You Don’t Own Me

Even before Kevin Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors and subsequently make the 2016-2017 NBA Season the biggest player hater’s ball that we’ve seen since Chapelle’s Show, I felt the need to write about this year’s NBA offseason and all it entails. As a Jazz fan, I’m excited about signing veterans to complement a young core and subject myself to another summer of endless “this could be our year” mantras. Don’t fret. We’re realistic, although not realistic enough to realize that getting George Hill and Jeff Teague are not each other’s equivalents (Doesn’t anyone else notice this I feel like I’m taking crazy pills?!). But, we are pragmatic enough to realize that around here, “this could be our year” basically equates to “maybe we could get out of the first round this year”.

With Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Derek Rose, and other big names all on the move, it’s been one of the biggest offseasons in recent memory. (Side note: I actually think the Knicks will be pretty good, not the self-ascribed super team that D-Rose has labeled them, but I could see them making the conference finals.) But for some, it’s been painful. For Oklahoma fans who see Durant jerseys on sale for 35 cents and who can’t even commiserate with Cleveland anymore, their prospects at winning a championship now seem bleak at best. They, along with scores of other fans, are now left to reflect on one unspeakable truth.

Professional sports primarily constitute a business, and it’s not just any business at that. We as passionate sports fans can often forget this. It’s a multibillion dollar industry that won’t exactly put this on slogans, but cares a lot more about your dollars than your loyalty. Our red-blooded passion for our home team hates that, but deep down we’re all very cognizant of this inconvenient truth (even Al Gore knows).

Alongside owning franchises, trademarks, logos, and litigators standing by in case someone records and redistributes your games without express written consent; wealthy owners own something else as well – players. Yes, in the 21st century we still live in a world in which predominantly older white men own the rights to predominantly younger black men. Say what you will about Donald Sterling, but he served as a reminder that a racist and outdated mindset is unfortunately still very alive and well. Of course, I am aware that owners pay an exorbitant amount of money to buy players, but in a way you kind of have to feel bad for professional athletes.

They are at the peak of their careers for five, maybe seven years. They are subject to international acclaim and the front pages of the supermarket tabloids, only to be long forgotten a decade after their prime. Indeed, heavy is the head which wears the crown, just ask King James; and that is the general price to pay for fame, but it is not often spoken of.

Then again, I don’t exactly feel bad for NBA players or other professional athletes. Many of them make in one year what I likely won’t even make in my whole lifetime. They are essentially paid to do what most of us would gladly do for free. They make a living playing a game. They travel for free. They never pay to get into anyplace. But their fame comes at a price. Just ask all the NFL players suffering from repetitive head trauma. Ask all the NBA players who deal with limited mobility for the rest of their lives after subjecting their bodies to repetitive strain and stress night in and night out.

I do realize that the first world problems hash tag could be appropriately inserted at this point, but maybe something still just doesn’t sit right with me about all of it. I’m not just upset about loyal fan bases losing their superstars, although that can be painful. I’m not just talking about being bitter that the Jazz didn’t get Jeff Teague or Derek Rose. It’s just a very bizarre concept to me that individuals can still be owned by billionaires. While this may also be true of politicians, at least they’re better at covering it up.