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The 2011 champion Dallas Mavericks are no more. Dirk Nowitzki and a cast of nobody. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if poor Dirk requests a trade.
How did the Mavs get into such a mess? How did we go from champions to 1st round sweeps to a probable lottery team ... NOT on purpose?
Let's refer to our old friend psychology shall we?
Once upon a time they did a social study with populations from one of two socioeconomic statuses: top percent moneymakers or impoverished people. Individuals were asked to choose between one of two options.
1. They could have five dollars right now, and that's it.
2. They could have twenty dollars in two weeks.
Individuals were categorized by their socioeconomic status and the result, predictably, was that the person from the lower socioeconomic status tended to choose the lesser money up front while the more economically inclined reliably chose the higher amount of delayed money.
So are poor people just idiots looking for a quick fix? Assumptions about why this occured raged as expected.
The prevailing wisdom seemed to be that the more economically disadvantaged person was more likely to choose the lesser amount up front because they were taught by their environment to not be able to depend on things, and probably had people in their lives that made promises that never materialized. As such, when faced with a guaranteed payout right then and there versus having a larger payout later potentially go up in smoke, the lower SES group would be at an advantage to go ahead and take the up front money. Anything could happen later, reasoned the researchers reasoning for the subjects, even their own mortality. In their world, nothing is guaranteed and if you find a guarantee it is in your best interest take that guarantee while it is still on the table rather than wait for some impending calamity to ruin your piece of the pie.
For the higher SES group, of course, you take the higher amount of money later. You don't have to worry about what your next meal is going to be so obviously it is to your advantage to wait for the more lucrative payout, in spite of the fact that this payout will not happen right away.
For Cuban and the Mavs, we are dealing with folks who are from the higher SES group. Here, the much, MUCH higher SES group.
The potential of having Deron Williams and Dwight Howard become free agents and join the Mavs, thus creating an unbelievable lineup featuring Howard at center, Williams at the point backed up by Kidd, Nowitzki at PF, Marion at SF, and who even cares about who the shooting guard is because that is a surefire, championship piling, world beating team.
So for the Mavs front office, they felt like they could afford to swing for the fences. They've been winning every year, won the championship last year, and even if they lose they are still millionaires and billionaires. It's not like if Deron Williams didn't sign with the Mavs then that meant that Cuban wasn't going to eat for a week. He's still going to wake up a billionaire, and probably feels like he'll get another opportunity to win a championship in the future regardless of this summer's free agent outcome.
For most of us, we are not from the same socioeconomic stratosphere as Mavs front office people. Our safety net is nowhere near as deep. Even for most in the middle class, we take a risk and say, mortgage our house on a potential business venture, we could be left in financial ruin and/or homeless for the foreseeable future. So for us lesser mortals, our inclination would have been to keep the 2011-2012 title team together because we know we had a good thing going right then, and anytime we get a good thing going we usually like to try to keep that good thing going as long as possible.
Would we risk our loving wives for a shot with a glitzy supermodel? For us small business owners, would you sell your successful business with the idea of getting into some kind of riskier, yet potentially more profitable business? Wanna bet your kid's college fund on it? Would you quit your job because you are certain you have an idea for the next bestselling book? Would you quit your job and move to LA because you are certain you will become a major motion picture star?
Since socioeconomic status occurs on a continuum (being that there are several tax brackets you could theoretically fall under and that there is not just a black and white, rich or poor situation) our tendency as we move up the class ladder seems to be to take riskier and riskier moves given the increasing amount of safety nets you have to catch you as you climb the ladder.
So for Cuban and the Mavs, they are already on top of the world. These guys are milionaires and billionaires, owners and front office of a top valued professional sports franchise, and just got through winning it all 13 months ago. When you are on top of the world like that, you can afford to take some mighty Casey-at-the-bat swings, because even if you whiff, you aren't exactly going into exile on Dagobah and eating frogs out of a stew pot in the swamp with Yoda. So I salute these guys. They stepped up to the plate and this time struck out. They had a grand design to put a team together that would have destroyed all comers. But little ol' me would have kept the championship team together.
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