One of the great fallacies in life is that professional athletes are happier than the rest of us — that because of the big money they make, they are immune to the problems many of us face regularly. That they’re living the life.
Nobody wants to hear that it’s not always so. We want our heroes to be A) wealthier than us B) better looking than us and C) more fulfilled than us because of A and B.
But they deal with stress, doubts, marital troubles, crises in faith and all the other things that “normal’’ people face. And they have pressures most of us don’t. Some of them have friends and family members trying to get at their money. All of them have other athletes trying to take their jobs. And the thing they love to do most lasts for only a short time for most of them.
Let me guess: You’d love to have that kind of pressure.
But then there’s the sad story of former Thornton High School star Antwaan Randle El, who played nine NFL seasons and who, if he had to do it all over again, would not have played football. The 36-year-old says he now has trouble walking down stairs and struggles with memory issues.
“I ask my wife things over and over again, and she’s like, ‘I just told you that,’ ’’ he said. “I’ll ask her three times the night before and get up in the morning and forget. Stuff like that. I try to chalk it up as I’m busy, I’m doing a lot, but I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.’’
The Cubs drafted him in the 14th round of the 1997 draft, but he chose to sign with Indiana to play football. He says he now regrets that decision.
There’s a tradeoff with everything. If Randle El had played pro baseball, he would have been away from his family for long stretches. There are plenty of lonely, unhappy baseball players because of the demands of the season. There are plenty of baseball players who don’t really know their children.
Sometimes, the perfect lives we envision for athletes aren’t close to the reality. The pros might be riding in nicer cars, but they’re dealing with some of the same problems as the rest of us. Or worse.