A few days ago some discussion developed over Vernon Davis's comments that he would "love to play for the Dolphins" (FanShot, FanPost). There was plenty of discussion about the topic, but I bring it up again due to questions I have in light of Marvel Smith's conference call yesterday. I've included the entire transcript of the conversation after the jump.
Marvel Smith grew up in East Oakland, and his entire family still lives there. According to Marvel:
"Everybody’s really excited. I mean it’s crazy how many phone calls I’ve been getting from people I haven’t talked to in years, actually. I grew up in Oakland, so my family was all Raider fans growing up, but now they are all 49er fans now . . ."
"Back [when Smith was growing up] it wasn’t a situation that we rooted for the 49ers. Growing up I wasn’t a 49er fan. I loved some of the players that they had, but I grew up in Oakland so at that time I was an Oakland Raiders fan when I was growing up, but that ended pretty much when I got drafted to the NFL."
For those who read the Sports Guy (or used to read him), you may recall his discussion six years ago about sports fan bigamy. It got me thinking about the experience of being a professional athlete as well as my own experiences (definitely not one in the same!).
I'd imagine most professional athletes grew up as a fan of a certain team in their particular sport. Vernon Davis was born in Washington, DC and went to Maryland, so maybe he was a Redskins fan. Frank Gore grew up in Miami, so maybe he was a Dolphins fan. We don't really hear about it much more than at draft day (if even that). However, I've often wondered how athletes handle not being able to play for a team they grew up rooting for as a child.
I'll use my own sports fan experiences as an comparison of sorts. It's a bit complicated at times, so please bear with me. As a child I was a Red Sox fan. I was from Las Vegas, but my dad grew up on the south side of Boston. However, it turns out I was more of a Wade Boggs fan, because when he left for the Yankees (before they became good), I followed and became a Yankees fan. Judge away, but those are the facts. Then, in 2003 I moved out here to San Francisco for a sport management masters program at the University of San Francisco. During that time I was hired by the Oakland A's for an internship, which eventually led to 4+ years of employment with the team before starting law school.
The first time the Yankees visited the Coliseum in April 2003, I sat on my hands. I was a Yankees fan working for the A's, and that left me in an unfamiliar and confusing situation. However, in September 2003, when the Yankees returned, I was only rooting for the A's. Initially it might have been because they were paying me (not very much at that time). However, I grew to become a passionate fan of the A's, which I remain today.
I'm a passionate sports fan, but maybe since I didn't have a local childhood MLB team, I was not quite as attached as I thought. So is this something that makes it a little more difficult for a professional athlete? Say you grew up a diehard Cowboys fan all the way into college, and are then drafted by the 49ers. Do you people think there are any problems? Or does a multi-million dollar contract solve that problem quickly? Smith stated his Raiders fandom pretty much ended when he was drafted. So maybe it's the latter.
Anyways, I thought this was something worth opening up for discussion. Do you have specific hardcore fan rules you believe fans have to follow? Does it apply to a professional athlete? These are the things I wonder when I'm sitting in class bored out of my mind.
Conference Call – 03-30-09
San Francisco 49ers
RE: How important was it for you to get back to California?
“That was the main priority.”
RE: Why was that? Why was that important to you at this point in your career?
“Well, if I was going to where I wanted to be, it was definitely going to be on the West Coast. I didn’t want to necessarily go play in the snow somewhere else at the end of my career really.”
RE: Marvel, have you always maintained a home here in the Bay Area?
“I’ve actually lived in Southern California throughout my career. My whole family still lives in Oakland.”
RE: How often do you make it back to Oakland?
“I make it back every year. Normally, during the offseason I come back a few times just to visit family and friends.”
RE: Are you in Santa Clara now? Have you joined the team for the offseason program?
“I won’t actually be reporting until next week. Monday I’ll be there for sure.”
RE: Marvel, what was your family’s reaction to the fact you were signing so close to home?
“Everybody’s really excited. I mean it’s crazy how many phone calls I’ve been getting from people I haven’t talked to in years, actually. I grew up in Oakland, so my family was all Raider fans growing up, but now they are all 49er fans now.”
RE: The Raider fans when you were growing up, what did they think of the Niners in those days?
“Back then it wasn’t a situation that we rooted for the 49ers. Growing up I wasn’t a 49er fan. I loved some of the players that they had, but I grew up in Oakland so at that time I was an Oakland Raiders fan when I was growing up, but that ended pretty much when I got drafted to the NFL.”
RE: Marvel, what part of Oakland are you from?
“I grew up in East Oakland.”
RE: Marvel, give us an update on your back, the condition of your back.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve been working out. I really haven’t taken any time off, really since I had the surgery done during the season. Two weeks after the surgery I was working out and rehab, all that kind of stuff, so I’m pretty much past the rehab stage now. I’m just trying to ease into it instead of doing way too much. I feel like I could do everything without any problems or anything like that. All my workouts and stuff like that have been progressing well. I couldn’t imagine anything going any better than it has been already.”
RE: And what exactly was done in the surgery?
“I had a loose fragment from the disc that they went in and took out. They didn’t touch anything structurally or whatever. Supposedly it’s the most minor procedure you can have done on your back. So I noticed an instant improvement right away, even the same day when I was laying in the hospital.”
RE: So it wasn’t a bulging disk? It was just a fragment of the disk that was disconnected there?
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what it was.”
RE: Do you remember the date of that surgery?
“It was the day before Thanksgiving.”
RE: What was the surgery that you had in December?
“It’s funny because it was the same type of procedure, but it was just on a different side. So it was pretty much the same thing for the most part.”
RE: Do you feel confident then, that you can make it through a full season or the life of this contract and be healthy and play well enough that you can get another contract down the road?
“I don’t have any doubts about that at all. You know football is a contact sport and anybody playing, that is there job to stay healthy and to me it’s almost a blessing in disguise that I’ve been through these situations before because I know how to handle it better now. Last year when I thought I felt good, I didn’t really know because I was going through it for the first time. This time around it’s like night and day because I feel a lot better than I thought I felt last year already.”
RE: You played left tackle the previous few years. How would you feel about going over the right side?
“I don’t have a problem with it at all. Whatever’s best for the team, really. I played right tackle my first three years in the league and I’ve got the whole offseason, really, to get back into the groove of playing on the right side. I don’t really see it being that big of a deal, really.”
RE: What’s your take on this whole 49ers team after visiting and looking around? What do you know about this team? What do you like about it?
“I just can’t wait to get up there and get going with my teammates and all the staff and stuff like that. To me, it’s a real young team that’s on the verge of taking off and being one of the better teams in the league, and I definitely want to be a part of that. Everything it seems like they have set in place is geared towards being a physically dominant team on the field and that’s the exact type of team I love playing for. Just to be out on the field and be physically dominating somebody, not necessarily just beating them or scoring more points, but if you can physically demoralize a team, that’s the type of team I love playing for and that’s the type of team Coach Singletary is getting put together.”
RE: What’s your take on meeting Coach Singletary?
“It’s just as advertised. I’m looking forward to it. To me, he’s the perfect type of coach to play for – somebody who’s played in the NFL and did it at its highest level and he’s been successful as a coach already. It’s hard to find a coach with his qualities for the most part, and I’m looking forward to working with him.”
RE: Before you were signed, there was a lot of talk out here about how the 49ers would use their draft pick at number 10. Certainly offensive tackle was one of the positions that people talked about. Do you care or would you be surprised if the 49ers did take a tackle at number 10? How much will you be watching that?
“Doesn’t matter to me at all. I don’t have any control over any type of decisions like that. To me, competition is great. If it’s something you want bad enough, it’s worth fighting for. The biggest thing is for me to go out there and perform and do the things I know I can do. Outside of that, I don’t worry about anything else.”
RE: You have sort of an unusual pass protection stance. Is that as a result of the back or is that your natural stance?
“No that’s actually nothing to do with the back. I’ve had that stance really… I changed my stance three or four times throughout my career and I’ve pretty much been using that stance for the last five or six years. And it’s worked perfect for me. I remember when I first started doing it a lot of my friends said I looked like I was out there praying because I hold my hands up in front of my face or whatever. It’s perfect for me because I just got to keep my hand up in front of my face and stuff like that because to me pass-blocking is just like boxing. I’ve done a lot of boxing training in the offseason and it started correlating with it and I started using it in my stance. I feel like I’m a lot more explosive out of it.”
RE: Why don’t you think you went back to Pittsburgh?
“That’s the decision they made. The way I see it, they went and won the Super Bowl with the line that they had and it’s a group of young guys that they feel they can build upon. Me personally, I don’t know why they made the decision but, in my mind, the reason I just gave you is the reason why I think they made it. I’m actually glad not to be going back to tell you the truth because I couldn’t see a situation better than the one I have right now.”
RE: You signed a two-year contract, is that correct?