Time To Pay The Players

With the NHL playoffs upon us (and the Maple Leafs hopefully being in them), I’ve been playing NHL ’17 on Xbox One to deal with the fever.  As a gamer and sports fan, the greatest addition to games is the “Be A Player” mode where I created myself as a young center in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

My virtual self suits up for the Sherbrooke Phoenix, because my favorite hockey player of all-time, Jocelyn Thibault is the General Manager.

Anyway, as the season progresses your general game play is “graded” based upon certain categories and of course your skills develop based upon the grade.  The end goal being that you get a call that you’ve been drafted into the big show to play for the grand prize – the Stanley Cup.

Along the way you are given the chance to fight if you are challenged (or you will be pushed into fighting if you deliver a brutal hit on a defenseless opponent), the opportunity for more ice time if you are passing and scoring well, a disappointing paragraph on a menu from the coach if you don’t defend and other chances to make an impact.

Midway through your draft-able season, you may get the call to the CHL top prospects game as my player did.  I was assigned to the white team and I drew the top line against the red team.  Somewhere during the first period after a stoppage in play, I began to look at the “Be A Player” mode differently.

One of my linemates must have disliked someone on the other team and a fight broke out.  Hey – old hockey joke huh?  All I could think about was 17 year olds fighting in front of NHL scouts to show that they should be drafted.  I have never been or seen the real CHL top prospects game but I know that as a teenager you want to be in the NHL and you’ll do whatever it takes to get there.

But these aren’t just any teenagers.  These kids are being paid a stipend and they cannot accept a scholarship to an American school because of it.  Think about that for a moment.  This is a double edged blade.

It’s wonderful that they are getting paid for bringing in revenue for their club but at the same time it comes with a consequence.  They must now realize they can’t go to the States and play college hockey.  Most realize their options are better in the CHL, however should that not pan out, there has to be some consideration for the future too.

This past week I saw former Houston Texans running back Arian Foster talk about the NCAA and how he can’t even watch college football anymore.  The NCAA system is broken.  In March, billions in revenue are generated for the NCAA by advertisers in what is known as “March Madness.”  The basketball players for the schools do not see any of that money but some of the coaches at these schools are paid millions to do one thing: teach x’s and o’s.

Then there is college football.  The college bowl system is the same way and some coaches are the highest paid state employees.  They also get athletic gear contracts and some coaches even have radio shows.  Meanwhile, athletes on scholarship can’t participate in work study or accept the same things that normal students could.

In fact, Foster has spoken in the past about asking his former coach at the University of Tennessee Phillip Fulmer to bring him something to eat because the dining hall was closed and he had no money.  This was against the NCAA rules but Foster came from a family that was poor – if it wasn’t for the scholarship he wouldn’t have had the funds to go to college.

We hear the stories of athletes going from college or high school to the NFL or the NBA and blowing it all.  They end up being broke but why can’t they get a stipend in college to help them understand how to manage it?  Getting that money in the CHL helps the young players know that when it is gone, it is gone and no one is going to give you anything.

The NCAA is no longer an amateur league and it’s not going to go back to being one.  With advertisers involved and athletic companies sponsoring everything there’s no way to believe that money doesn’t run college sports.  It’s long past time to let the kids who help print the cash for the “amateur” system get their piece of the pie – or else we need to take the money out of the system.

Playoffs?  You kidding me? Playoffs?

I’ve kinda been swirling this idea around and giving it thought the more I watch the Rangers  in the NHL playoffs.  I keep thinking to myself that I must be into punishment especially after watching them in the first two rounds muck their way through.

I know it’s not just Rangers fans though, it’s every sports fan.  There’s some bit of us that must enjoy the misery of the ups and the downs of the season.  While your team is winning the championship mine is sitting in the dump but I’m coming back next year.  Why exactly is that?

Is it the promise of another year?  I could know my team isn’t going to win again but I’ll be back.  Is it because I’m a “true fan?”  What does that even mean?  What does that even give you?  The right to thump your chest loudly?  We are all fans of our respective teams differently and we show it in our own ways.

I’d like to believe we come back each season because there’s something addictive about the game.  There’s something that tied us to our team and to a player and every year that player is doing their best to win.  But there’s always someone else trying to make their own name on the scene.  No one plays forever, injuries occur frequently and popularity fades.  Sports can be such a nasty demanding industry.

But as fans we eat it up.  Every day on our tvs and cell phones and computers and Xm radios and tablets.  We play it on the consoles and fantasy sports.  We wear jerseys and other gear.  There’s magazines and books and trading cards and those oddly addictive Panini stickers!  How much can we want?  More!  We want interviews and quotes and videos and behind the scenes and highlights and specials.  We’re so addicted to these sports and athletes that maybe we live our dreams through them?

Do we come back every year to win with our team?  Wishing it was us?  Do we even think about it?  Or do we just slip on the jersey and turn on the game?  What’s there to think about right? It’s our team and we have to support them!  I just wonder if you knew now that your team was never going to win a Championship in your lifetime would you still support them?  There’s lots of people who would say yes right off the bat without thinking about it.  Playoffs are one thing but knowing for one day your team could claim the title, something that you could celebrate, but knowing it would never happen would you still support that team?  Sports is funny like that cause you never know do you?