You have to figure Joe Burrow made himself about $35 million when he transferred from Ohio State to LSU.
Now, certainly at the time, Burrow didn’t know what the end result would be, or that it would lead to one of the most-prolific seasons in Tiger history and that he would not only win a national title, but become the Favorite Son of the Bayou.
What Burrow did know was that Ohio State wasn’t going to work for him. For whatever reason, Burrow made a business decision and it paid off.
He’s the favorite to be the first pick in the upcoming draft and the result of that will be a huge financial windfall.
Good for him.
And good for Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields – who left Georgia for Ohio State, and has done decent for himself, too. Those are the notable cases. They are high-profile guys who made big news because they helped another high-profile school win lots of games. They all left situations and found a degree of success in other places.
And with the recent exodus from the Oklahoma program, you have to also figure some of these players have seen what Mayfield, Burrow, Hurts and others have done and want a piece of that for themselves.
Hard to blame them. “It worked for them, it could work for me, too,” is a logical way of seeing things. Doesn’t mean it’s correct, but it’s logical.
You could reasonably argue the players who recently left Oklahoma did so because they didn’t want to compete, were scared of their future or faced the uncertainty of never getting the chance to play. That could definitely be true.
You could also reasonably argue that players leave teams and go to others for the wrong reasons, including the promise of playing time or even just the simplicity of greener pastures.
Or it could be a combination of a lot of factors.
It doesn’t take the experience of having played the game, at whatever level, to recognize everyone has a different story, different influences and different factors that pull them in a number of different directions.
It doesn’t take a player/athlete to recognize this because it’s not a sports issue. This is something that resonates with all of us. Anyone can relate. Sports can teach us so much about life, about being part of a team, something greater than the individual, about working hard, or not giving up, about commitment and sacrifice. You don’t need to be an athlete to know that, either.
Simply put, you and I change jobs, or move houses and make decisions all the time based on what is good for us, our family, our finances. We do it to improve our position, personally or business-wise. Is everyone who changes jobs a quitter? No. Are there some who do quit on co-workers or their family? Absolutely.
Let’s say you’re a player in the NFL and there’s a good chance you might not make the team. Instead of seeing what happens, you decide to take a job in a league that doesn’t pay as much, isn’t as popular and doesn’t have the same level of fame, but it does provide a means for a steady income. Is that quitting? Nope. Neither is quitting sports to sell cars, or insurance or to go back to school.
Everyone has their reasons. Labeling them all the same way is foolish and wrong, but there’s an element of fandom from the folks who buy the gear and spend their dollars and there’s an element of “kids today, smh,” from those who were playing and didn’t transfer that makes some want to put everyone in the same position.
Both can be right, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of nuance involved. When a player leaves and you’ve invested time and resources into cheering for him as a fan, it’s natural to be upset or lash out. When a player leaves and you were the player one who stuck it out through the heat and the cold and the workouts and the practices, it makes sense to be disappointed or even angry. The point is, no one knows everything behind each of these decisions.
This isn’t a sports issue. It’s a people issue. Different perspectives offer us different insights and all are valuable when trying to understand a decision, but no one truly can speak for everyone.
And you don’t need to have worn shoulder pads and a helmet to understand that.