Marlins and Other Sucker Fish

As I sit here looking at the paper (yes, I still read the paper when I’m on the road), I note the Miami Marlins are in full command of the NL East basement. Right now, the best thing they have going for them is their spiffy logo. Still, they are major league ball players, many of them are multi-millionaires and they possess a skill set that most of us mere mortals can only dream about.

Miami Marlins UniformI need to say something else at the outset of this blog without sounding like a wannabe or another term I can’t use for public consumption; I know several athletes and for the most part they are decent human beings. Teaching and consulting on ethics isn’t about just working with bad guys. It is about helping other human beings who may be in an ethical jam. Am I bothered by their high salaries? No, I am not.

Hey listen, two years ago I had my knee scoped. You should have seen the bill the orthopedic surgeon sent to the insurance company. My knee works pretty well now. This morning I went to the coffee shop and saw a customer order one of those large, gooey, crappy drinks. It cost her about five bucks. Point is, in this economy people get what they can get, with all the bells and whistles.

Let’s now switch to “fans.”

Mere mortals a.k.a. fans

Fans can be jerks at times but for the most part, fans connect to their teams out of passion and pride and that’s a good thing. I am one of those people. If you’re a fan, you already know all that.

Last week, the Miami Marlins held what they called a “Fish ‘N Chips Casino Party.” Fans paid $100 for a single person and $175 for a couple to have the opportunity (they thought) to be in the vicinity of their favorite Marlins players. Why would they plunk down that kind of money? They are fans.

The official announcement stated:

“Please join the Marlins Foundation for an evening of fun and stakes at the Craps, Blackjacks, Roulette, Poker and Domino tables as you rub elbows with your favorite Marlins players, coaches and alumni. Enjoy a night filled with hors d’oeuvres, open bars, dancing and entertainment, with the breathtaking view of downtown Miami.”

The fans thought they would get to meet players because the team foundation told them so. No player showed. Not one active Marlins player so much as put in a five minute appearance. Please, let us save the mock outrage for a minute.

The Age of Big Money

There was a time, maybe 1936 or so, when players appreciated fans a little more, but they have learned many hard lessons since then. Perhaps network television is to blame; perhaps it is endorsement money; appearance fees; apparel contracts or arbitration disputes. Perhaps, as 1936 turned into 1956, the players realized that for all of that good will and outreach they gave, they were retiring with nothing in return.

The really easy stance for me to take is to take a shot at the players for being no-shows that night. I won’t go there. Here’s why:

Athletes know their career is finite. Does an athlete owe the tens of thousands of his team’s fans his or her unlimited time? I don’t think so. If a man can get $10 million for playing 162 games, good for him. On the field he owes everyone to put in his best effort; off the field, he owes his time to his family, friends and to a point, the community in which he plays (but only to a point).

I noted the other day that players on the Cleveland Indians shaved their heads in support of teammate Mike Avile’s daughter as she fights leukemia. That was a damn nice thing to do and also a very human thing to do. They are human beings too, you see. They were supporting a co-worker.

This leads me back to the Marlins organization itself. Who in the foundation wrote: “rub elbows with your favorite Marlins players?” Was it the players who wrote it? The coaches? Was it their representatives? Or was it someone who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the players?

Could the statement have been PR hype? I am inclined to think so. Before we drag the players through a bunch of “mud,” for not showing, let us understand what really happened.

The problem is that many fans believed the players would show, and they plunked down $100 bucks a piece for the fantasy. I feel bad for them, but I also feel bad for people who pay $5 for a coffee drink because they think it will make them happy.

At least the foundation money goes to a charity; maybe it will help a child with leukemia or another worthwhile cause. Fans, the night was not wasted – and what you did was also a damn nice thing as well.


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