People in Utah are known for being fairly easygoing, understanding and generally kind.
Apparently, that doesn’t apply when it comes to multimillion-dollar basketball players deciding to leave the Beehive State.
I was shocked to see the level of anger — and, unfortunately, worse — directed at Gordon Hayward and his family when he decided to leave the Jazz to join the Boston Celtics. It seems to me that Jazz fans have lost their perspective, so blinded by their love for the home team that they can’t see just how unreasonable they’re being.
First of all, Hayward’s not the first superstar to leave for supposedly greener pastures. The Jazz aren’t the first team to have a superstar leave, either. Remember Cleveland and LeBron James? Be thankful that Hayward didn’t go on national television to break Jazz fans’ hearts. In fact, the way he handled it with his article on The Players’ Tribune was pretty classy, in my book.
You can argue that he probably should have been more open with his teammates, as Rudy Gobert opined the other day, but from a fan’s perspective, Hayward gave more of an explanation than most could expect.
Second, the Jazz really weren’t going anywhere in terms of winning a championship, with or without Hayward. That’s not an indictment on them — rather, it’s an admission that barring catastrophic injury, the Golden State Warriors are going to dominate the Western Conference for the foreseeable future. If Hayward would have stayed in Utah, the best the Jazz could have hoped for was losing in the conference finals.
Even that wouldn’t have been guaranteed, as Utah faces an uphill battle in a vastly improved Northwest Division that now features Paul George and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota, Paul Millsap (remember him?) and Nikola Jokic in Denver and Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in Portland. The West is so stacked now, the Jazz could win 50 games and get swept in the first round as a No. 8 seed.
The Jazz are still a likely playoff contender without Hayward, particularly with the additions of Ricky Rubio, Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko. But Hayward isn’t the difference between winning a championship or not. Maybe he’s the difference between getting beaten in the first round of the playoffs and getting beaten in the second, but that’s honestly about it.
Which brings me to my third point — all he did was switch jobs. How many of us have, at one point or another, had another job offer come through that when we weighed all the pluses and minuses, looked better to us? Certainly, our former employers probably weren’t pleased with us.
If other jobs were as public as Hayward’s, would it be acceptable for people to face death threats and off-color comments by keyboard warriors across the social-media cesspool like he did? I’d like to think not. The day my favorite waiter at my favorite restaurant decides to move across town to another establishment, I seriously hope he doesn’t get hate mail for it and people don’t threaten his family.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He’d go across town specifically to boo his former favorite waiter at his new place of business, but he figures that isn’t socially acceptable either. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.