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News » Players have real-life issues, inside fantasy world

Players have real-life issues, inside fantasy world

Players have real-life issues, inside fantasy world
In much the same way as some kindergartners believe their teacher lives at the school, we tend to view pro Basketball players strictly as trained performers who should show up at 7 o'clock every night and play their best, regardless of anything happening in their lives outside the arena.

The published news of Jazz forward Carlos Boozer's filing for divorce from his wife of six years, dissolving a family with three children under 3, is a reminder that we're still dealing with real people with real problems, even in the fantasy world of the NBA.

The expectations -- demands might be a better word -- of fans in this era of pro sports are extremely high. Such standards are not necessarily unreasonable, considering the ridiculously high salaries the players receive. Yet they do have to deal with real-life issues that affect their work.

This is not an attempt to paint Boozer as a victim, or otherwise dismiss his failure to play up to an All-Star level since becoming healthy in late February.

But if off-court problems have hurt his game, going back to last spring's playoff struggles and continuing throughout an injury-interrupted season, Boozer is not saying so. He's not making excuses. That part is refreshing, even if refusing to address the personal situation in terms of how it relates to his very public job is probably not the best PR strategy.

At least, he's consistent.

"He doesn't complain to us in the locker room. ... He doesn't talk about it. He just goes about his business," said Jazz guard Kyle Korver. "As a teammate, you respect that, because there's a lot of guys who will point the finger and don't ever want it to be all their fault."

As he spoke following the Jazz's morning shootaround, in fact, Korver was unaware of the latest news regarding Boozer.

Saturday night, nothing unusual was detectable about Boozer's attitude -- or fans' responses to him -- during by far the craziest game of the season, for him or anybody else. The Jazz went from leading by 21 points in the third quarter to trailing by seven with 2:11 remaining in regulation, after which Boozer played only 19 more seconds while his teammates salvaged a 104-99 overtime victory.

"A little more drama than we wanted," Boozer summarized. "The good thing about it is we ended up winning the game. ... We held our composure."

Fielding a question about whether the night was business as usual for him, Boozer said, "My focus is fine."

So the question remains: Should everybody give Boozer a break for his personal issues, or just expect him to perform, regardless?

Asked if he believes fans do recognize the human factors involved, Korver said, "I think some fans understand that more than others. I think some cities understand more than others, or at least they try to understand. ... As a player, if you know fans are taking it into account, you appreciate that, because it isn't very common."

Korver also acknowledged the expectations of performance are reasonable, because "it is your job."

That applies to everybody. The same, basic workplace standards remain in place for any of us, amid all kinds of personal circumstances.

I also know that elite athletes are supposed to have extraordinary focus, and are trained to play through difficult times. So when Jazz guard Deron Williams says, "We are normal people; we just play Basketball," that's partly truth and partly fiction, as always will be the case for NBA players. After work Saturday, Boozer showered, dressed and drove home in his Rolls Royce, just like everybody else.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 30, 2009


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