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Editor's column: A new policy among the pros

September 18, 2010
By Per Peterson

There were a couple of refreshing - strange, but refreshing - items that surfaced this past week from the professional sports ranks. Even if you don't follow sports and have no clue why guards pull and tackles don't tackle, these things deserve your attention, if for no other reason than you might not ever see anything like this again.

First, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the franchise the world has forgotten about, took out a full page ad in the Star and Tribune and flat out declared that it's "not likely" the team will challenge for an NBA title this year. That's like telling a friend her blind date this weekend is lazy, unemployed and kinda smells a little.

It might've been the understatement of this young century, but in an effort to reach out to its fan base and get them back into the seats, the team has decided to take an honest approach in its off-season marketing instead of trying to snow the fans into thinking they could be good this year.

The fans know better, and the Wolves hope they appreciate the honesty to the point that they'll snatch up some season tickets. If this isn't a last-ditch, desperation move, I don't know what is. But it could also be a marketing coup. And perhaps it will start a trend: "Hey fans, trust us, we won't be good this year; we have no superstars on the team and there are better things you and your family could do with 300 bucks."

The Wolves already know there are no expectations of them this winter, so telling fans it's unlikely they'll compete for a championship is no stretch, but give the public relations department credit for not trying to put lipstick on this oinker of a basketball team.

Then there's former Viking running back Chester Taylor, who when asked by Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter why he left Minnesota to play for Chicago, said, "the money, first and foremost."

Whoa! - an athlete admitting he made a decision based on money? Did I?just see a pig fly over the building?

Playing behind Adrian Peterson, Taylor could've said he left for a chance to start; that's what we expect him to tell us. But he pulled a fast one, didn't he?

So often - as in every news conference involving a player moving to another team - we hear athletes proclaim: "It's not about the money, money had nothing to do with it," and we roll our eyes so hard they almost get stuck.

"Yeah, right," we say. Then our perception of today's athlete sinks even deeper, because we don't like to be lied to.

But Taylor did something so few athletes today don't dare: He openly admitted leaving one team for another for strictly financial reasons. You can't not give him credit for that. That took guts.

Taylor knows fans aren't idiots. He knows that we know that players, despite telling us how much they want to stay, move from city to city in the endless pursuit of that one mega contract that will satisfy them and set them up for the rest of their lives. And their kids. And their kids' kids. And we can't blame them for doing so. Wouldn't you do the same?

But we do get upset - or at least mildly irritated - when these athletes look the camera in the eye and say, with a straight face, "It was never about the money."

Could this be a new trend in professional sports, a new standard-setting policy? It would be nice to think so. Too bad for every one Chester Taylor there are 100 Brett Favres out there who tell us, almost subconsciously: "It's not about the money."?

By then it's too late to save face.



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