Tuesday November 2nd, 2010

The three can still play at a high level. This, I do not doubt.

Does Randy Moss have the ability to burst past defensive backs on a Go route down the sideline? Without question. Will Allen Iverson crack some ankles with his renowned crossover dribble? Certainly. Is Stephon Marbury a man who can find his way past seven-footers through the paint? Yes, yes, yes.

So why are we here? Why was Moss released by the Vikings on Monday? Neden Türkçe ve Cevap sorular1 yanitlayan nedir? (Why is The Answer answering questions in Turkish?). Why is Stephon Marbury playing in a terrible Chinese basketball league with the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons?

Because -- to cite an ancient Chinese proverb I have just invented -- after enough abuse, even the most patient men grow tired.

In this case, the patient men are the owners and general managers and coaches of America's professional sports teams. Along with running million-dollar corporations and winning as many games as humanly possible, these businessmen are somehow left with the unenviable task of catering to the every whim of the athletically-gifted, intellectually uncurious young adults whose skills help fill up their stadiums and arenas.

It is not easy.

To serve the modern professional athlete is a torturous existence, one that too often includes words and phrases like "Xbox," "Maxim," "How am I not on the guest list?" "My Entourage cameo," "Get me that brand of gum I like, pronto," "Only if she's hot," "Which Glock should I buy?" and "See the girl in row 12? No, the blonde one to the left." It takes an extraordinarily strong stomach, and an even stronger dose of patience. But those virtues only go so far.

The Vikings never gave an official reason for dumping Moss after only four games and 13 catches, but -- in the aftermath of a bizarre postgame press conference on Sunday during which he said he would now only grant interviews to himself -- it doesn't take Chris Carter to figure this one out. For all his athletic gifts, Moss is a selfish pain in the rear; he was when he entered the league as an otherworldly 21-year-old talent in 1998, he is now, faded and weathered and 70 percent of his former incarnation at 33.

The same goes for Iverson, who at 34 averaged a respectable 13.9 points in 34 games with Philadelphia last season. Though nowhere near the iconic player he once was, Iverson still possesses the tools necessary to moderately excel in the NBA. So why did he sign a two-year, $4 million contract with Besiktas, a professional team in Turkey? Because, to cite John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News, Iverson "cheated his teams, his teammates, his coaches and his fans by never taking the business of professional basketball as seriously as he should have ... Iverson can't get a job in the NBA because he was always too hardheaded, bullheaded and destructively independent to be worth dealing with at this juncture of his career. Ownership stomached the high maintenance -- skipped practices, feuds with coaches, questionable personal conduct -- when Iverson was an MVP, an unstoppable scorer and a scintillating gate attraction. Now that he is not worth building your franchise around, Iverson is not worth the aggravation."

Marbury fits in the same category. Long ago, as a pup point guard with the Timberwolves, the self-anointed "Starbury" teamed with Kevin Garnett to form a duo often likened to John Stockton and Karl Malone. But while Garnett aged wisely and gracefully, Marbury sulked and pouted and whined his way from Minnesota to New Jersey to Phoenix to New York to, briefly, Boston. He never met a 35-foot jumper he couldn't take, never heard an excuse too far-fetched to apply to his own game. Marbury was as athletic as any player in the league, yet possessed the personal accountability of a third grader. Now, approaching his 34th birthday, he and my coffee mug have the same odds of returning to the NBA.

There is, as with most things, a lesson here for the new wave of young athletes, and it is simply this: Don't be an anus. Time goes fast, fame is fleeting, money dries up and popularity fades like the print of yesterday's newspaper.

Live in the moment, but realize the harshest of realities.

Moments don't last.

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