So Julie Smith has won her arbitration... but at what price?
Has she cost her country a gold medal? Possibly. What she has done threatens
to break up a group that has been working hard these past 8 months to come
together as a team and force a reconstituted group to start from scratch.
Since the current group was named, it has played (and beaten!) Australia,
Japan, New Zealand, Canada, and Italy, 5 of the 7 teams it will face in the
Olympics. They just faced several other national-level foreign teams on their
trip to Europe. If the team is, in fact, reconstituted, it will not have the
opportunity to face any international competition at all. That puts the team
at a disadvantage come September. I have great belief in our team, and I pray
this doesn't damage their chances, but I can't help but feel that this is a
tremendous setback they'll have to overcome.
Will she destroy lives? Possibly. Imagine being one of these women on the
team, having spent these past 8 months as an Olympian, and then being
unceremoniously pulled from the team and stripped of the dream because of
Julie's actions. Each of these women has made innumerable sacrifices to
represent their country, and they've had to build their entire lives around the
team. Their families, their friends, their loved ones... they're all
emotionally tied in as well -- a lot of broken hearts and broken dreams, all
thanks to Julie.
There's been an awful lot of cheerleading for Julie's cause on this board,
mostly born of everybody's distrust of the ASA. And hey, I'm not saying there
isn't anything to that. They're certainly not perfect. But if they can put a
gold medal-winning team out on the field in Sydney, they've done their job.
And because the number of roster slots is limited, of course there are going to
be people who feel they should have made it, and yes, their numbers may make a
good case for them. But let's not forget: The idea is to field a TEAM. A
team, in this case, is composed of 15 individuals whose abilities -- both as
athletes and as teammates -- complement each other and create a cohesive unit.
Are these necessarily the 15 best players, stats-wise? Not necessarily. We
need not look any further than the "Dream Team" of NHL All-Stars brought
together for Nagano... remember what an embarrassment that was, both on the ice
and off? The U.S. Softball Team should be composed of the 15 players who, as a
unit, have the best chance of winning the gold. And that, my friends, is the
judgment call placed in the hands of the selection committee.
As far as Julie Smith goes, that totally unbiased article (pardon me while I
snicker) by Ray Foster on the Fresno State Softball website repeatedly praises
her "superior leadership, conduct, attitude, experience, and maturity level."
At least on some of those points, I've heard differently from people who would
know. Without getting into specifics and slinging more mud, I've been told
that her conduct and attitude were detrimental to team morale, and that her
athletic contributions to the team were not sufficient to overcome those
negatives. And those who think she was ostracized for taking a stand on
sponsorships and other issues, she wasn't the only one. I can think of at
least three others who were similarly vocal and still made the 2000 team.
It's a problem that's running rampant in our society -- whenever something goes
the way we don't want it, somebody has to be to blame. Very few people are
willing to accept their fates as, well, fate. Somebody must be held
accountable, because it's simply not possible that we legitimately failed to
make the cut. What's next? Will some baseball player sent to the minors
decide he was demoted unfairly because he had 7 RBI more than somebody who
wasn't sent down, and sue for reinstatement?
Yes, there's a lot at stake here -- as somebody stated earlier, there's
endor***t and bonus money out there -- and there are principles involved.
But to engage in an action that, if successful, could potentially damage both
the team (the team she wishes to contribute to!) and so many individuals
involved with the team shows an utter lack of sportsmanship. And sportsmanship
should be one of the most important criteria for choosing the team. So in
choosing this course of action, Julie Smith has created a paradox, proving
herself unworthy of membership on the team she so wanted to join.
Maybe her martyrdom will, in fact, make the selection process more fair in
years to come. And if that happens, congratulations Julie. But it could have
and should have been done differently. And realize that, in choosing this
particular course of action that can be so harmful to so many, you're placing
another nail in the coffin of sportsmanship. Congratulations Julie.