The Variables of Playing the Loyalty Card

By Chris Lauderback on July 13, 2010 at 7:00 am
Burn the jersey in effigy?Wonder how this ceremony unfolds today?

Watching the train wreck that was the free agency of LeBron James, I was left to wonder exactly what the world has come to. You'd think by now, fans would be smart enough to realize "loyalty" was deemed virtually extinct many years ago as the need for championships, money and fame combined with the growing influence of the media put a choke hold on big time collegiate and professional sports and therefore, fans should be able to avoid being shocked when another "disloyal" act unfolds.

Further, and more painfully, I kept trying to figure out why fans and programs/organizations can be so hypocritical when it comes to playing the loyalty card. Let's face it, variables such as how good a player/coach is, what they've accomplished, what they've promised, how they are received before the disloyal act, and most importantly, how the loyalty or lack thereof impacts the program/franchise involved are all moving targets when it comes to destroying a player/coach for disloyalty.

As it stands, I think it's unanimous in that everyone feels LeBron handled his free agency in a classless manner. The staged announcement and the perception his mind was made up months ago are just two of the many examples of his embarrassing behavior. Additionally, it seems nearly as unanimous that leaving Cleveland was considered a disloyal act in and of itself. This, in my opinion, is where the hypocrisy comes in. Doesn't it strike you as a bit hypocritical that the same fans killing LeBron for leaving his hometown team as a free agent (after fulfilling two contracts) to join what he thinks will be a more competitive team are some of the same fans that were eagerly hoping Tom Izzo would be disloyal to Sparty after 15 years of service and takeover as the Cavs head coach? How is one situation different from the other? Dan Gilbert tried to pull a guy away from a place he spent the last 15 years building into an elite program and no Cavs fans seemed upset that Gilbert would try such a thing - and that guy was even under contract. Conversely, Cavs fans are losing their minds over LeBron's free agent disloyalty. And what if Lebron had endorsed Izzo? I think it's fair to say 99% of Cavs fans would've been totally on board with Izzo's lack of loyalty to Michigan State.

Whatever. This post isn't intended to be about LeBron. It's intended to gauge your loyalty meter as it pertains to your favorite college football program. I'm curious to understand where you feel the loyalty card comes in to play with the below real and fictitious scenarios and how you think you'd react to each.

Scenario: Jim Tressel decides to take the Browns job Sure, none of us expect to see Tressel do anything other than retire as the head coach at Ohio State but what if it didn't pan out that way? Hypothetically, what if Tressel came up short in pursuit of a national title this year then decided to take the Browns job causing OSU to lose their head coach, a chunk of the staff and a portion of incoming recruits? Would you consider this a disloyal act? Why or why not? Would you take into account Tressel's classy track record and accomplishments or would you feel betrayed?

Scenario: Existing reality of players leaving early for the NFL In some cases, the players who choose to leave early would've benefited from another year of polish and there's no question we as fans would've benefited from another year of service given by the likes of Pace, Springs, Ginn, Beanie, Pittman, Gamble, Gibson etc.

Do you feel any or all them were disloyal in leaving Ohio State prior to completing their collegiate eligibility? If not, what about the fact that they didn't fulfill their full 4 years is acceptable in your mind? Does your opinion hinge on whether each player "gave enough" to the university from a wins/losses standpoint? Or maybe you look at their existing draft projection at time of departure to justify the decision?

Scenario: Justin Boren leaves Michigan to join their most hated rival This one should test your loyalty card consistency. Here's a guy that was born in Ohio to a Michigan legacy father, Mike, who led Michigan in tackles twice in the early 80's. After committing to and playing for Michigan, he then opted to transfer to Ohio State after Rich Rod was brought in to destroy the once proud program.

Was Boren disloyal for leaving the school he committed to or does he get a free pass because he didn't commit to the current coaching staff? Does that even matter to you because admittedly all you care about is winning games and OSU is a better team with Boren at guard?