Friday, July 14, 2006

The Little Fella uses Ben Wallace to lecture us all on the topic of loyalty. The newspaper union says, "Huh?"

Mitch Albom, seems to think of himself as the (self appointed) conscience of Detroit sports, even though he rarely deigns to cover them. His latest misguided diatribe is pointed directly at Ben Wallace.

Brian, of The Sports Frog, a kindred spirit in his feelings about the so-called columnists in Detroit, chided the Little Fella, telling TWFE, "Apparently, the Little Guy is now jaded for life." Hammer, meet nail...

I had also read the latest Little Fella missive yesterday, and wanted to comment on it, but it's taken me a good 24 hours to digst the tripe he spewed. And mavelous tripe it is...

But I don't have to listen. And I won't. In fact, I probably won't listen to any athlete the same way again.

Oh, sure, after all these years in the business, I should be steeled against players who sing the team fight song right up to their free agency -- then suddenly start singing, "Money, Honey." But I really thought Wallace was different. I really thought, given the kind of player he is, when he spoke about this city, how it shaped him, celebrated him, that he meant what he said.

Less than two months ago, I asked Ben point-blank if he wanted to sign back with Detroit.

"Of course, of course," he told me.

But last week, he told ESPN, "Sometimes you just need to make a change, and I felt it was time."

There's words. And there's actions.

Oh good Lord. Can he become anymore self-rightous? The Little Fella thought Wallace was different? Saying "Of course" isn't exactly the ringing endorsement Albom makes it out to be.

It's not as if the Little Fella fell off the turnip truck yesterday. He's been a columninst for longer than most of us care to remember. What in the Hell did he expect Wallace to say? If the pious Little Fella spent more time with the athletes he supposedly covers, rather than writing sickly sweet novellas for the more sensitive amongst us, he might have realized that Wallace had been talking out of both sides of his mouth for some time. As soon as Big Ben hired Arn Tellem as his agent, it was appearent that Wallace was chasing the Brinks truck, and that truck might not stop in Detroit.

Mitch, as you say, there's words, and then there's actions. That would apply in a newspaper strike too, you think?

Then the Little Fella plays the loyalty card... HA!

And in so doing, he is no different than most pro athletes. It's just that we thought he was. Ben Wallace made himself a player. But Detroit made him a star. The Pistons took him from a no-name Orlando Magic castoff and turned him into an icon, a hard hat hero. The Pistons celebrated his muscle, his hair, they put him on billboards and sold him as their "Goin' to Work" centerpiece.

In the end, it wasn't about going to work. It was about getting paid. And again, the only thing bothersome is that Wallace gave signals that it wasn't. He told me that being the highest-paid guy wasn't the only thing that mattered. Yet when the Pistons offered him around $12 million a year for four years -- the fattest salary ever offered a Detroit basketball player -- he asked for more. WAY more.

According to a person in the negotiations, Wallace sought $20 million a season. If so, Ben was right when he said he didn't have to be the highest-paid Piston. He wanted to lead the league!

I think he forgets a few things. First, let me fix that first line for you Mitch.

"And in so doing, he is no different than most pro athletes any of us."

Of course it's about getting paid. Wallace just set up his grandkids for life. As for "Signals?" Was there a bigger one than the hiring of a big time agent?

The Pistons made him a star? I think Wallace himself had a little to do with that. Sure, the Pistons helped to make him a star, and I'm sure Wallace was grateful for the opportunity he was given, but to bring up loyalty? Loyalty is a 2 way street, and that street is nonexistent in pro sports.

The Pistons are a business, first and foremost. Just ask Bill Davidson about paying a luxury tax, if you don't believe it. You think the Pistons would have dropped Wallace like a hot potato if he hadn't performed or had gotten hurt? Just ask our favorite whipping boy, Darko. It was a business partnership that worked out on both sides for 6 years. Even though we fans weren't happy about how it ended and what the Pistons now look like, it looks to me that both sides thought that that partnership had run it's course. It took the Pistons less than 24 hours to replace Ben Wallace.

As for the pie in the sky number used to start negotiations? That's why it's called "Negotiations." The Little Fella can't be serious. No team in their right mind was going to give Wallace 20 million. But it doesn't stop you from asking for the moon at the beginning. It did net Wallace 15 million a year, so they did sometihng right.

I'm sorry, but I'm not leaving 12 million dollars on the table out of a misguided sense of loyalty to what is basically a business entity. Trust me, if the Pistons had gotten the right offer, anyone, including Wallace, would have been traded in a heartbeat. So don't give me the loyalty arguement. At that level, it's all bullshit.

I think the last person to be lecturing another on loyalty is someone who crossed his own union's picket line. You know, pot, kettle, that sort of thing...

The pot contines to talk about the kettle...

Instead, he jumps to a team that hasn't won a playoff series in eight years. Yes, $60 million for four years is a lot of money. So is $48 million. You don't starve either way.

But you do give up something by choosing the former. You give up the right to be believed when you talk about team, city or fans. You should only talk about money.

Yeah, and "The 5 People You Meet in Heaven at the Bank," and the blatant fiction that was "Fab Five" weren't about the money, either.

So Wallace talks today, and he'll promise his devotion and work ethic to the Bulls and Chicago. Just words. All words. In the end, I shouldn't be disappointed that Ben went for the green. I should be disappointed that I ever thought he wouldn't.

No, you should be disappointed in yourself for jumping to conclusions. For not looking deeper into the situation. Deeper than you dug into the Michigan basketball program, anyway. We're talking about pro sports, where you can never take anything at face value. That's something you'd think a former "Sportswriter of the Year" would have realized from the start.

You want to know TRUE disappointment? Reading the Little Fella's columns...


  1. Albom definitely is the suck. I wish at this point he would just leave town and focus on writing his crappy novels.

    Like I said the other day, it's a sad state of affairs when Wobb Parker is only the third-worst columnist in town.

  2. Here's something else you'll like:

    Albom charged a $20,000 appearance fee to speak at an Alzheimer's Association fund raiser a few years ago.

    Right - not about the money, you self-righteous a-hole.

  3. Yeah, I agree. Saying "Of course, of course" is such a throwaway line, that I'm amused that Albom chose to use it as some sort of iron-clad, "My word is stronger than oak" moment.