Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Take This Sport and Shove It!

By Tony Mangia


The Jet Blue Flight attendant who cursed out a passenger, grabbed a few beers and chuted down to the unemployment line may be considered a folk hero to some---or a quitter to others. Steve Slater's last straw moment to the rude passenger over the jet's PA system has struck a nerve in today's tough economic climate. I'll do what I have to boss, but don't anyone step on my toes. Slater threw in the towel, but did it with a touch of panache. Sports has a long history of quitters.

To many, the idea of flipping off the boss or dropping a file cabinet on top of your supervisor's head is a fantasy envisioned daily. Most sane people think of the consequences--firings, loss of pension...jail--but it is easy to say that Slater aka The Bag Nazi, had every right to say "kiss my ass" to the disruptive customer and the airline respectively. Pubic opinion has sided with Slater and that has to be a first, in recent times, for flight attendants.


Look back at some of the greatest quitters of all time; Richard Nixon--before he could be thrown out of office--and the ex-Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin recently let the door hit her on the way out. Many take the good until it got a little shaky. Some, like George Harrison, who quit the Beatles for one week, hit the eject button for creative differences; while others like sourpuss actor David Caruso--who disappeared from NYPD Blue and spent years in television purgatory--believe they have a higher calling---in other words "I'm better than this." Sometimes it works out. Right, Shelley Long?

Films have idolized characters who have had enough and went over the edge. Remember Peter Finch in Network when he screamed "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" It resounded with movie goers and he got the Oscar---even after he was dead---his portrayal of the fed-up newscaster. Jack Nicholson made a career of rebelling against authority and little people alike. Remember the memorable diner scene when he wiped the table clean because of the insolent waitress in Five Easy Pieces.


Recently rookie Dez Bryant wouldn't be bullied by Dallas Cowboy veterans and refused to lower himself to transporting their carry-off luggage. He held his ground and refused to haul his teammates' shoulder pads. Call him a diva, but he stuck it to his superiors. Darrelle Revis has refused to attend Jets camp and his agent called team owner, Woody Johnson, a liar regarding a contract summit. He may be a contract breaker, but Revis is giving it to the man.

When it comes to quitting in sports, the most notorious is the " No mas, No Mas" fight between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran never lived it down after blaming his eighth-round exit on cramps from a couple of t-bone steaks he had just devoured. The great fighter with the Hands of Stone still carries around a heavier legacy as a quitter.

Michelle Wie pulled out of a 2007 LPGA tournament, after a double-bogey that would have eliminated her, claiming a severely sprained wrist. She was seen freely swinging the club the next day. Maybe it was the impatience of youth. Hell, even Jersey tough-guy Bill Parcells has quit coaching four times! Well, we won't blame him for the Cowboys and Jerry Jones.

There is a difference between being George Costanza and holding out or taking an early retirement. Take Barry Sanders---Detroit Lion fans might call him a quitter. He retired early and in his prime but maybe he saw the reign of Matt Millen on the horizon. You call early-retiree Jim Brown a quitter...I'm not.

J.D. Drew stomped his feet and held his breath when he refused to report to the Phillies in a trade. I bet he regrets that move now. Funny, Eric Lindros held out and refused to play for the Nordiques and ended up in the same City of Brotherly Love. Don't tell Philadelphia and Quebec these guys weren't quitters, respectively. Last year Jay Cutler threw a hissy-fit until his bosses in Denver finally relented and granted the turn tail quarterback a trade to the Chicago Bears.

It's hard to feel sorry for today's million-dollar athletes. Boo-hoo, you don't make as much as the next player or you're better than the original contract you signed or I want to play for a winner. It's still a job. Football two-a-days in July and 5 a.m. road work or sparring until your arms are black and blue isn't easy, but it's better than digging a ditch or sucking coal dust. The sun-drenched shagging of flies or foggy mornings perfecting a nine-iron swing may not be as mundane as punching a factory clock or as greasy as tuning an engine, but it is still work---albeit with millions and fame.


The fans are the real workhorses here. Our paychecks go to paying for PSI's and season tickets. The New York Giants released the prices for food at their new stadium this upcoming season. A deli sandwich is $14 at the new Meadowlands Stadium. Hey, didn't we help pay for that Jumbo-tron? Beer now runs $8.75 and a slice of pizza is six bucks! They even have sushi platters for $9.50! Sushi!? This is the Garden State, not the Golden one! It's a corporate executive box stadium now. Fight the power!

If there is any justice for New York fans this year, the words made famous by toothless Johnny Paycheck, Take This Job and Shove It!, will come from the mouth of Knicks' new consultant Isiah Thomas. That's a quitter any New Yorker would love.

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