1. Be angry from the moment you wake up.
From 10 AM on I was working myself up about my meeting with the team owner. I decided that there was no reason that he should have charged me for the car that he let me use for a month. There was no reason I should have to pay for a flight when we never the discussed the details before hand. There was no reason I had to go in there and be a kiss ass when I had not been paid in over 2 months. I was ready to really get into it with this guy.
2. Don’t Listen to Anybody’s Pre-Meeting Advice
Maybe my agent sensed the fury growing within me, because he called me around 11 AM. He told me that he had talked with the owner, that I needed to accept whatever money he offered me, and that he would work something out later. I asked him why everything always got pushed back around here. He insisted that nothing good would come of bringing the ruckus right now.
I was in the weight room with a teammate about an hour before the meeting. He is an American who has played overseas for a long time. He conceded that I had fair points, but he assured me I would not be able to actually get any extra money out of these people. He told me how the Israelis will always side with each other and that no amount of fighting would change anybody’s mind.
3. Argue Vociferously and Reveal That You Know Things You Shouldn’t
The meeting began around 1 PM. I skipped the pleasantries and got right down to business. I told him that when he agreed to “help” pay for my car that did not give him the right to make me pay for 80% of it. There was nothing in writing and we never discussed the details, so that seemed unfair to me. I didn’t even have the car for a full month, it had all kinds of problems, and if there was never any drama over the whole lawyer issue then he probably would have paid for the whole thing.
Let me explain the lawyer issue. When you get seriously hurt playing sports in Israel you are eligible for a ton of insurance money. Or at least this is what I gathered from the way my agent and the owner suddenly started being real friendly toward me. I went from talking to them maybe once a month to fielding daily calls where they acted like we were close pals who constantly checked in on one another. Turns out they both wanted me to work with their own insurance lawyer. I chose the agents lawyer. The owner threw a fit and started telling me that I was a rat. I told him that I felt it best to keep the player and the team separate on this issue. I reminded him that at the time he very clearly said I could “make a decision, whatever [I] want to do, and we go from there.” He told me that I had broken my word and was not a man. I told him that yeah, I had intimated at one point I might work with your guy, but I never signed anything, and the way you are acting now is proving my decision to be the right one. He has been upset ever since.
Back to the negotiations:
He refused to concede any of my points. He said that he had told me from the beginning what I would be paying for the car. I disputed this. I then talked about how it is not like he is paying me a lot of money. Not only that, but he did not give me a vehicle, a washer, a dryer or an apartment close to the gym. I live over a mile away in a hastily converted attic that has no insulation, paint chipping off the ceiling and mold in several of the corners. Then we went off on a weird tangent:
“I feel like Rapunzel trapped up in that place!”
“Who? I don’t understand.”
“Rapunzel. I don’t know the story that well but I know she was trapped in a tower.”
“Rapunzel! She was stuck in a tower so she grew long hair or something. She let it down so that she could escape. I think there was a knight.”
“I know the one with the hood.”
“Not Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel!”
When I am yelling about children’s stories I know I have gotten off track, so I went back to talking about money issues. At this point the head coach walked in. The owner told me that he would give me what he can give me, because he “doesn’t have a lot of money right now.” He said we could talk about the rest later. Arghgh!
They started telling me about how they have done so much for me. They got me a good doctor and got me an MRI and helped me after the surgery. I told them that I appreciated all that and I have thanked them profusely. I even returned from the states with gifts of wine and candy that the owner refused to accept because they “weren’t Kosher.” (I see him drinking wine all the time and I know he must like sweets because it’s not like he is anywhere near his target BMI.) Then my coach started lecturing me.
Coach “He treated you like a son.
Owner “If he was my son, I slap him.”
Me “I wish you would.”
Coach “This would not have happened if you had been nicer about the lawyer.”
Me “I told him from the beginning that I wanted to work with the other guy. We discussed all this a month ago!”
At this point I told them that none of this was surprising to me because I heard that they were going to cut me. They half heartedly tried to deny this, but we all know that the only reason they didn’t send me packing was because the guard they thought they were bringing to the team hit them with the 52 fake out and didn’t close the deal. (don’t know exactly what a 52 fake out is. A teammate used it and I like the alliteration of it.) Now it is past the deadline and they can’t sign any more Israelis. They tried unsuccessfully to get me to reveal my source on the cut issue. Then they said they were only thinking about ditching me because the doctor told them I was going to be ready after 6 weeks and I am still injured. The doctor said 6 weeks as a rough guess BEFORE HE SAW THE MRI OR PERFORMED THE OPERATION! I have told them many times what the revised estimate was.
The owner sat back in his chair and stared at me.
“Now, I don’t help you with anything!”
Not the ending I was hoping for. I accepted my even more meager than usual paycheck and left the room, having managed to infuriate my coach and owner while gaining nothing in the way of leverage or money. At least I got to speak my mind.
I am on target to be back and healthy for the last few games and then the playoffs. If we have a solid run I am sure this will all be looked at as an insignificant part of a successful season. I have found this owner to be easily angered but quick to forgive. Also, I’ve decided the next gift I get him will not be food or drink, but a book of fairy tales.