from preparing properly for his following year's team.
I am of dual mind on this. At first, I was reminded of a few different scenes from playoff pasts. The first was a very early memory, in which I watched on TV as George Brett sat in a silent locker room, near tears, maybe even at them, after his Royals just lost to the Yankees in the '77 ALCS. No-one would say that Brett wasn't a professional, yet he obviously cared profoundly about the fate of his Royals.
Of course, Brett was a superstar, and spent his entire career with one team. He had *time* to become attached to the Royals. Obviously, Manny is a star, too, and one who's been in Boston for a long time. But just for the sake of the argument, what about the journeyman? Maybe *he* cares less?
That's when I'm put in mind of Pete Munro, he, though much less-heralded than Brett, also near tears after an Astros 2004 NLCS loss. Munro had pitched for other teams, and probably knew that his hold on a spot on the Astros roster in 2005 was tenuous even if he pitched an NLCS no-hitter, yet he was choked up to the point where it became tough to watch. I don't think anyone can say that journeyman Pete Munro didn't care.
Or how about Jeff Kent? Kent was/is a journeyman, too, only one with a much higher set of skills than Munro. In addition to being a somewhat troublesome player whose talents nevertheless guarantee that *some* team or the other will hire him from year to year, Kent is known for being one of the most despondent players around.
Yet I dare you to take a look at video of his home run to defeat St. Louis in 2004 Game Five, to find his huge smile as he jumped onto home plate and say that even he didn't care passionately.
And I'm sure David Pinto will disagree, but just because it's their jobs doesn't mean they're unable to care.
To assume otherwise is what you call a logical fallacy.
When I next got into my car, at lunchtime, Colin Cowherd was going on about it, giving some kind of lecture about how today's salaries blah blah blah and how free-agency blah blah blah, and rather than listen to the BS, I turned it off quickly.
Simply put, I think the money is irrelevant, and I think the jumping from team to team is irrelevant. I think that an athlete is always looking for an edge, and that, furthermore, most athletes will take it as gospel that enthusiasm or passion is one method to gain one. Caring about the ultimate fate of your team--and making *sure* you care--is thus one of the best ways to take care of your career.
Certain mega-talents like T.O. or Manny Ramirez might prove legitimate exceptions to this rule, but I believe that a professional athlete who wants to stay that way simply can't afford not to care.
But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.