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Pendulum finally starts swinging the way of sanity

November 29, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

Life is a pendulum.

No matter how far either swings to one side, it will eventually get back to center.

On clocks, the swing of a pendulum is just counting seconds. And at the end of that second, the pendulum is usually straight to the ground with no leaning to one side or another.

In life, sometimes it takes a lot longer to get back to that middle ground ... like days, months, years and decades.

In sports, the battle to move the pendulum has always been an ongoing tug-of-war.

Two examples that have kept the sports world swinging back and forth from side to side are the Hall of Fame ban on Pete Rose and the controversy of steroids and the punishments for those using them.

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Those are battles that are very much forums for public opinion.

But two recent swings have proven to be punishing blows as sports owners have knocked some of the wind out of the players' ever-growing sails.

First came the NBA dress code, followed by the arbitration decision on Terrell Owens' suspension by the Philadelphia Eagles.

With the dress code, the NBA made a stand to regain needed control.

The NBA enjoyed a hey-day that came to an abrupt halt with the first retirement of Michael Jordan. In Jordan, the league had it all - grace, power, presence and image wrapped up in one Chicago Bulls uniform.

Jordan became everything that was good about the NBA and it was cultivated into a huge marketing tool for himself and the league. Whenever Jordan sipped a Gatorade on TV, you thought about the NBA.

In the process, Jordan followed and embraced the traditions of the NBA which came before him. He followed the leads of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who followed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who followed Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson and the many other players who set the standard that carried the NBA to its heights.

Those heights included proper public behavior and personal presentation in dress and actions.

Once Jordan retired, there was no one to accept the torch that was being passed.

Owners began losing control to the will of players, thanks to union dealings and a general change of what was being accepted as style in society.

Over the course of time, the NBA fell off its lofty perch of greatness. It still has a huge following, but it isn't the draw it used to be. It has fallen on hard times, like most sports.

For whatever reasons, be it business or image, the dress code is helping the owners regain some of the say in how the league they control runs.

Some label the dress code as racist or a gag on personal freedoms of expression. Some call it good business.

Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for the good of everyone involved.

The Owens decision was a more emphatic statement of pulling in the reins on the boorish behavior displayed by some of today's athletes.

Owens is a gifted athlete who has taken the right of self-expression to an ugly art form and, in the process, has cultivated a number of wannabes.

He was a catalyst in getting the Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX, but Philadelphia made it through the playoffs without him.

He professed his dominance of his position, but he can't do much until someone throws him the ball.

He demanded a new contract through the public forum, but the Eagles didn't budge from their stance.

So instead of negotiating, Owens decided to make a public nuisance of himself. Instead of getting support for his cause, he became a laughingstock and detriment to himself and the team for which he was playing.

He was a circus act. News organizations would seek him out because he couldn't help saying something outrageous.

For his actions, Owens earned a four-game suspension which ended Sunday. Now, his playing time is in the hands of coach Andy Reid, who doesn't feel like he needs Owens any longer.

Boiled down, the arbitration decision for the Eagles and against Owens basically said players have rights, but those rights end when the become destructive to the team concept.

Owens wanted a new contract but earned a one-way ticket out of Philadelphia. There is a limited number of teams willing to put up with his behavior in order to use his talent.

For many years now - probably starting when baseball's owners were socked in the 1980s for collusion against free agents - players have had a huge say in the direction of professional sports.

The freedom the players have are earned and well deserved, but there still needs to be limits. They have to realize that even with freedom, you have to work with the other side to make things work for everyone involved.

Like it or not, the dress code and the Owens decision were necessary.

It brings the pendulum closer to the middle again.




Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2310, or by e-mail at bobp@herald-mail.com

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