I don't fool myself, I don't think. I was harshly disillusioned. Perhaps if my last experience in sport had been a successful one, if the Chaparrals had won the ABA championship, I would be babbling on now about what a wild, wacky, wonderful world sport truly is. The owners would be "sportsmen," the players and referees would be selfless professionals, the agents would be Samaritans donating to charity, and the sports pages would be living proof of the glory of the First Amendment. Maybe I'm just sour grapes—and then again, maybe it is good that I'm sour grapes, that somebody occasionally walks away with a sour taste.
Sport does not have to be reformed so much as it has to come to its senses. Players must be paid what can be afforded, not what is wanted, and they must start paying their dues to the fans instead of to their agents. I may be old-fashioned but I still believe that special position brings special responsibility. I am not an advocate of situational ethics. I do not suggest that players should profess to stand for things they do not, but it is nonetheless possible that they can be more positive and just as consistent. As a kid, a very poor kid, I mowed lawns and took that money so I could subscribe to
The Boston Globe
and read, in Dallas, about Ted Williams. He was my idol, and I admired the things I read about him. O.K., when Williams ended up in Texas, I found out that he could be a pretty surly, disagreeable guy. That revelation may have pained me some, but I'm sure, in the final analysis, that my misinterpretation of him was better for my life. He was a hero when I needed a hero.
Better, I believe, the hero syndrome than the anti-hero. And better that we have sport the way it is than no sport. Hopefully, we have bottomed out, but even if we haven't, even if sport grows worse, I know that every time the phone rings I am secretly hoping that it is somebody asking me to come back and be a part of the madness.
Of course, this time I'll get an agent and demand a no-cut and then I'll renegotiate....