Because Harriet Tubman Had a Private Jet too.

Posted on July 12, 2008

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Well according to Sepp Blatter and FIFA, Cristiano Ronaldo is some kind of a slave.  At least we know hyperbole isn’t dead.  I was just reading a biography of Frederick Douglass the other day and noticing how much anger he felt against the chains of his multimillion dollar contract, and the bondage of being unable to choose his favored plantation.  Really, the similarities were uncanny.

I’m also grateful that Pele and David Beckham weighed in on the whole Cristiano Ronaldo saga.  I was wondering what aging international sports icons with no ties to the situation would have to say.  “Play out your contract,” says Pele.  “It’s a tough decision,” says Beckham.  Thanks guys.

In all genuineness, I can understand Ronaldo’s frustration and see his point.  The average person’s job does not have a long-term contract involved.  We take for granted the underlying freedom that comes with knowing that we can walk away at any time if we so choose.  If we hate our boss, we’re free to bolt.  If we see a better opportunity, we can leave.  Nothing truly binds us to work anywhere.

Ronaldo has millions of dollars and millions of pounds of gel in his hair, so it’s difficult to muster up any sympathy for him.   And really, if he’s forced to stay at Manchester United, the world won’t end for anybody.  Ronaldo will go on scoring countless goals.  Man U will continue to rake in the cash as the International Yankees, and Real Madrid will go sign someone else who’s comparable to Ronaldo because they’re just as rich.  But Ronaldo’s grievance- that he’s not free to choose his own destiny simply because of his signature on a piece of paper- still rings with some merit.

Ronaldo was not ignorant when he signed with Manchester.  He knows what a contract is.  Just because he’s from Portugal doesn’t mean he’s brain damaged.  But if the situation is stripped of the elements that make it tough to digest- international fame, truckloads of money, glamorous job- ultimately Cristiano Ronaldo is still a guy who thought he was in a great situation, only to find a slightly better one develop halfway through.  Whether on a large scale or a small scale, we’ve all had that happen to us before, and we know how frustrating that can be.  We want to reach for something we see passing by, but can’t.  Our commitments tie us down, like Gulliver thrashing against his Lilliputian restraints.

Yet it’s because of that understanding that I can also emphatically say that Cristiano Ronaldo has to stay put at Manchester United.  It really is about something as simple as contentment.  As I said, life deals these moments from time to time.  We’ve all had situations where we’ve made commitments- be it to a school, a wife, or a candy bar- only to have something else come along and beckon us to it.  Part of growing up is learning to distinguish between genuine opportunities and mirages.  From an outside perspective, Ronaldo’s Real Madrid courtship looks like a mirage.  What is there to it, really?  Not much more money.  Not much more fame.  Not much more soccer success, if any at all.  It just looks like something….else.  It’s certainly nothing that can’t be waited on.  Certainly not something worth having an international ruckus about.

And certainly not something worth giving up your contentment over.

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