Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Man Up

No player is bigger than the team.

I believe this.

Every member of a team deserves recognition for their contribution. That’s what makes a team. When clubs market a single player instead of promoting the team as a whole, this marginalises the efforts of the rest of the team. And what happens when the “star” player gets injured, signs with another club, or retires?

It is a short-sighted and shallow solution, and one that indirectly detriments the team, and the game.

That said, while players and other fans profess loyalty to their clubs, I do not.

I love my teams. I share their elation in victory, their disappointment in defeat. I attend every home game, and try to travel to away games. For games I can’t get to, I will sit in front of a computer graphic, constantly refreshing my screen for the latest score.

But ultimately, the Team is a club, a franchise, an association. They can be sold, go bankrupt, change management, change their logo, or sign new naming rights sponsors.

It is the players who have played each game, win or loss. They’ve trained, practised and analysed; they’ve taken the hits, dived after balls and suffered the injuries. Fans have gotten to know them, their nicknames, habits and superstitions. We’ve seen what they do off the court, from juggling fulltime jobs to raising money for charity. We’ve spoken to them as they patiently sign autographs for us.

It is the players who are owed loyalty, if not by their fans, most certainly by their clubs.
Players deserve opportunities. Coaches no doubt want that all-important dub, and play their well-worn line-ups, but to what cost? Keeping some players on the bench for the entire season, only letting them on the court for junk minutes? Their effort throughout the season is worth more than that.

Players are owed a duty of care. It’s unconscionable for the “leadership group” of a club to put a player at risk by playing them while injured. The Canberra Capitals pointed fingers overseas, at what they purported was a club not acting in the interests of an injured player. Later that very season, the Capitals sent their own player on a road-trip double after suffering a concussion in the game prior.

Players should have support. Clubs have rules and policies, which they need to uphold. If these are breached, clubs certainly need to act accordingly. But their actions can affect outcomes, contracts, reputations, and even careers. Clubs owe it to the players to, you know, not throw them under the bus.

Perhaps there are some clubs who, more than anything else, want to win a championship, and play the game in a way to achieve that.

I don’t care what they say.

No game is more important its players.

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