For whom the Belanger tolls
By Ryan Cooper
Since I had a mini car disaster and the streaming feed isn’t working on the Caps Rookie Scrimmage, I figured I would give a brief take on the whole Eric Belanger affair.
Steve Austin (the wrestler, not the Six Million Dollar Man) had one of the great catchphrases in the history of wrestling: “Don’t Trust Anybody” (shortened to the more marketable “DTA”). From all I’ve read in this case, Belanger, and more importantly, his agent, Joe Tacopina, legitimately seemed to believe that a loose, informal “verbal contract” was enough justification to uproot his life and move his family to this area. This turned out not to be the case, and Belanger signed this week with Phoenix (losing about a million dollars in the process), and the whole thing exploded on a post-burrito grande colonic level.
The Capitals, above all, are a corporation, and they are in the business of hockey. That’s the most important word here: “business.” Unfortunately, business and honor have never really had the best relationship (despite Teddy Roosevelt’s best efforts). In the world of sports especially, athletes are commodities. They are to be bought and sold, and while most players understand this, it seems Belanger does not. This is the world we live in, like it or not.
Why then, do I follow the Caps? The easy, and most apt answer is that they’ve entertained me for years, I love hockey, and they’re my local team. But I also learned years ago that concepts of honor do not mix with the business of sports, no matter how much prosthelytizing sportswriters (many of them with their own issues they conveniently ignore while determining “correct” standards of behavior for others) tell you otherwise. The world is not black and white. Businessmen will promise you things, and then renege. Handshake deals are made with one hand behind the back. The Game is The Game. Play, or be played.
The most insightful quote I have ever heard on the business of modern sports came from Barry Bonds: “The last game I played was in college. Ever since then, it’s been a business. This is a business.”
It’s too bad no one deigned to share this with Eric Belanger and Joe Tacopina before they decided to lease a house and bring his kids over here for school.
Box Seats blogger
September 17, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Categories: Capitals , Ryan Cooper | Tags: Capitals, Eric Belanger
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