50 and 60 years ago, the athletes we adored were a reflection of ourselves personally, which may have led to fan support. For example, Joe DiMaggio was the hard working, blue-collar type of guy. In an era long before the Yankees could afford to buy whomever they wanted, DiMaggio was the face of the franchise, mostly because the average fan could relate to them. And this was the case for nearly all of the athletes in every sport. In the offseason of their respective sport, most of them held separate jobs to make a living.
All that changed in 1975 when the Supreme Court ruled that players had the right to seek teams that they wanted to play for ??? or more simply known as free agency. With the introduction of free agency also came the idea that players were selfish and played for the money. Athletes seeking new contracts with more money threw the idea of loyalty out the window.
In a split second, we lost the connection we had with players. In 1967, the average baseball salary was $10,000. In 2008, that same average was up to $2.93 million.
Because of free agency, we are no longer able to relate to the players. Instead of playing sports for the love of it and working other jobs for the income, professional athletes only ???job??? now is to play their respective sports. That???s in itself isn???t a bad thing, but a majority of the players have lost that passion for the game.
In the 60s, 70s, and even the early 80s, we saw some fierce battles. You had the Lakers-Celtics and the Pittsburgh Steelers Steel Curtain. Intensity and passion were everywhere you looked. Now-a-days, that isn???t there. The want to win isn???t as strong and that???s turned fans away. Fans want to cheer for a player or team that does everything they can to win a game because they have to sacrifice in their every day lives to survive. Whether it be sacrificing free time to watch their kids performance or sacrificing money to help a family member, people do what they can to survive.
Don???t get me wrong. There are still moments where sports and life overlap and create magical moments. One that comes to mind is Hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans Saints. Starting with their return to the dome and ending with their Super Bowl victory last season, the Saints united the whole city. The fans could relate to a team that went from worst to first. And there are the occasional moment like this that happens in sports that still mirror the values of America.
However, these moments are few and far between. We see more moments of LeBron, deciding that rings were more important than loyalty than we see moments like the Saints run to the Super Bowl.
The players have become more concerned about playing with friends and the money than winning titles. LeBron is the best example I can give. He chose to flee Cleveland, where he was their hero and the man, to join his two friends in Miami and make a super team. It???s been brought up time and time again, but Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley or Patrick Ewing would have never thought of doing this.
The connection fans used to have with players is no longer there. We don???t see athletes as an equal to ourselves. In most cases, we see them as greedy, selfish people. And to some degree, those fans are right. Athletes don???t have to work hard anymore because the salaries they make can more than support them. They don???t need jobs in the off-season. And all this has ended the time when fans and athletes could connect with one another. We???re in a different time period now.