All sports fans are essentially selfish bastards, and I’m no exception. Our “love” for a player usually only extends as far as their ability and production will allow. If they’re performing well, we’ll defend them to the hilt… once they start disappointing us, though, we’ll say more vile things about them than we ever would about a “real person”. Bringing us a championship or two is pretty much the only way to guarantee as much as a successful car dealership in the future.
But, after the initial shock of watching Matt Forte limp off the field Sunday after clutching his knee for a while, I found myself not focusing on the dissipation of the Bears playoff chances (I think Caleb Hanie and Marion Barber can beat the Seahawks and Vikings, which is pretty much all they need to do since their competition keeps losing… and their chance of making a run to the Super Bowl ended when Cutler broke his finger, anyway). I found myself feeling legitimately badly for a player.
It looks now like it was nothing worse than a sprain. But, during the hours when the Bears recent luck had me convinced it was some kind of tear, I kept wondering how Forte could be so stupid as to not holdout and fix his horrible contract.
Holdouts are catnip for sports writers, allowing them to rail against the ungratefulness of The Professional Athlete. Contracts are your word… and why should athletes get better than all the regular Joe’s out there… and don’t they know how lucky they are, anyway. Chris Johnson was crucified for holding out earlier this season, and his slow start was seen as evidence of the stupidity of giving in to his demands (however, not many people are talking about that now). Forte was seen as the angel to Johnson’s devil, getting patronizing praise for knowing his place in a way a writer from different circumstances might construe as having racial undertones.
But, if Forte’s knee injury had been career-ending or even super-serious, he would have been completely fucked. No NFL owner was going to give him even a dollar in sympathy. A quarter-inch could have cost him tens of millions of dollars. Now, I know the Peter King response… nobody’s promised tens of millions of dollars… let him get a job at McDonald’s like lots of other people. Well, fuck you, Imaginary Peter.
Forte has a skill that has made the Chicago Bears lots of money, in jersey sales and tickets and concessions and television and lots of other ancillary streams, far more money than the 600K he’s made this year. Before that, he made Tulane lots of money, far more money than the 150K he got in “education” and dorm rooms. He’s in the business that is almost inevitably all he was ever trained for, and he’s already past the average life span in the NFL.
Any agent who can’t talk his client into holding out when a better deal is deserved should show Forte’s hit intercut with shots of the McCaskey family sipping white wine in their booth. And maybe a clock showing how many seconds until Jerry Angelo started making phone calls to find a replacement. And the x-ray of Forte’s knee showing how far away he was from getting $0 going forward. And, of course, the compromising photos of Reilly and King in flagrante delicto to guarantee they won’t be too mean.