Friday, June 08, 2007

Fool For A Client

When fans ask, as they often do, what advantage athletes accrue from retaining an agent, they generally ask the question rhetorically, having firm in mind the notion that agents provide no value to athletes in most sports. But for those fans who still believe that big time professional athletes do not need sports agents, Daunte Culpepper serves as glaring Exhibit A to the contrary.

As Daunte rehabbed his knee in Florida last off-season, new Minnesota Vikings' head coach took the opportunity to cast aspersions against Daunte's workout regimen offensive to anyone who frequents Chinese restaurants in the suburbs and offensive to his own stripmall-managing boss. Childress' cricism sounded the height of childish in a professional setting in which Childress stood only to lose by making such public remarks.

Had Daunte been represented by an agent, his agent would have replied to Childress' comments either with the standard "no comment" or with an equally oft-quoted "my client continues to rehabilitate and plans to return to being one of the top quarterbacks in the league as soon as possible." And that would have been that.

Daunte, however, was not represented by an agent at the time of Childress' disparaging comments. So, rather than Daunte's agent responding to Childress' comment, Daunte, himself, offered a reply. In essence, the reply was two-fold. One, the Vikings betrayed Daunte. Two, Daunte wanted out of Minnesota.

The Vikings obliged, settling for a pittance from Miami for Daunte when they could have forced Daunte to sit at the end of the bench for another three seasons and accept a contract that owed little real money.

Daunte arrived in Miami, where he proceeded to rush his recovery--again, without the advice of an agent. The decision was costly as Daunte quickly re-injured himself and was forced back into rehabiliation.

This week, with Daunte slow to make progress in his second off-season of rehabilitation, the Miami Dolphins traded for KC quarterback Trent Green. The Dolphins subsequently informed Culpepper that the team was going in a new direction and that they were exploring trade opportunities for him.

Because Daunte still has no agent, he responded to the Dolphin's revelation, not be speaking with the Dolphins, but by speaking with the Dolphins and then with the media. Daunte blamed the Dolphins for betraying him and asked for his release--all in a gift-wrapped letter to John Q. Media.

Had Daunte had an agent, the agent would have responded to the Dolphins' decision to "go another direction" by putting the best spin possible on the Dolphins' decision to release Daunte, thereby allowing Daunte an opportunity to appear to be the good guy caught in a numbers game rather than as a whiney guy, unwanted because of uncertainty about his injured knee.

Presumably, the agent would have said that "Daunte has received a clean bill of health on his injury and is preparing for the opening game of the 2007 season with the intent of re-taking his position as one of the game's top quarterbacks." He might have added that "Daunte understands the Dolphins' decision to go with a starting quarterback with whom the new offensive coordinator has a long working relationship and wishes the Dolphin's organization well." Period.

There's a saying in the legal profession that one who represents oneself has a fool for a client. That message applies equally in the world of professional sports where the vast majority of athletes understand the golden maxim. Unfortunately for Daunte, the lesson has yet to be learned.

Up Next: Around the NFC North--comparing offenses.

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