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August 29, 2017

Character is indeed king, except in the world of sports

If you needed a reminder of how little the issue of character matters in the world of sports, you got a couple of quick lessons this past week.

In a weird comparison of professional football and the world of boxing and martial arts, we had the remarkable clash between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather … followed by the decision by the Philadelphia Eagles to trade Jon Dorenbos.

Wait, what?

How can there be any kind of comparison between a long snapper and a couple of guys throwing hands in one of the biggest spectacles in boxing history?

Actually, if you take a page from a Dorenbos magic show and take a peek behind the curtain and you will see the comparison.

So, let’s pull the curtain aside, and take a look:

On the one hand, you’ve got McGregor and Mayweather, a couple of athletes with what you would politely call an edge.

It doesn’t take much digging to find domestic abuse allegations against Mayweather, while McGregor is a human profanity megaphone. The hype that helped ramp up the fight was fueled by crude personal insults that crossed well over the lines of good taste.

The result?

It was an attraction of historic proportions, and McGregor came out of it as the person who could very well be the most be the most marketable athlete on the planet. Mind you, this is a man who had a custom-made suit complete with the term “F*** You” repeated as the pinstripes.

After the fight, the two partied together and McGregor swilled from a $120,000 bottle of champagne. Mayweather arrived in his $4 million Bugatti and then made a stop at his Vegas strip club Girl Collection.

Neither man is a candidate for the Citizen of the Year Award. However, that does not change the fact that at this point McGregor might be the most popular athlete on the planet and Mayweather can’t do anything but make silly amounts of money.

Character, it seems, only matters in terms of “he’s a character.”

And if you look across the landscape of professional sports you see people such as Michael Vick given chance after chance, a Dallas Cowboys roster rife with problem athletes, and from sport to sport you see people of questionable character given chance after chance as teams that want to profess “character” as a desired quality, as well as an athlete’s ability to connect with a fan base.

Well, take a look at the Dorenbos situation.

This was not a case of a huge upgrade or saving a boatload of money.

Indeed, Dorenbos is “only” a long snapper, but he had truly made a connection with his teammates and the fan base. Since coming onboard in 2006 Dorenbos was virtually perfect as a long snapper. It was something you never had to worry about, the ball would be snapped perfectly into waiting hands.

As more than just an aside, Dorenbos used his “magic” to earn a national platform on America’s Got Talent, and locally to entertain children. Like recent former Eagle Connor Barwin, he easily blended with the fans and there was a rare bond made even stronger when you included the tragic backstory of Dorenbos’ early life and family tragedy.

To be fair, Dorenbos suffered a wrist injury last season, and perhaps the Eagles saw that as a problem in the future. It is often wise business to make a move earlier rather than later, and you can get into trouble by falling in love with a player and then getting nothing in return.

In this case, the Eagles sent Dorenbos, 37, to the New Orleans Saints for a 2019 seventh-round pick. There are also salary cap ramifications that gives the Eagles some wiggle room, and there is every chance they can get a solid job at the position by Rick Lovato, who is cheaper and is only 24-years old.

However, this was a move that doesn’t appear to have a whole lot of upside. It is a minor move on the business side with a relatively major short-term shock impact on the fan base side. There won’t be a single ticket that will go unsold because of the deal and not a single set of eyes will turn away from a game because the long snapper is gone.

It’s nice to say that character is a basis for putting a team together and building a champion. However, that is a shaky gospel and the real truth is that it’s all about talent and being a decent guy won’t get you much respect on a depth chart.

With the very rare exception of the whole Colin Kaepernick affair, which has a whole lot more to do with the current chaos and division of the nation than a character issue, the only thing that really matters is raw talent and relative financial value to a team.

Good guys finish wherever their talent will take them – just like bad guys.