Thank Goodness This Isnt the NBA

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Ive spent the past week preparing for and getting hyped up about the 133rd Open Championship, only to have Shaq and Kobe pounded into my head without so much as a timeout. And all I can think is Man, Im glad I dont have to report on the NBA for a living!
 
Im not saying that professional basketball is void of togetherness, or without the aspect of a team game. Dont be misled; Im also not trying to tell you that golf doesnt have a few individuals in need of some maturity and guidance.
 
Golf, too, has its feuds and break-ups where ego gets in the way of good judgment (Tiger and Butch), golf has its learning curve of maturity too (Sergio), but at the end of the day the athletes are promised not much of anything.
 
Each begins the year at zero. No guarantees of where theyll finish on the PGA Tour money list, or whether fans might vote them into the Tour Championship despite a year where he (named Ernie Els or not) made only two cuts and $82,000. They earn their keep among the top 30, the top 125 and thus they earn their right to go into negotiations with equipment manufacturers about endorsement contracts, or overseas tournaments about appearance fees.
 
At the beginning of the year, Jeff Brehaut has the same opportunity to win the PGA Tour money list as does Tiger Woods. And I love that about professional golf.
 
In that regard golf is pure. Golf is honest. Golf is about sportsmanship. Golf is about hard work and keeping your head down and not turning your nose up. Golf is an individual sport, yes, but youll always find someone to give you a putting tip or a swing thought to work on.
 
This whole Shaq vs. Kobe vs. Lakers soap-opera of league embarrassment has made me lose patience with pampered millionaires and the NBA, which to me, now should stand for Never-ending Big-time Arrogance. You come up with your own.
 
Shaq is a superstar who cant get along with Kobe. Kobe is a superstar who cant get along with Shaq.
 
A few years back Shaq wasnt content enough with 100-plus million and opted out of Orlando for Los Angeles. Kobe wasnt content to be a college student so he opted out of education for the NBA. Now, not only is he unable to work with Shaq, hes also unable to work with Phil Jackson and apparently unable to work without a raise that, no matter how large, still cant buy him out of trouble with the law. Shaq wants no part of a continued relationship with Kobe despite the better-than-average chance at winning oh.. say. five more titles.
 
Dick Vitale, the ESPN college basketball analyst, made the point one night during a game that the difference between the NBA and the college game is that college is all about the name on the front of the jersey and the NBA is all about the name on the back of the jersey. Think about it.
 
The Los Angeles Lakers, seemingly not content with working together toward a common goal, but instead working to see who has the power to stay in L.A. and run the franchise from the court next season.
 
The problem with all this? No matter how much the league tries to deny it, there are owners and teams and coaches ready to be the next to take on the unhappy superstar and pay them what they demand. Make me sick!
 
Im not here to spout the figures, but Kobes due for the leagues maximum contract. So is Shaq. Its guaranteed money and a long-term stage to provide for great role-modeling.
 
Gee, where can I sign up for season tickets so I can get my son a lower-bowl seat to watch a would-be idol?
 
Back to golf - where non-superstar Thomas Levet has the chance to win a million dollars by earning it this week at the Open Championship. Rick Fox, meanwhile, has the chance to sit on the Lakers bench earning about $5 million (Im guessing a bit) with hopes of winning a title.
 
Isnt something a bit backward about that?
 
Golf has its superstars and golf has its rank and file. But not a single player you watch in professional golf would tell the PGA Tour or the European Tour that they wont play next year unless another player is shipped off to another tour. If they did, theyd be told to find another career. This week proves that in other sports, its accepted practice.
 
And not one of those same players would get away with not extending a handshake to a playing competitor after a round of golf. This week is proof that handshakes might take a back seat to locker room fisticuffs.
 
Maybe Im wrong, but Shaq is no Tiger Woods. And Kobe is far from Phil Mickelson. And its my belief that neither mans self-centered attitude nor on-going quest for individual one-upmanship would be appreciated or accepted in professional golf.
 
At least not on my tour it wouldnt.
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann