Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Did You See That: Why Won't You Play For Us?

With the Carlos Vela telenovela mercifully ending (or not if you're a US Men's National team fan that likes to watch El Tri fail), I started to wonder about other players who refused to play for certain teams. Most of these stories are outliers amongst an atmosphere of quiet compliance, but when they do break loose they are endlessly fascinating to see. Here are a few of these stories, and the fallout that came after.

Carlos Vela vs. Mexican National Soccer Team

Vela right now is the best Mexican player on the planet, and he refuses to suit up for El Tri despite that. He could be as much of a hero as Graham Zusi is to that soccer crazy country, but he's decided he doesn't want to go back to that circus. After being suspended in 2010 from the national team for partying (a common theme with El Tri), he has only suited up once since then, and has rejected the call of every coach since to come back. They come off as desperate exes praying that their true love will come back and swoop them up, only to be left at the altar. Not that Vela can play for any other national team, but I'd want to avoid dealing with the Mexican press at all costs too.

Eli Manning vs. San Diego Chargers

Eli didn't want to play for the Chargers, and 10 years later he seems to have forgotten why he almost ruined the history of a franchise that already had to deal with Ryan Leaf. In December, he told NJ.com that he forgot the reason why he spurned their advances (no seriously). "I just can't remember, it's been 10 years. It slipped my mind." This presumably comes from the same part of his brain that has him throw all the interceptions he does. Lesson learned: Orchestrating your own trade because you don't like who has the first overall pick... why didn't anyone else do that...?

John  Elway vs.  Baltimore Colts

"He would rather be a garbage collector than play for (the Colts)", wrote Elway's agent Marvin Demoff about Elway refusing to play for the then Baltimore Colts. Now I get that Baltimore was going through a rough patch of publicity at that point, but no need to rub it in (Bob Irsay did just that). How close was Elway to playing for the Yankees is an open question, even though the whole West Coast excuse was quickly debunked. Also... why insult garbage collectors? I could think of many worse jobs than that... like working for First Take, for example.

Steve Francis vs. Vancouver Grizzlies

God's will was one of the reasons that Francis cited for not wanting to play for the Grizzlies in Vancouver. Now I know God already hated the Vancouver Canucks (ask Roger Neilson), but this seemed to go a bit too far. Also, he felt his endorsements would take a hit if he played in Vancouver. John Tortorella seems to be doing just fine with that... I know the benefit of anger management classes much better now.

Eric Lindros vs. Quebec Nordiques

There seems to be a trend here: If your team is spurned by a big name draftee at the altar, you can start firing up the moving vans. He also cited endorsements as a reason to not play in Quebec, but speaking French was a bigger block than that. Rosetta Stone unfortunately didn't exist in 1991, and of course taking French classes is too much for a budding superstar (hello Randy Cunneyworth...). An arbitrator had to step in to decide where Lindros would eventually ply his trade, and the Flyers won. Now if Lindros forgot the reason he spurned the Nordiques advances for, I'd buy it more than Eli Manning's quip.

Roy Keane vs. Mick McCarthy

In probably one of the best tirades in sports history, Keane went off on manager Mick McCarthy just before the 2002 World Cup, after McCarthy questioned whether Keane had faked injury to avoid playing in a qualifier. 10 minutes of unadulterated fire-spitting that I can't repeat here, but it almost puts Jim Mora to shame. He left Saipan (the ROI base before the 2002 World Cup), and almost single-handedly split Ireland down the middle on what to think about this fiasco. Carlos Vela has been put to shame.

So here are just a few of these fascinating episodes where the simple question "Why won't you play for us?" doesn't seem to fly. So when Andrew Wiggins orchestrates a trade to the Raptors this summer, making Sixers fans cry, know that you saw this here first. Just don't take the Roy Keane route, that might end badly.

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