Charles Woodson doesn’t have a football job.
Donald Driver just retired from his.
Greg Jennings is likely headed for a short stay on the unemployment line.
It’s that time of year when you realize there are major differences in the way fans feel about “their” teams and the way it is viewed by those that play for and manage those teams.
Pro football, as they say, is a business.
And that sucks.
Those of you who have read my writings before have obviously picked up on the fact that I am a Green Bay Packers fan. You should easily understand then why I am less than tickled about what has happened in the past couple of weeks and what will take place in the not-so-distant future.
Last week, the Packers held a grand celebration as Donald Driver retired as Green Bay’s all-time leading receiver. Packers officials lauded Driver for his contributions to the team and the community, and civic leaders handed him the key to city and named a street after him. Driver spoke glowingly about his time in the Green and Gold.
It was a feel good event, but I couldn’t help noticing that everyone was ignoring the elephant in the room:
The man they were honoring was being pushed out the door by the same people who were singing his praises.
The day after Valentine’s day, the Packers press machine was cranking out the love for defensive back Charles Woodson. They listed all of his on-field accomplishments, lauded his leadership, and spoke glowingly of what he brought to the franchise during his tenure in Titletown.
Of course, all of these accolades were included in the press release announcing that the Pack had sacked the Green Bay icon and released him from his contract.
And, unless something totally unforeseen happens, wide receiver Greg Jennings will be offered a contract well below his value and allowed to enter free agency. This, despite the fact that, when healthy, he is one of the best receivers in the game.
Obviously, the players and team management have their own bottom lines that they need to consider, and the fiscal health of the teams and the financial future of the players and their families play a major role in these decisions. There is no argument there.
But, in times like these, it seems like the fans have a monopoly in one aspect of the team-fans relationship:
It is possibly, make that probably, impossible for teams to assure that fan favorites will play their entire careers for the same team. But it would be nice to see both sides work to make that happen.
If a player’s physical abilities are starting to wane with age, you would think that both sides could come to an agreement that would satisfy the needs of both parties. And, in many cases, even if a player can’t run as fast, jump as high, throw as accurately, or hit as hard, he can often provide leadership and mentoring that younger players need.
I know that my feelings and hopes about such matters are pie-in-the-sky dreams, but dammit most of a fan’s allegiance to his or her team is based on dreams.
And when a Donald Driver is forced into retirement or a Charles Woodson is released or a Greg Jennings is allowed to walk away, the differences are very clear.
To those who work in it, pro football is a business. To the fans, the team is like a family.
And, like all families, you always love them.
But, there are some days when you don’t like them very much.