Friday, May 4, 2007

A Pitcher's Signs

According to a police reports, Josh Hancock had a blood alcohol level of almost twice the legal limit and more than 8 grams of marijuana in the car at the time of his fatal car crash. It’s revelations like this that lend to the shocking reality that the very athletes we exalt as being above the common man are no different than the rest of us. They’re human, plain and simple, and they make the same mistakes as everyone else.

We always seem shocked when an athlete slips up, but the fact is we have always accepted their flaws as part of the game. And we excuse the best ones for their poor ethical decisions without question. Babe Ruth (who happens to be my favorite of all time) was known for his drinking and womanizing. But by the time the media caught up with a particular story of debauchery, he had already hit enough homeruns to make any negative story obsolete. Even in more recent times, when Wells pitched his famous perfect game for the Yankees, he admitted that he was hungover when he did it. And we all just shrugged our shoulders and said “Whatever it takes”.

What does this all mean? It means that sports organizations need to take better emotional care of their players. If a player isn’t performing on the field, they waste no time in calling in the best sports psychologists to work through their “issues”, but a cry for help outside of the playing field goes ignored. The money, the fame, the media – it all changes life for the small town boy turned star athlete. Some of them handle it well, but a lot of them don’t. And there are always signs that one is in trouble. The response of “They’re big boys, they can handle themselves” isn’t good enough.

Hancock was fined for showing up to play hungover days before his fatal crash. He was also in a car accident 3 days earlier. While police said “he appeared lucid”, no tests were administered to determine if he was, in fact, under the influence. With all of this considered, the Cardinals organization should have stepped up and paid closer attention.

Will this incident change things? Probably not. Do I think that each player needs to be personally babysat? Absolutely not. But if we start looking at our players as everyday people, the signs might become a little clearer.