You Can’t Retire Here

Marcus Trufant, a NFL player, announced very recently that he will retire — as a Seattle Seahawk. But Marcus Trufant was not in a Seahawks’ uniform this past year. Actually he was released in the final preseason cuts last year and ended up signing a one year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the offseason. But Trufant was and is a Seahawk at heart. Every year he played (but this past year) he wore that uniform with pride. Trufant is a Tacoma Native, attended Washington State University, and then was drafted as a first round pick by the Seahawks in 2003 (Blount). In order to retire with his pride and with the team he loved, he announced that he will sign a one-day contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Thus now he can “officially retire”.

Signing one-day contracts with teams is becoming more and more common in today’s professional sports. No longer is it seen in just football, but the MLB is allowing players to sign one year contracts more frequently. Take the instance of Hideki Matsui who signed a one-day contract with the Yankees so he could retire with his former team. A team which he had had won countless honors including being named the World Series MVP in 2009. Another case is Jerry Rice. Jerry Rice spent his last years in the NFL on multiple different teams and announced his retirement in 2005. After a year off doing other things (like Dancing with the Stars – I mean come on), he re-retired in 2006 by signing a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49s (where he had spent a bulk of his career) for a deal of $1,985,806.49. The number honored his rookie season (1985), his uniform number (80), his retirement year (’06) and the 49ers (Caccicola, 2013). Yet, Rice didn’t see any of this money, it was all for show — as are all of these one-day signings.

One-day signings are primarily for a certain type of athlete; an athlete who had spent a majority of their professional career with one team, and one that may have been an icon of that city and of that city’s sport team. The athlete is decides to sign a contract for a meaningless return, ultimately so that they can look back on their career with that team and remember how meaningful that time/team was to them. The one-day contract is a rite of passage – one that the athlete feels is important as they retire and end their professional career. I personally see it as the athlete wanting to go out on top — as a hero — with all the accolades that they may have received on that team. Some critics argue though that it is becoming too common; that athletes who had bounced around during their career, never really spent time with a single team are basically allowed to sign a one-year contract with a team of their choosing. The team they choose is the one that will define them they feel as a football player, or a baseball player. But is that really fair? To be completely honest, I’m torn on the topic.

I do believe that a lot of the one-day contracts are for the media, for the publicity and for the fame, for a majority of the athletes. That the Professional Sport leagues use these athletes as an example, to make profit off of and build their fan base and fan loyalty even more. As Guilianotti states, “elite athletes are on market-building missions when they salute crowds after victories” (Giulianotti 39) and I agree; them signing a contract with a team they feel that benefitted most from them and they benefited most off of, this signing of a contract is their salute to the crowd. Teams are willing to honor that because of the publicity it could bring. This is about athletes going out on top, and to be honored and applauded once again by the same people that witnessed them when they were at their best.

But on the other hand I do see cases like Marcus Trufant who spent almost his entire career as a Seahawk wanting to retire with a jersey on that had special meaning to him. These athletes are finishing their careers with pride and dignity, and they deserve to retire how they want – but I don’t believe everyone should have access to this. I think there needs to be guidelines for how professional sports handle it, and how they choose who deserves this honor. If there are guidelines then it is not based on the pride of the athlete who solely seeks to boost his ego. How we go about this, I’m not sure? But I think something needs to be figured out sooner rather than later.

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Let Us Play

      Four. That’s right, count em’, four. Across the country there are only four Women professional softball teams. On the other hand there are 30 baseball teams, and countless farm programs that feed in to the major leagues. But only four women teams, each carrying a roster of around 20 females that exist in this country. That makes about only 80 females with the chance to pursue softball past college and at the top level of the sport within the United States.

      In 2005, the International Olympic Committee eliminated both baseball and softball from the Olympics, and in 2013, they were up for evaluation for re- admittance into the Olympics but lost out to Wrestling (which let us be honest, should have never been taken out of the Olympics in the first place). Baseball has it’s MLB. Men get to continue on and play baseball for many more years to come — but for women, it’s college ball and then after that, very few get to continue on. As Messner states, “The center is a position occupied by the biggest, wealthiest, and most visible sports programs and athletes. It is a site of domination and privilege. It is the major focal point of the gaze of millions of fans and spectators.” And more times than not, that center is men’s sports. The Olympics were the major world showcase for softball. The US women had three gold medals and were considered dominant until the Olympics were ripped away from them. As one of the players stated (Jessica Mendoza), “we were never given a chance to grow,” ”Gosh, we’re babies when it comes to the Olympics. Then we’re gone.”

       So while there is a USA softball team, what do they have to work for? No longer do the women have a goal of going to the Olympics and representing their country on a big stage. Instead they’re scared for what comes next…what happens after college? After their four years in school? Sports are supposed to provide opportunities for women and girls. Yet how is this going to happen? How are women supposed to pursue their dream when there isn’t a professional league for them to continue on, and there are no Olympic goals left? We as a society look forward to the Major League Baseball season, because it’s a homegrown sport and “America’s Pastime”. But softball is becoming more and more popular as time passes, and the sport will continue to grow. So shouldn’t we as a society grow with it? And encourage young females to keep having that dream of being a professional athlete? I strongly believe that we need to expand the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) League to more than just four teams. We need to break the institutions that are put in place, and see these females as the hard working, tough athletes that they are; that we as a society can believe that these females are as important and entertaining to watch as men are. Women sports are often pushed to the margins and are often left behind, which is exactly what has happened to women’s softball. In order to change this, the institutional centers have to be destabilized. That’s why Title IX was introduced, and acted as a resistant agency. Women athletic leagues act as a way “through which women have empowered themselves to fight against and change the institutions that oppress them” (Messner 87).

      Softball needs this change to continue. We, as a sport, need society to see how much work we put in as athletes to perfect our sports and to compete at the highest level. The commodification of sports is at an all-time high, so why not capitalize on this and put marketing into a fast growing sport such as softball? As the league website states, “NPF, formerly the Women’s Pro Softball League, is intended to provide family entertainment for people of all ages and to showcase the top talent in fastpitch softball today.  It is the goal of the League to entertain and provide positive role models for young people. NPF demonstrates work ethic, dedication, and love for the sport of fastpitch softball.” With the support they are seeking like ”The development partnership with Major League Baseball, the broadcast support of local and national networks, the support of industry sponsors, the experience and commitment of team owners and the exceptional talent of NPF athletes and coaches combine and point toward a future that is bright and full of promise.” There is just that… a future full of promise for the sport, and I cannot wait to see that happen in the years to come so that one day my kids will be able to enjoy the beautiful sport on a more national scale. 

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Jersey Kits for Everyone

        It’s that time of year again – Major League Soccer season has officially begun. Starting on March 8th, every team has officially played a conference opponent, and the teams are in full swing. Yet, let’s be honest the season started way before then. Players have not only been practicing, traveling and playing scrimmages but also have been participating in media interviews, photo shoots and club promotions.  No longer are teams and players supposed to focus on just the sport aspect, but instead the clubs and league are focused on revenue, and publicity – basically anything to get their revenue up or in other words, “elite athletes are on market-building missions when they salute crowds after victories or publicize sponsors’ products during media interviews” (Giulianotti 39).

        MLS has a 200$ million ($25 million annually), multi-year contract (until 2018) with Adidas that states that Adidas will be the only, and official athletic sponsor and product supplier. What this means is that each and every team will be outfitted by Adidas gear, and every game ball will be stamped with the Adidas logo. As MLS becomes more and more popular, so does Adidas — “Athletes have always been tied in other forms of consumerism” (Guilianotti 39). In 2007, they sold $300,000 worth of David Beckham jerseys. Jerseys are the key to money making, so why not capitalize on it? As it is “hard to imagine these athletes being valued so differently within a post capitalist society freed from instrumental reason” (Guilianotti 36). Welcome newly instated “jersey week.”

         Jersey week was first started in 2013 during the month of February. This week was implemented and created to have social events for MLS clubs to introduce their new jersey to the country. The first year, 11 local events were held where MLS clubs unveiled a new primary, secondary, or third jersey. To kick start the whole ordeal, a national event took place in New York. Maribeth Towers, the senior vice president of consumer products for MLS stated,

“Soccer supporters are extremely passionate about everything involving their club, but the jersey might be first and foremost. It is the crest that is closest to their heart. Jersey Week will celebrate the soccer jersey. Every stitch, every minor detail, every shade is designed in collaboration between the club and our partner at adidas. We’re excited to unveil Jersey Week for our supporters.”

So why not use this to their advantage and get something out of it? This is exactly what they did.

            This year, all 19 MLS clubs unveiled at least one new jersey, and will continue to do so every single year. Presales for the jerseys were being offered even before they had been released to the public and websites all over have followed the release parties and news. It’s a genius idea, one that capitalizes on the die-hard soccer fans that will do anything to support their team. Even if this means spending hundreds of dollars on a new jersey kit for themselves. I’m not sure if any of you guys have ever been to an MLS game, specifically one in the PNW – the Sounders and the Timbers having some of the largest fan bases (and craziest fans) in the league, but I know walking around in one of those stadiums, the new jerseys are going to be everywhere. The fans waited patiently for this Jersey week and for their teams new kits to be released so that they could not only ogle over them but snatch them up and wear them with pride.

            The league and Adidas are geniuses. They created the suspense by creating this jersey week, a time period where all the jerseys were to be released at once, and nothing was to be mentioned before this time. They created publicity events where they had their players model the jerseys and sign autographs. They pulled out all the stops in order to make some money, and commodify a sport that the public has grown to love. But if people are willing, it only makes sense. In a society where everything revolves around money, and the competitiveness to be popular, having the best, new thing is important; and someone has to be supply for the public’s need. So thank you MLS and Adidas for capitalizing on the capitalist culture America has become, and playing into our weakness. We may be broke, but we’ll look great in a new jersey every year.

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