Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rough Times Meant for Leaders Not Quitters

I never thought I would say this...but, I am disgusted by the Detroit Pistons.  Their recent "walkout" was as embarrassing of a move as there is and another display of a dangerous trend in sports, quitting.

I am as much of a Pistons homer as there is.  I have vowed to name my first son after members of the 2004 Championship team.  (Ladies, this means your future son could be Chauncey Rasheed Klemet or Tayshaun Elden Benjamin Klemet, any takers?)

But what has transpired over the past few weeks has dimmed the light on the one of the players that has shined so bright in my heart from my entire life.

When Richard Hamilton and his teammates decided they were going to "take a stand" and show up their head coach by not coming to practice, it was a black eye to the team, the franchise, and in a larger context sports and society.

Rip Hamilton is a veteran. He has been through the battles of the NBA.  He has been on All-Star teams and a champion at both the college and pro levels.  He should be an icon in the league and a leader for its younger players.

Instead, he is just another example of what is wrong with athletes today.  The ones that don't get what they want revert to childish behavior.  They cry, complain, and stomp their feet until matters are settled their way.

That type of mentality has resulted in incarcerations of Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress, draft busts like Michael Olowokandi and Korleone Young (who you ask? Exactly), and public humiliations like Tiger Woods and LeBron James.

What do these athletes all have in common?  They have been fed a golden spoon since the minute they threw their first TD or dunked their first basketball.

With every bite from that spoon, their egos grow to uncontrollable levels.  But, I don't blame them entirely.  Some of the blame needs to be pointed at what is lacking in the locker room, leadership.

The irony of Rip Hamilton is that he was a member of maybe the greatest TEAM in history.  The 2004 Pistons had no business beating the Hall-of-Fame filled Lakers.  They weren't more talented, they didn't have home court advantage, they didn't have finals experience.  But, they had heart and determination, and above all, leadership.

The Pistons had leaders who were willing to grind out wins no matter how daunting the task.  Chauncey Billups was a fighter.  Ben Wallace was a warrior.  Tayshaun Prince was a hustler. Lindsey Hunter was a rock.

My favorite quote from the 'Stones title run came from Mr. Big Shot.  Chauncey said after a win "If it ain't rough, it ain't right."

What a motto!  It was a modern day "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

The problem with athletes today is that when times get tough, players quit.

Rip Hamilton is a quitter.

The Pistons are a terrible team this year.  They are destined for another early summer and a spot in the draft lottery.  It can't be fun to be in that locker room when the losses pile up higher than crack rocks on Charlie Sheen's coffee table.

With every failure is a chance to grow.

Rip Hamilton should use this challenging season as an opportunity to teach and lead.  Last time I checked, the Pistons weren't exactly the toast of the NBA before they won the title in '04.  They were knocked out of the Eastern Finals year-after-year-after-year.  It was excruciating to watch as a fan, and had to be ten times worse as a player.

But instead of folding, the Pistons put on their hard hats, grabbed their lunch pales and, as their motto read, "went to work."

Apparently work stops when the winning does.

Hamilton is blowing a chance of cementing his greatest legacy, as a mentor in the sport.

Leadership in the NBA, and the majority of major sports, is eroding.  Players want all the glory to themselves and are not looking out for the betterment of the future of the league by teaching young guys how to conduct themselves appropriately. 

If LeBron had better role models in the locker room, do you think he would have made so many poor off-season "decisions." I don't.

If someone stepped up and took Mike Vick under their wing and told him the dangers of living recklessly, as opposed to stroking his ego because he was an elite talent, do you think he would have spent a-year-and-a-half of his life confined between prison walls?  I don't.

If someone pulled Tiger aside in the clubhouse and told him to focus more on his putting and not his pants putter, do you think he would have ended up taking a three wood to the face?  I don't

There is more to being a professional athlete than just stats, money, and fame.  Financial success and notoriety are certainly rewards for talent, but with that comes responsibility, the greatest of which is giving back to the league that has afforded them these riches.   Helping others get better and improving their career and lives is what is most important.  Athletes have the perfect stage to do that for their teammates and kids everywhere.

Rip Hamilton, and every athlete that is more concerned with how to get that next big contract, should take a good, hard look in the mirror and takes steps into helping their teammates mature into champions on and off the court.

If they don't, in ten years when the next Rip Hamilton comes along, we can expect even more immature behavior, because there was no one guiding them on the right path from the beginning. 

It won't only be leadership eroding, but sports crumbling as a whole.

No comments:

Post a Comment