Monday, March 7, 2011

The A-Hole Effect [Mondays with Gus]

One of the most intriguing conversations in sports revolves around listening to teams discuss the concept of the “locker room cancer.” T.O., DeMarcus Cousins, Ron Artest, everyone that plays for the Bengals, etc. Phil Savage, former front office guru of the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns once famously said that his teams prefer to avoid a team comprised of criminals but they “don't want a bunch of choir boys, either.” It's a fine line to cross. At what point does talent outweigh the amount of problems that come with someone that's just an outright jerk?

I have a theory that I refer to as “The A-Hole Effect.” Essentially, it works like this: If a college player is a complete a-hole, there is a 95% chance he will become an even bigger a-hole when he becomes professional. That's not to say avoid these players. Everyone deserves a second chance. But when you are evaluating them, I think it's smart to assume there will be zero improvement. Reward the guy if that happens, but don't assume it will. Why such a negative tone?

College players that are complete a-holes rarely become less of a problem in the pros, because giving a jerk a million dollars almost never makes that person less of a jerk. Money, pressure, and fame are a bad combination for a 21 year old millionaire, and most teams do absolutely nothing to give these kids an environment suitable to becoming a better person. There is a lack of respect for the amount of change that these kids are going through. Think about how much their life changes.

In college, they are the big man on campus but they still have to go to class and live in a dorm. When they hit the pros, they can live anywhere they please with nothing to worry about but practice and games. In college, they are restricted because they aren't allowed to take money from people, and in the pros they are handed guaranteed contracts and endorsements (sometimes). In college, they are surrounded by teammates and fellow students who are mostly broke, and in the pros they work with millionaires while their billionaire owner signs the checks. None of this makes for an environment conducive to being a better person.

This brings me back to the point about there being a fine line between bringing in talent and creating problems. Most people, in their own arrogance think they can change others. We see it everywhere in life. That's why girls date jerks (if only he was nice he would be perfect! Sorry, but that's his entire personality), and it's why owners and general managers think their locker room can handle the pressure of another jerk. What I'm arguing here is that talent evaluators should just assume that nothing will get better with the kid when drafting and signing free agents.

There are plenty of examples of kids this has happened to, and there will continue to be. While I doubt any GM's or owners will read this and have an epiphany, I hope that a few more fans will start to pressure teams that reward awful behavior and expect things to improve. Remember, it only took one e-mail to make Phil Savage look like an idiot and put the icing on his “leave town” cake.

-Gus Rafeedie


  1. Here's another Idea, hopefully when they redo the cap, rookies will make dog crap compared to what they are making now, so they have incentive to perform and be good citizens or else they will find themselves out of the league and broke in a few years because they are labeled as "team cancers" who don't perform up to expectations.

  2. NFL needs a rookie pay scale. Not only will this reward players that perform on the field, but it will reward teams that take the draft seriously instead of the Dan Snyder's of the world. Young players won't get cut because of contracts, and there will be more money to use on retiree health care.