SUPERSTAR CONTRACTS NEED A SANITY CLAUSE

As Christmas approaches, some thoughts on the naughty and the nice in the sports job world:

ALLEN IVERSON: Is it just me, or is Allen Iverson still on the 76ers? He is, right? And since he is, can you tell me why he doesn’t have to play? He’s under contract. He’s got three years left on a recent extension. Yet he announces he wants to be traded, his locker is cleaned out, and now he sits at home – or wherever he sits – collecting his money and shaking his head at potential deals, while his teammates have to slog it out on the court night after night.

No wonder they’ve lost nine in a row. What a beautiful world the NBA has created. A superstar gets unhappy, his team gets fed up with his behavior (Iverson reportedly missed a team bowling night, which makes you wonder just how slow a town Philly has become), and all of a sudden, fans who pay big money are ignored. No Iverson. No refund. Instead, they get to watch Kyle Korver.

Why is this insanity allowed to continue? Why do other teams like the Miami Heat get to comment on how they’d like to have Iverson on their roster while the team that is paying him doesn’t even use him – and is basically trashing its season?

The kicker is, Iverson sits like a king waiting to be impressed by the offerings – and he doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract. Yet he is clearly calling the shots. The message is sad and clear: If you’re big enough, you can just stop playing, demand a trade, tell the league where you will or won’t go – AND keep collecting your salary.

No wonder kids want to play pro basketball.

MATT MILLEN: Is it just me, or is it suddenly fashionable to make Matt Millen’s conscience a scapegoat?

Which is understandable. We’ve used up all the other scapegoats. Last year at this time, there was a protest organized to rail against the Lions’ losing ways. “Fire Millen!” was the mantra. Since that didn’t work, the new cry is “Resign, Millen!” Pundits are asking (OK, maybe demanding) that Millen’s sense of shame give him a swift kick in his own butt.

It’s a nice idea. But why will it happen if it hasn’t happened by now? Is being 23-70 for your career as an executive so much worse than being 23-67? Does starting the season 0-5, as the Lions did this year, move you faster to the ledge than starting 0-12, which the Lions did in Millen’s first year?

Millen’s record is abysmal. But his believing that he can get it done is just human nature. If you asked cut football players if they deserved another chance to keep their position, how many would say, “No, let’s face it, I stink.”

Until William Clay Ford takes a different approach – and the only one that would work is him selling the team – the fundamental problems with this organization will remain. And if Ford isn’t ashamed of those by now, will a few more losses make a difference?

DAISUKE MATSUZAKA: Is it just me, or had almost nobody heard of this guy before Boston coughed up $51.11 million for the right to negotiate with him? And now they have signed the 26-year-old pitcher for six years and ANOTHER $52 million. That’s $103.11 million on a guy who two seasons ago was 14-13 for the Seibu Lions. Ahem. The Seibu Lions – not the New York Yankees. He was 14-13?

Yes, I know he’s supposed to have great stuff. But if his stuff is so great, how did he lose nearly half of his decisions in 2005?

Still, that’s a minor point compared to other points of Matsuzaka’s deal. Boston pays for his own physical therapist, his own massage therapist, his own personal assistant and, of course, his own interpreter. Who doesn’t have one of those?

He also gets about 90 flights over the course of the deal. Ninety flights? What’s he going to do, go back to Tokyo to do his laundry?

The Red Sox claim to know what they’re doing. But if you don’t see a big risk in $103.11 million for a guy who has never pitched in the majors, I don’t want you overseeing my 401(k) account.

Then again, Matsuzaka is probably upset he wasn’t chosen by the 76ers. Then, if things didn’t work out, he could have jumped on the plane, gone home and told the team to trade him back to Seibu.

Oh. And keep sending the money.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. He will sign copies of his latest best seller, “For One More Day,” at 8 tonight at Barnes & Noble, Port Huron; at 11 a.m. Saturday at Sam’s Club, Flint, and at 3 p.m. Saturday at Costco, Commerce Township.

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