Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Age Old Question: Loyalty in the Team or in the $$

By Steve Vitakis
We all remember what happened when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach. Jerseys were burned and fans from all over cried out, claiming how outrageous and disloyal he was to the team that had brought him into the league. What loyalty does a player truly have to their team? 
I often see friends post statuses and tweets about how angry or upset they are when their favorite athlete leaves their team. They question the player's loyalty to the team they had been on for years, declaring they are just in it for the money and that is why they left. Recently, one of my favorite players in the National Hockey League, Zach Parise, signed a 13-year deal with the Minnesota Wild. Being a Devils fan, I can definitely say that I am not upset or angry over this, but I am a bit disappointed he did not decide to stay in New Jersey. 
He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and played hockey there his whole life until his collegiate years at the University of North Dakota. From there, he was drafted 17th overall in the 2003 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils. After spending a year with the Albany River Rats, the Devil's American Hockey League affiliate, he joined the NHL roster during the 2005-2006 season and never looked back. After giving the team that drafted him his blood and sweat for many years and becoming team captain, he led the team to finish the season just two games short of winning the Stanley Cup against the Los Angeles Kings. The following offseason, Parise became one of the most sought after free agents in recent history with many teams calling for his talent. 
Zach Parise has developed into the complete package any NHL team would like to see in a top six forward on their roster and Minnesota was able to offer him the best situation. Not only does the deal give him long term security that any player looks for during the offseason, he is also able to be close to something that can be invisible to fans, his family. He will also get to play with one of his best friends, Ryan Suter, who signed a similar 13-year deal with the Wild. Suter, who was drafted 7th overall by the Nashville Predators in that same 2003 draft, left the music city as an unrestricted free agent after a playoff run to the Western Conference semifinals. Parise struck it rich this offseason and it is all because he was loyal to the one person that matters most: himself. 
LeBron James moved to a better situation for himself and so did Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and even Steve Nash, who just recently signed with the rival Los Angeles Lakers. Would you not move if another company offered you double salary and a better family situation?  These players looked at where they were at in their careers and what they were making and compared that to the new destinations and salaries. In the end, they chose what would be the best situation, not only for themselves to get a championship, but also for their families and friends. 
So yes, it is all right to be disappointed or upset when your favorite player leaves town for a better deal. However, there is no need to be angry or turn your back on a player you have loved watched for years. That is simply ridiculous. A player's loyalty will always be a tricky subject when how much money he makes and essentially his livelihood are at stake. We as fans need to remember that there is so much more to a player's life than the jersey on his back on opening day.

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