Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sometimes we forget...

...that our "heroes" on the playing field are human.  We root for them, then we cast them aside when they leave our team.  And we forget that they are young men who may come from poor upbringings, and now have a lot of money - and success and money can sometimes be a bad combination.

The list of players that Dolfans can relate to is long in its own right.  And I'll mention a few:
  • Cecil Collins.  It may seem funny, but its really sad that he broke into a woman's house to "watch her sleep" - he had a fairly long history of such things, and ultimately was put in jail for his crimes.  But it seems clear he had some mental health issues.  
  • Demetrius Underwood once took a steak knife to his own throat.  Sure it may evoke a scene from "Blazing Saddles" but the man had issues
  • Sammie Smith was, I suppose the word is "ignorant" in some way, convicted of drug trafficking because he drove a friends car that was laden with drugs.
  • Jonathan Martin flaked out, and many derided him for being a wimp
And that brings us around to Davone Bess.  The guy made some mistakes in his life, and appeared to have gotten it together.  The Dolphins brought him in, and he lasted a few years before they decided to move on, and traded him.  Now we hear a story that about a month before he was traded, he was having some "issues" and the cops were called.  It may have been drug related, but the fact is that the team knew and traded him - possibly because of it, who knows? - is kind of odd. And then last week, at the airport here in Florida and was detained, he again had some bizarre issues.

And we as fans don't care - he was traded and that was fine because the team had his replacement already.  And his 'other issues' were a distraction, so good riddance.  But he had bigger problems, and the team did nothing to help him.

Now of course, its not technically the team's responsibility to care for the players in this way, and they are trying to win games.  But yet, the situation is sad and chewing up players and leaving them with their issues and then spitting them out when they become bigger problems is troubling.

And as fans, yeah, we want wins, but we need to remember these are people, who sometimes wind up homeless, or committing suicide.  Football may - or may not - be responsible for their mental health.

I guess my issue here is that because its a billion dollar industry, it seems like the league could do more to help in some way. 

Just my two cents.

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2 comments

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I couldn't agree with you more. We should have compassion and understanding. Certainly the NFL and its teams are businesses. But many big businesses and government agencies have EAP's (Employee Assistance Programs) to help employees with problems. Even (in my mind) the much-reviled Jerry Jones tries to help young players. He brought in Calvin Hill to work with young players and has worked to help Dez Bryant. Admittedly, he may do it for mercenary reasons, not wanting to lose star players (or their services), but he does it. There are some players who are just thugs (such as Rae Carruth), but there are also very sad cases like Javon Belcher of the Chiefs who killed his girlfriend and then himself. And how about Rod Smart (if I'm recalling the name correctly)? He played in the XFL where the player could choose the name on their jersey and he chose "He Hate Me." That should have been a clue that he had problems, but unfortunately, he committed suicide after making it to the NFL. Then-Raiders coach Bill Callahan was oblivious to Pro-Bowl center Barrett Robbins'mental-health issues (bipolar disorder). Demetrius Underwood's bipolar disorder was not taken into consideration by the Vikings, nor by the Dolphins nor by the Cowboys. Perhaps NFL teams should have mental-health professionals on staff to help with these issues. It would help the teams (and by extension, the NFL), but much more importantly the players. That's my two cents.

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I have no pity for any of these guys; by accepting a job in the NFL they are basically agreeing to be role models and should act accordingly. If they can't behave themselves, then they don't belong in the NFL.

Of course, the teams must also accept some of the blame. Their "win at all costs" mentality is the reason why thugs and criminals are allowed into the league. High School and College stars are treated like royalty and "issues" (mental and/or criminal) are swept under the rug. Look at Aaron Hernandez; he was in constant trouble, some of it very serious, yet it was all "taken care of" and he was drafted into the NFL because he could play football. The fact that he was (and still is) a criminal did not stop him from being drafted. Hernandez should have never been given a college scholarship but he was, he should never have made it through college without going to prison but he did, and he should never have made it into the NFL but he did... all for the sake of winning an extra game or two.