Saturday, July 30, 2005

"We eat our young"

Sports sometimes rewards athletes handsomely, and despite the mercurial Boston weather, they sometimes choose to settle here. Not surprisingly, we might see them at the same restaurants, stores, or theaters that we patronize.

I remember going into the local YMCA to shoot a few hoops, and who's there but JoJo White. All we share is a polite smile, as he is working with his daughter on her game. Does JoJo need my approval for his accomplishments? Not really, he just wants to help his little girl. Hank Finkel is a fixture in the local scene, and it's hard to be anonymous and seven feet tall.

When I met Ronnie Lippett, we were both parents on an AAU team. Like me, he was more interested in the games than the past. He did confide his great respect for Ray Berry, whom he said was the best pro coach for whom he played, because he could handle the players as men best.

Jerry Moses introduced himself, and I was surprised, as in 'Jerry Moses from Yazoo, Mississippi?' A very pleasant fellow, but we never talked baseball.

None of these gentlemen got celebrity treatment, nor did they ask for it. Like other professionals, athletes want respect for what they do, and space for their private lives. Most will accommodate reasonable requests, but they want to be able to share some free time with their friends and families. That isn't asking so much.

While we vilify them in the media (and on the internet), we admire them for their special talents, even when their performance isn't at peak levels. Unfortunately, the fact that they make a lot of money, by any standards, often makes us feel a certain entitlement, to their time and to success...that's our problem, not theirs.

Maybe Fenway, Gillette, or the Garden need a sign over the entrance, "we eat our young", because so often Boston does that. Maybe I read that somewhere, or maybe I'm imagining it, but sadly, it's often true.

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