We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no rest for the weary.” That can be true in several situations, especially when you feel like your life is crashing down around you and when you think you’re facing all the obstacles imaginable, all at once.
It’s also true in sports.
This controversy of resting star players has exploded into a debate of whether or not teams should value the regular season just as much as the postseason. Obviously, a team needs to win enough games in the regular season to qualify for the postseason, but what happens when a team is talented, or lucky enough, to clinch a spot with a month to go?
Teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are loaded with stars, and on a nightly basis, they garner large audiences eager to watch Stephen Curry and LeBron James. These teams can use their star power and their recent success to charge high ticket prices for any matchup, especially for the big rivalry games.
Both have received strong criticism for resting star players for primetime games. The Warriors did it against the San Antonio Spurs (another Western Conference power) earlier this month. The Cavaliers did the same thing a week later against the Los Angeles Clippers, who currently hold the fifth playoff seed in the Western Conference.
That criticism comes, in large part, because the players who are resting are not actually “weary.”
These games are not only highly coveted matchups for people who have spent a fortune trying attend them. They are also perfect entertainment for sports fans gathering at a bar where those fans could easily buy a couple of pitchers of beer with several appetizers during the course of the marquee matchup.
The fans depend on big games actually being big, meaning that they make plans based on the star players actually playing.
I am a major proponent of the argument that players being paid millions of dollars are responsible for providing entertainment to the people who pay to watch them. My basketball idol, Kobe Bryant, has recently talked about the issue, saying he believes LeBron has earned the right to take certain nights off because of what he has brought to the game of basketball. That same Kobe has said coaches knew not to ask him to take nights off, though. One of the reasons I commend Bryant so much is because he has said he will do anything possible to be on the court if he feels it is humanly possible to perform.
As a fan of all kinds of sports, I’ve personally been disappointed to look at the lineup on game day and see my favorite players are missing from it. While I don’t always know the exact reason for their absence, I would likely question my allegiance to them if I found out later that they had sat on the bench while being perfectly healthy.
Making that decision to sit when healthy as a player is despicable in my mind, especially if you claim to love the game and play it for more than money. Having a coach make that decision for you is a little more acceptable, but even then, Bryant himself made it clear he would override a coach to be on the court if he could play. The Mamba even shot two free throws, and made them, with a torn Achilles!
While I didn’t tear my Achilles when I was playing baseball, I do remember fracturing my ankle during my senior season in high school. I knew it was my final year to play on the team, so naturally I was upset when I injured myself. Thankfully it happened in the preseason, so my coach and I agreed that I should rest so I could play at my full potential in the regular season.
That didn’t stop me from trying to play every single practice. That didn’t stop me from trying to play with a brace in the first inning before making the decision to take myself out of the game.
Two years later in college prep ball, I had my whole tooth knocked out after getting hit in the head with a pitch. I was on the field the next day, playing catch with my teammates because I wasn’t allowed to play due to doctor’s orders.
The point is that sports are a passion. There is sometimes no rest for the weary, in sports and in life. But the key word is “weary.” There is definitely no rest for the strong, or the fully capable.
You can rest when your career is over. You can miss games when you have a family commitment or emergency. You can rest when you are legitimately injured.
But for the true gamers, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the preseason, regular season, postseason or the offseason. A game is a game, so for the love of the game, play every second like it could be your last.