Thursday, April 4, 2013

the last book I ever read (Bill Bradley's Life on the Run, excerpt eighteen)

from Life on the Run by Bill Bradley:

DeBusschere throws me the paper opened to a story about a house owned by the Phoenix Suns’ Dick Van Arsdale, who was my roommate during my rookie year. He is a handsome man, 6’5” and blond, with a personality as sturdy as his durable legs. I had returned to Oxford after the 1967-68 season to take examinations for my degree, when one morning at breakfast I read in the International Herald Tribune that the Knicks had sent Van Arsdale to Phoenix in the expansion draft. It was my first contact with owner-controlled player movement. My reaction was sadness at losing a good friend, but, in retrospect, the more important effect was that I came to understand the power of owners. “They can send me anywhere overnight,” I thought. “How can you form close friendships if the next day you might be gone?” I had always seen trading from the fan’s viewpoint, but then I saw the human cost involved. I don’t like the fear their power over me evokes. I don’t like the idea of a man owning, selling, and buying another man as if he was an old car.

The Van Arsdale deal occurred during the off-season and Dick had time to relocate his family. If the trade had taken place during the season, Van, like any other player, would have had 48 hours to report to his new team, whatever the hardship. By signing a contract, players automatically agree to the possibility of a forced move without advance notice. Sportswriters jokingly refer to the movement of “horseflesh.” General managers point out how trades benefit all parties, as if they were the “invisible hand” of basketball. Owners call their control of players essential to the structure and integrity of professional basketball. After Van’s departure I realized that no matter how kind, friendly, and genuinely interested the owners may be, in the end most players are little more than depreciable assets to them.

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