By David Bayer
The sports world was transformed with the advent of free agency in Major League Baseball in the ’70s. As a fan, the player movements from team to team provided an interesting new twist. Eventually though, as a supporter of teams that weren’t spending money, frustration set in … and then anger. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The reoccurring themes for players leaving their teams were: a “business decision” or “best thing for my family” or “want to play on a winner.”
As millions of dollars piled up, those reasons were hard to swallow, and my tolerance of pro athletes waned. Mad at the teams and players, I decided to curtail my support of pro sports at the box office. And they haven’t missed me. And now, free agency is rearing its ugly head in the WPS. A friend (Carolyn Blank) and a pseudo family member (McCall Zerboni) have already departed from our Atlanta Beat. And there will be more changes to come. The “FA” designation still looms over more of our favorites.
So, now what? Same old story? Is it time to depart? NO!
My perspective has changed. It was very eye-opening when I learned what the average women’s professional soccer player earns. I certainly didn’t expect it to be close to the men, but the difference is just ridiculous. These are women who are among the absolute best in the world at what they do. Where is the equality?
Yes, “business decisions” are being made, but as another player described it to me: “It’s the business side of the game we love.” The emphasis is on the love. The expectation is not to make millions. The expectation is to make the most of all the years spent training, practicing, and playing the sport, and then pass the torch to the younger generation.
Team management is also making business decisions. They’re cutting expenses. I can be upset if they don’t bring back the players that I’d like them to, but I can’t walk away. If I, and others, walk away where will that leave the league and the players? The bottom line is that we need butts in the seats. I’ve taken up a cause to support, and I’m going to stick with it. I’ve just broken in my “Soccer Dad shoes” and I want to continue wearing them. If my daughter Emma decides some day that pro soccer is for her, then I want that opportunity to be there.
I will certainly miss the players who decide to move on to other teams, but I support their choices. The original “Beaters” will always have a place in our hearts. We will have a new roster of talented athletes who will undoubtedly touch us both physically and emotionally. I’m looking forward to getting to know new players and welcoming back old friends when they come into town with their new teams. Can’t wait to see when the Flash is coming.