08 May 2007

The Opportunity Costs of Bobby Boswell

Bobby Boswell has a new post up on his salary, and there's certainly a desire among MLS/DC United types to highlight his remarks. While I don't dispute a single word from our boy, and I'm not asking him to talk out of school, I can't quite accept the rosy picture he paints.

Says Mr. Boswell:

The bottom line is that D.C. United offered me a great deal this past off-season! I just decided to turn it down for personal reasons...I didn’t play soccer in high school or college because I thought “Man. I would love to make X amount of dollars one day.” I thought, “Man, that has to be awesome to represent your country on the biggest stage in the world.”... And when you’re along for the ride, it isn’t about money. It is about experiences and everything that goes along with those experiences!

Do I doubt that Boz plays for The Love [of the Game] (TM)? Not at all. But the strong implication of this post is that Bobby turned down more money because it was somehow unfair that he get more money for doing what he loved. And to that, I say horse-hockey. If that's truly his reasoning, then his agent should be fired and those closest to him should slap Bobby around a few times to reverse engineer whatever head trauma has impaired his financial senses. To simply the pass the money up is a silly, stupid decision, given the potential for injuries and the like.

What is far, far more probable is that Bobby and his agent have confidence in his ability, and think they can get a better deal after another solid year than they were getting right now. Why be locked in to a five year contract at $70K when you can give up one year (or about $40K) and maybe get a contract worth $100K/yr or more, and perhaps some flexibility regarding transferring to Europe? It's a gamble, but a sensible one. You pay the opportunity cost to preserve flexibility, and perhaps additional leverage, later on.

Am I upset, as a fan of United, and as a fan of Boswell, by that move? Hell no. But the tone of the existing post is, I think, a bit misleading. Especially to those that may not have the future flexibility of Boswell, like, say, Devon McTavish. Should Devon be happy at $30K a year, just because he's playing a game he loves? Should he be shamed into accepting a lower salary because of The Love (TM)? Again, hell no. Devon has every right to try and wrangle out as much as he can. And DC United has every right to try and manage their salaries to preserve cap space and profitability.

I admit this is probably a bit hypocritical of me, given that I love writing this blog, love reading other soccer blogs, but look down a little on those blogs overrun with advertising. However, I'll be clear, while I do this blog for The Love (TM) right now, if the right offer came along I would sell-out in a heartbeat. Of course, there's a lot that would go into the concept of the right offer, but there you go. And I certainly don't expect that because I love this blog, others should blog for free if given the opportunity to make some cash at it. Same rules.

So let me say this: Bobby, while I appreciate your love for soccer, and perhaps understand your discomfort at talking about the monetary value of entertainment and sport, it's okay man. We're not going to think less of you if you wanted to make more money, or thought that turning down United's offer was a way to get more money in the long-run. We're adults here (okay, I'm 29, but close enough). It's a business too, and we understand that. And I'd hate to think that some poor developmental player was reading along and thinking "Well, if Bobby's saying I should be happy with 30K, perhaps I won't negotiate as hard for 50K as I otherwise might." I think that line of reasoning is fallacious, and potentially dangerous.

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At 08 May, 2007 17:33, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If DCU were to win the Superliga, dividing up the $1 million purse would provide Mr. Boswell with an extra 35 grand this year... right?
(1 million divided by 28 players)
Or does the $$$ go to the corporate team?

At 08 May, 2007 17:50, Blogger Sean said...

What's lame about Boswell's post is that it's a clear attempt by Boswell and/or the DCU PR people that manage BobbyBoswell.com to white-wash the contract negotiations between the two of them. Boswell doesn't want to say 'f u United' because he might not get a European offer and might very well want to stay with the team.

And the PR people want this to be about the Love (tm) and not about the money.

But it's about the money. And that, as you say, D, is okay. But this half-assed attempt to make it seem like what's between Boswell and DCU right now isn't money/ability to go to Europe and make more money is pretty lame.

At 08 May, 2007 20:57, Anonymous Jofi said...

Dude, the Boswell blog is a PR stunt, pure and simple. There is nothing wrong with that, but do you really expect the Boz to lay out his negotiating approach in his blog? Of course he is going to write something cheesy re love of the game -- do you think he would write, "I'm turning down big money down in hopes of netting an even bigger payoff down the road."

I am more surprised by the fact that you are taking his blog postings seriously and think that it will set a poor example for developmental players.

At 09 May, 2007 08:42, Blogger Jeffrey said...

I read the Boswell post like this: He wants to go to Europe, but he's grateful to DCU and MLS. He goes straight from saying "I turned it down for personal reasons" to "I want to represent my country on the highest stage," which says to me is that his personal reason is that he wants to represent the US in Europe. Once that's said, he feels the need to say something nice about DC United and MLS, which is where the gushing language comes in.

At 09 May, 2007 09:02, Blogger D said...

Anon K: I believe it goes to the players, but I could be wrong.

Jofi: sure it's a PR thing. And that's fine. But you can be completely honest in your PR, and I think it treats the fan with more respect than having it be all happy-talk all the time.

Jeffrey: I think your interpretation could be spot on. And my question would be: would you be upset, as a fan of either Boswell or United, if he had said that? Speaking for myself, I wouldn't. It would be fine, and honest, and I think would have made his point just as well.

At 09 May, 2007 10:13, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the blog exactly the way Jeffrey did - that he turned down the deal so he could keep his options open when his MLS contract expires after next season. I didn't read at all that he didn't feel he was worth the extra money, or that he shouldn't be paid more because he loves the game. I think he was probably trying to deflect criticism away from DC United, since the salaries were just published. He was taking responsibility for the state of his salary. Would you have preferred that he say, "I didn't trust MLS to sell me if a European club comes knocking."? He gave props to the league for his opportunity, but he is effectively saying that he can make ends meet until he gets a chance to play on a bigger stage, and he wants to have control over his own future. Mades perfect sense to me, and I have no doubt that his teammates understand his strategy, too. It's just the fans, and people who try to read too much into pretty simple comments, that get confused.

At 09 May, 2007 10:14, Anonymous Joanna said...

I thought that was a really lame post. Yes, the blog is an obvious PR stunt, but you can make something an obvious PR stunt and it can be fun and interesting without also being obvious... bullshit.

So, yeah.

At 09 May, 2007 10:19, Blogger D said...

Anon: The point which I am trying to make is that I agree with both you and Jeffrey as to Boswell's motivating factors (both Europe and, I think, salary). And that we're mature enough as fans to be told that straight up, it doesn't have to be couched as "personal reasons." I don't think anyone is truly confused, it's just that I don't understand the reason for NOT stating the obvious, as though it were something to be ashamed of.

Joanna: Yeah. We can handle the truth on monetary matters, we don't need to be babied around it. Sure, the first time Boswell misses a mark some disgruntled fan on a Large Futbol message board will say "Why is his mind in Europe already?" but such people are ubiquitous and can be ignored safely. The rest of us would, I think, respect his candor, and flock for even more PR which we could take seriously. That is, I think, my ultimate complaint: Salary discussions are serious discussions, and Bobby's post didn't treat it as seriously as it deserved.

At 09 May, 2007 18:48, Blogger Sean said...

Remember, too, that BobbyBoswell.com is a joint DCU PR/Bobby Boswell operation.

So I doubt he can /really/ say what he's thinking, even if he were in the mood. Even if they don't formally censor or vet his posts, it's not like he's on bobbyboswell.blogspot.com or www.livejounral.com/~bboswell.

At 10 May, 2007 01:14, Anonymous diego r. said...

boswell's reasoning doesn't make any logical sense. he's obviously waiting to finish the season and see what kind of salary he can get (either in Europe or MLS). DCU, for their part, seemed to come in with pretty low offer. I mean, Boswell should be offerred at least what Erpen makes (115K).

I'm almost positive Boswell is gone after this season, unless DC comes in with an offer around 150. Although, the Premiership seems like a stretch and not because of talent but because of work permits. Clint Dempsey got denied initially and was only approved on appeal and he appears in a lot more national team games than Boswell.

At 10 May, 2007 10:48, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He is under contract with D.C. United and yes he deserves to make Erpen money that is not what he signed to make the team. No one here really knows what DCU offered. I think that Team-Bobby believes that his future is Europe and maybe the current arrangement gives hime more of the transfer money. Let us not forget that he was an undrafted player and United at the time was looking to replace him as a started with Erpen in 2005 (I thought that was a mistake at the time). I respect someone who honors their commitments, which is what Bobby is doing and taking the gamble that a bigger payday is down the road.


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