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A SERPENT IN THE GARDEN
When new Boston Celtic owner John Y. Brown called Marvin (I-Ain't-Starvin') Barnes to find out what he could do to make him hustle as he did in college and in his first year in the pros, he was ill-prepared for Barnes' response. Barnes asked Brown to delete the guaranteed-payment clause in his contract, which still had three seasons to run.
"I thought about it and decided that with the guaranteed clause off my contract, I would have to produce," Barnes says. "I knew Red Auerbach would cut me if I didn't." Then Barnes took a page from Lyman Bostock's book, claiming, "In fact, I told John if I had the money he paid me for last year [at Buffalo], I'd give it back to him. But I don't have it, I spent it." Hmmm.
Says Brown, who took Barnes up on his offer, "If there is anything that has taken away from teamwork, that has kept players from reaching out for their full potential, it is the long-term guaranteed contract. It still pays the athlete, even if he does nothing but show up for practice. We all need pressure. I need pressure. I'm not working as hard now as when I was out selling encyclopedias to get through college."
The above calls to mind a Doonesbury strip in which Zonker asks his begonia what it thinks of President Carter. Says the begonia, "I'm all for him. As long as he doesn't make good on his pledge to make government as nice as the American people.... I mean, the whole reason government exists in the first place is that people are not inherently unselfish and kind!"
The same can be said of athletes' contracts. But who ever listens to begonias?
He routinely drives a golf ball more than 300 yards, and no less an authority than 1975 U.S. Open champion Lou Graham says, "He's as long as anybody playing today, and longer than anybody on the tour right now."