The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

No guts no glory

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No greater game or event creates the same amount of anticipation, excitement and passion as the annual world championship of professional football dubbed the Super Bowl by the late great Lamar Hunt. Historically, other than the final episode of M*A*S*H, the Super Bowl generates television ratings and popularity second to none. Playing in the game defines both the teams and the individual combatants.

The Super Bowl creates icons and immorality for players. Routinely anonymous players become forever enshrined in football lore their exceptional exploits during these contests. No one would ever remember the names of such indelible figures as Max McGhee of the Packers (and his 2 touchdown catches in the first Super Bowl), Jackie Smith (his dropped pass in the end zone versus the Steelers ), David Tyree's catch or Kevin Dyson unsuccessful reach for the end zone against the Rams.

Players also have made lasting impressions when playing for the ultimate prize while overcoming the significant adversity of participating through potentially career threatening injuries. Players such as Tim Krumrie of the Bengals who played valiantly against the 49ers with a broken fibula or Terrell Owens who for a short period of time garnered loyalty and support from the Philadelphia faithful by playing against the Patriots barely two months after breaking his foot. From a basketball context, my childhood memories are forever etched with the image of New York Knick captain and great Willis Reed limping onto the floor of Madison Square Garden to lead his troops to victory over the mighty Lakers in the NBA Championship of 1970.

Dwight Freeney, arguably one of the most dominant pass rushers of this era and a mainstay of the Colts defense is now faced with the decision of whether to test his severally damaged ankle against the Saints in an attempt to assist his club in winning the ultimate prize, the Lombardi Trophy. Ironically the award for winning the Super Bowl is named after the Packers great head Coach Vince Lombardi who stated that "I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle-victorious."

As an NFL agent, I am bound by fiduciary obligations to balance the herein success against long term rewards for our clients on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Acquiring the proper medical diagnosis and prognosis for players is an ongoing requirement of proper representation. It's human nature for a professional competitor to overcome obstacles such as pain and injury to compete and thereby participate each week for regular contests.

Such emotions certainly run deeper as the stakes increase and games get bigger. In a sense, many times an athlete must be protected from himself. This conundrum of protecting a player's future against participating now occurs all of the time, usually in anonymity. However, when the stakes are at their highest and attention is at its zenith, these discussions come to the forefront of public discussion and debate.

Without knowing the true extent of Freeney's injury and the possible long term negative ramifications of continued participation a mere fortnight after the injury, it is truly difficult and almost impossible to put oneself in the shoes of Freeney and his advisors. If the risks are too high then it should be a no-brainer. If if it's a close call though the potential immortality and adulation that comes with making a heroic effort to assist his comrades in winning the Super Bowl, will lead him to tilt the scales in favor of playing. Freeney's is probably not a career threatening injury, but it certainly is a career defining game. Freeney's circumstances aside, we would like to believe that most elite athletes, and certainly those we define as champions, would make a supreme personal sacrifice or assume a high personal risk to have a shot at a championship and football immortality.

After all, that mindset helps to make them special and to participate in the Super Bowl is why one plays the game! Just ask Dan Marino or that other Manning (Archie that is) if they would give up individual accolades (such as a long and prosperous career) for a ring. The answer could be revealing. It might be better to ask the Colts. Would they risk their long-term investment in Freeney's career for one championship?

As the great President Theodore Roosevelt eloquently stated "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

By Peter Schaffer  |  February 3, 2010; 6:47 AM ET  | Category:  Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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