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There are many more examples. When he took the head coaching job, Unseld asked Pollin to reinstitute what had been a Bullet tradition during Unseld's playing days, the Pollin Christmas party, at Pollin's house. "We needed to build some endearment," says Unseld.
One day Unseld spent hours in a studio, cutting a season's worth of Bullet commercials.
To stir up ticket sales for a four-game package at Baltimore Arena, Unseld gives an annual clinic for businessmen—the Make You Sweat Happy Hour. At the NBA league meetings every summer, Unseld takes the Bullets' front-office folks out for dinner. The family dinner, he calls it. "It's hard to go to league meetings and listen to other club executives say, 'We can't get our coach to do anything for us,' " says O'Malley. "Wes does all this, and he has never taken a dime for it."
The results show: Bullet season-ticket sales are up from 4,000 in 1989-90 to 5,000 in '90-91 to 6,000 this season despite a decline in the standings throughout that period. "Loyalty is like anything else in the game," says Unseld. "It's something you need. You've got to have some shooters. You've got to have some horses up front. You've got to have some runners. You've got to have a man down low. You've got to have unselfishness. And you've got to have loyalty.
"That's where I come in. I've got to work hard to earn the loyalty of the players and to make them loyal toward each other. You can't be a bad guy on a team that's not very good. We're not very good right now. We need a group of guys who will give you everything they've got."
"There's a lot of internal dilemmas that we're living with as a society," says George Sage, a sociology and kinesiology professor at Northern Colorado who has written about the demise of loyalty in sports. "This compulsive quest for material things and status competes in our minds with the traditional moral and ethical things we've been told are right."
The internal dilemmas in sports today make loyalty increasingly rare. But some people, as we see, dare to be different.
"You hear the stories that people aren't loyal or moral," says Eric Wagner, who has taught a sociology of sports class at Ohio University for 15 years. "But there is what I call a quiet America, which is still pretty moralistic and loyal. I think there are still some athletes like that." There are.