Is there a double standard here? That’s the question that’s being asked here. Here in Metro Detroit, there are two athletes who each have played for Detroit teams, who have recently been in the news. They play different sports. They each have publically expressed dissatisfaction with the teams they’ve played their entire careers with, yet they are receiving very different reactions from fans on social media. These two athletes are Calvin Johnson and Tomas Tatar. Let’s examine the two cases, shall we?
Last week, Calvin Johnson admitted that the Lions’ inability to become Super Bowl contenders contributed to his decision to retire following the 2015 season. Since then, Megatron has been vilified by fans on Facebook. Some cite his decision to voice his displeasure more than a year after retirement. Others site the timing of his comments following the Lions’ attempt to make him pay back part of his signing bonus. A huge percentage are fixated on the huge 130 million contract he signed in 2012 and feel that he has no right to complain. Finally, there are those who are upset that a former player bashed their team. “Entitled” is an adjective that been used to describe him lately. Among the nouns that fans are now using (at least the ones that I can post here) are diva, crybaby, and punk among others. You can probably see this type of response on multiple Facebook groups dedicated to the Detroit Lions such as Detroit Lions Debaters Club.
Even though many of these same fans would probably bash Lions ownership/management the first change they get, over a decision they don’t like, there seem to be very few in this case are coming to Calvin’s defense, instead criticizing him, even though he is basically echoing the very sentiment that they have had all along. Those who are upset that he waited until after retirement to voice his displeasure may agree with Mitch Album’s column, that Calvin seemed to mislead everyone by never voicing any displeasure during his playing days. Well, some people may not like to “rock the boat” by talking about their current employer, and feel more comfortable talking about the situation later. Maybe Megatron didn’t want to be a distraction to the Lions during the season or any offseason, of course until the one where he ultimately chose to retire.
For those who are fixated about the big contract “no one forced him to sign,” they must put that signing into its proper context. This was 2012. The Lions where coming off of three years of the Jim Schwartz regime which had seen an upward trajectory since that dreadful 0-16 season. This had culminated with a 2011 that provided fans with new hope, a 10-6 season, and their first playoff appearance in 12 years. Matthew Stafford looked like the franchise quarterback going forward after a 5 thousand-yard passing season. The sky seemed the limit for the Lions. Calvin signed that contract with the understanding that the Lions would take the next step and become Super Bowl contenders, but instead, fell on their faces the next two years so Schwartz could get fired. Then, the Lions show promise in 2014 in their first year under Jim Caldwell, then fall on their faces again the very next year. This was not how Megatron expected the next four years to go when he signed that extension.
Tomas Tatar of the Red Wings is a restricted free agent (on track to head to salary arbitration), that’s been unable to agree on a new contract. Tatar has been reportedly turned down a five year-25 million dollar deal, and is instead seeking around six million per year over seven years. He’s even reportedly said that if he goes to arbitration and is awarded a one-year deal, then that will be his final season in Detroit. Yet the narrative of the majority of Red Wings fans (at least according to such fan groups on Facebook) is that Tatar’s demands, along with his dissatisfaction with the team, are justifiable. Wings general manager, Ken Holland is instead viewed as the villain for not willing to pay a player that’s scored more goals in three seasons than all other players league wide, except 30, despite overvaluing Justin Abdelkader, Danny Dekeyser, Darren Helm, and Luke Glendening with bloated contracts.
While fans appear to have good reason to criticize Holland for these previous signings, could it be that he may actually have it right this time? Granted, Tatar has been the Red Wings most dependable goal scorer the last few seasons, but that’s not saying a whole lot considering the state of the team and the league as a whole. It’s not like Tatar is irreplaceable like Pavel Datsyuk or Niklas Lidstrom were. What Tatar is asking for is money that you pay a franchise player to. Fans seriously have to ask their selves, is Tatar a franchise player? Are there any such players on the team right now? Dylan Larkin… maybe, Tatar should not be overvalued here and placed into that group. He’s a very good, dependable complimentary piece, not a center piece to build your team around.
The Bottom Line
These two situations may appear to be very different, but are worth comparing side by side. Why does Tatar get the benefit of fans defending him but Calvin doesn’t? They could both very well be casted as greedy, selfish, and whiny, but only Megatron is. Both could be casted as being the victims of mismanagement by their team organizations, but only Tatar is. Again, the question is asked, is there a double standard here, and if so, why? Is it because of timing, with Tatar still being active and Calvin being retired? Is it because of the dollar amount, with Calvin getting so much more than what Tatar is asking for? Or is it because of another factor that’s not even being mentioned? Fans need to examine these questions and really determine if they have it right or wrong in terms of which player they’re supporting and which they’re bashing. This isn’t to say that all fans are critical of Calvin Johnson or that all fans are supporting Tomas Tatar, but the narrative driven by the majority tells two very different tales. Are these the right tales to be told, though? I leave that for you all to answer. You heard it from me, Seth Walker.