Those who did watch -- and there were millions -- generally were disgusted by the display. According to The Q Scores Co., which conducts public opinion surveys about certain celebrities, the number of people with a negative view of James soared 77% after the player turned his back on his hometown team and joined up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It seems that some people still demand more from their athletes than simply on-field/court excellence.
What does this have to with soccer? Apparently Dwayne De Rosario hasn't gotten that message. One week ago we lionized the Toronto FC midfielder for his skill, sense of timing and apparent devotion to his team.
He was the opposite of LeBron, a player who gave his all for his long-time club (Houston) and then asked to return home (Toronto) to help transform a losing franchise. His influence on the field seemed to be matched by his contributions off it, where his example helped steady a club left reeling by the dismissal of its GM and head coach.
And then he went and pulled this nonsense on Saturday. The goal was typically brilliant and audacious. The celebration was stunningly selfish and stupid:
"Sign me," De Rosario repeats as he pretends to sign a check. The goal cut the visiting San Jose Earthquakes' lead to 2-1 in a game that Toronto had to have as it chases the eighth and final playoff spot. TFC is hoping to avoid becoming just the second team in MLS history to miss the posteason for four consecutive years, and they still had a chance going into Saturday's game despite their season of turmoil.
But all De Ro could think about at that climactic moment was his bank account. He affirmed as much after the game. He makes $443,750 per year and is the 13th-highest paid player in a league where many are earning less than a quarter of his salary.
"I think I've showed my commitment to this team, to this city and to this franchise, and it's time for them to show me some commitment as well," following the 3-2 loss that left Toronto seven points out of the final playoff berth with just four games remaining. "It gets frustrating after a while when you continue to give your all and perform, but in saying that I still go out there and will continue to give my 100 percent."
CBC Sports quoted him as saying, "I know of other clubs who have gone to their star players and ripped up their contracts and I think it's only fair. It does get frustrating after a while, after you continue to give your all and perform."
DeRosario scores a terrific goal and then the first thing he thinks about is not that his hometown team is back in the game at a such a crucial time but NO, his first thought is how angry he is at not being paid enough money. And all this when some of his teammates are making a pittance in comparison. His selfishness has clearly reached a new level ...
DeRosario is paid a good wage. Who knows maybe he could argue that he is deserving of more. But a big raise at the designated player level? Definitely not. In either event it should be done at the business level and not in public at such a crucial moment.
Dwayne DeRosario is an excellent player at the MLS level. There is no argument there. But at the same time he has proven to be a poor leader.
How often does a hometown paper eviscerate the local team's best player and a city's formerly favorite son so emphatically? That should reveal all anyone needs to know about how De Rosario's antics are being received. The paper said the celebration "unfortunately go down in memory as an arrogant, selfish, and completely egotistical gesture which his teammates and fans have the right to feel bitterly disappointed about."
A selection of fan comments from the Big Soccer message board:
"That was incredibly unprofessional of DeRo and my feelings about his conduct have tarnished my respect for him as a footballer."
"No wonder this team is dysfunctional! "
"Maybe he should hire an agent to discuss these matters with the managers in private? It certainly doesnt do any good to make grand gestures because it splits the fan base."
San Jose scored a goal to make the score 3-1 just one minute after De Rosario's celebration. It was the ultimate "scoreboard" retort, and perhaps a not-so-subtle signal from the soccer gods that the on-field raise demand was the wrong move. Hopefully he'll continue to hear that message loud and clear through the rest of the season.