The players would each remember Sparky Anderson's spring training speech a little bit differently in later years, but everyone recalled his main point. He announced that the Machine was made up of two kinds of players. First, there were the superstars. To be more specific, Sparky said, there were four superstars -- Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez. Those four made their own rules. Those four had no curfew. Those four had special privileges. If Johnny wanted to go golfing every so often during spring training, he could go. If Pete wanted to blow off some steam at the dog track, well, Sparky might give him a few extra bucks. If Joe needed to come in late so he could attend college classes, that was all right by Sparky. If Tony needed a little rest, then Sparky would fluff the pillow. Those four were royalty. "The rest of you," Sparky said, "are turds."
Many fans get their undies in a bundle because the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Brett Favre, Alex Ovechkin and Steve Nash get "special treatment."
Hello! Wake up, people. Special athletes get special treatment. Always have, always will. Sparky, like every intelligent manager or coach in the history of sports, knew the score.
Bill Russell and Babe Ruth and Mario Lemieux and Terry Bradshaw got special treatment because their status merited it. If any teammate didn't like the Astros letting Roger Clemens skip certain road trips when he wasn't scheduled to pitch, all they had to do was say: "I'll tell you what; as soon as you win 350 games, you can skip road trips, too."
Phil Jackson treated Michael differently than he treated every other Bull. Then, he did the same for Shaq in L.A. Now, it's Kobe's turn. Phil Jackson wins championships.
The system works. In fact, it's probably the only system that can work.
And were Sparky still alive, he'd tell all of us turds the exact same thing.