Last time I rapped at 'ya I was explaining my disagreement with a writer whom I respect greatly and who is a favorite of most of your readers. A lot of Joe Posnanski's fans (and some readers who just plained disagreed with my highly questionable POV's on competitive balance in MLB) took me to task for what I wrote. That's fine. I love a parade.
That said, this article, I think, will draw less fire, since I think the only reader of this blog bound and determined to go to bat for SI writer Jeff Pearlman is....well, Jeff Pearlman
Athletes like Allen Iverson ill-prepared for life after celebrity
I spoke with Roscoe Word the other day. A standout defensive back at Jackson State in the early 1970s, Word spent his boyhood in Pine Bluff, Ark., dreaming of one day starring in the National Football League. When he was selected by the New York Jets in the third round of the 1974 Draft, Word thought he had it made. Lots of riches, fame, the good life.
Three years later, he was done.
"The worst-off person in the world," he said, "is the poor S.O.B. who tasted the good life and can no longer afford it."
Word wasn't actually referring to himself. A Mississippi-based cattle rancher who dotes on his grandchildren and looks back at his first 57 years with little regret, Word instead was talking about Allen Iverson, the rapidly fading basketball star who recently left the Memphis Grizzlies, seemingly never to return.
Well, Jeff--it does seem like Roscoe is talking about himself. Why else would you use him as a source of authority on "being a poor SOB who tasted the good life and can no longer afford it."
Also, I realize you're setting "afford" up as a metaphor for what Iverson can or can't physically do anymore now that he's washed up in the league. However, it seems to me that your buddy Roscoe doesn't really know what it's like to be a superstar in a major sporting league for 13 years and then lose his ability to play. It seems what he knows about is "having a brief taste" of "having actual big time money and fame" and now can now "can no longer afford it"
Initially, Memphis team president Michael Heisley said that Iverson had bolted for a "family reason." Now, reading between the lines, it seems a "family reason" is abbreviated terminology for "I didn't join this sad-sack franchise to play 22 junk minutes off the bench."
link plz. k thx!
"What's that man going to do now?" said Word. "What can he do that'll ever match the last decade of his life?"
Most people's lives from age 34 on are as good as their lives from ages 18-33, right?
And certainly Iverson doesn't have access to the things that make 47 year old white accountants' lives rewarding...like family, hobbies, golf, vacations, etc, right?
Blessed with a perspective I lack and experiences I'll never know, Word's word is -- as Iverson once dubbed himself -- The Answer.
No, it was a question.
In modern-day America, what with our emphasis on fancy cars, fancy jewelry and (in the case of too many men) trophy women, nothing can match the complete and utter bliss of the life as a professional athlete. The first-class flights, the five-star hotels, the long-legged groupies, the Benz parked alongside the BMW parked alongside the Porsche.
Now you kids with your loud music and your Dan Fogelberg, your Zima, hula hoops and Pac-Man video games, don't you see? People today have attention spans that can only be measured in nanoseconds.
(tried to find the Youtube for this, but you know how modern life is. I got too distracted by my pursuit of fancy cars and jewelry. To say nothing of the trophy women...apologies)
It all adds up to a certain heaven on earth -- L'il Wayne's "Lollipop" brought to fruition.
Say....what? No seriously...say WHAT?
Yet if Iverson's 16 years in the NBA can be equated with a hip-hop video, then what awaits him now is an eternal April 15 trip to the post office.
Well, let me take that back. Yes words. Ok look: AI had a great, idyllic life for 13 years from his 1997 ROTY award to now--a time when his career has come to an end. It probably sucks for him that his career has come to an end. Now he will have to take his millions of dollars and find some other way to have fun. Will he? Won't he? Who knows.
Now consider Jeff Pearlman, a guy with a pretty good job which he sometimes seems to hate.
Jeff, like many of us who read and write for this blog, probably went to college. College, as those of you who went know, RULES. College is awesome. You drink and play video games and have lots of friends who are always around and you sometimes even have sex with women in their late teens and early 20's. It's great. Then you graduate and you get a job. The prime of your life is either behind you or it's not, depending on whether you love your job, hate your job, kind of love your job sometimes and hate it other times, love your wife, hate your wife, don't have a wife, have three wives, blah blah blah.
Allen Iverson is at the same crossroads many of us were at (including Jeff) at graduation. Big deal. Any "negatives" that come from his "college experience" being preponderately awesomer than ours are probably...er...offset by his millions of dollars and the fact that he never has to work a day in his life unless he decides that's what he wants to do. Plus: no student loans!
Look. Is it possible that AI will feel completely unfulfilled with no basketball playing purpose in life? Absolutely. It's happened to a cadre of athletes and will happen to countless more as time progresses. But this isn't noteworthy. Every single person who has ever retired from his or her job has faced this problem and almost none of them have had millions and millions of dollars in the bank.
Is his situation a little more difficult because he can't go back to his job? Absolutely. But that seems like a pretty mundane point. He can open a clinic to coach promising young point guards. He can begin a college coaching career starting as an assistant and trying to work his way upward. Or he can just accept--like many people have in society--that his life is going to be a little less-satisfying now that his prime has passed than it was when he was in his prime.
I'd say "boo hoo hoo" on Iverson's behalf, but you know what? It's not even Iverson whining. In fact, it's not even Pearlman whining FOR Iverson. It's Pearlman trying to make fun of Iverson for whining even though we have no indication that that's the case.
Or, to be more blunt, rarely in our time have we been had with an athlete seemingly less prepared for life after the NBA.
You know, except for those athletes who played maybe one or two years, didn't make any money and now have no job and no transferable skills. Or you know, are completely bankrupt despite having made millions.
Or this guy. This guy wasn't less prepared for life after the NBA than AI?
What a ridiculous claim.
I'm not going to draw from the next passage, because it's just ridiculous. Jeff goes on to explain that besides a porn star, there's nothing he fears for his children than for them to be an ex athlete. He then goes on to compare ex-athletes to other celebrities and explain that their lives are better because they can still do what they did in their prime. And uses that as proof that AI is setting himself up for misery.
This seems patently ridiculous to me and I'm not going to waste my time with it. Moving on.
If this is indeed the end for Allen Iverson as a professional basketball player, he offers society the following: A former athlete with an inability to cohabitate with co-workers. His neck tattoo eliminates him from most white-collar jobs. His poor communication skills eliminate him from TV work (Iverson's odds of one day taking over for Regis? Not good). His oft-cantankerous approach toward the fans makes Iverson's Ice Cream Parlor or Allen's Greeting Card Emporium a long-shot.
Pearlman has not given any evidence that Iverson needs to take a basic job. According to Basketball-Reference, he's made 150mm over his career. Now, it's possible he's pissed away 150mm and will not be able to retire on it, or even will need to stop living a lavish lifestyle. But I doubt it. And Pearlman has done nothing but conjecture to "what if" AI were broke and could no longer play.
This is not exactly hard-hitting journalism is it?
But in any case, let's hope that AI has somehow managed to hold on to even 20mm of his 150, because Jeff offers these chilling words of warning that probably apply not-at-all to AI going forward from his excellent pro-career to his almost-certainly-idyllic post-career luxury retirement:
If nothing else, we can hope that Allen Iverson invested his money well and has a passion for the game of golf.
Because casino greeters make eight bucks an hour.
Bum bum BUM.