Junior Seau’s recent suicide has prompted a number of news articles, editorials and columns concerning post-NFL life and how professional athletes “die twice.”
In a recent radio program, noted sports author John Feinstein made the claim that, when professional athletes retire they die once, and then they die again in the same manner that the rest of the non-professional world does.
His claims that the world as a professional athlete knows it ends when they retire are probably true, but I find it a little hard to swallow.
Anyone who has watched a premiere athlete – one who truly loves the sport, and the sport truly loves them – retire; has seen the tears, or quasi-tears that the manliest of men try to hold back. And, was probably moved emotionally by them.
I’ve never been moved much by retirement announcements. Most likely because the athletes that I respected as I grew up retired when I was just a rookie in life, and didn’t care enough to watch some old fogey talk about how great his career was and how thankful he is for the owners and yadda, yadda, yadda.
Now that I’ve had a few years in the league of day-to-day living, there aren’t really any professional athletes that I respect.
Sure, I’ve got my favorites, but the stories that move me come more and more from high school and college athletics.
I can see Feinstein’s point when it comes to a retirement being life changing, but how is it any different than one of us “amateurs” retiring after a lifetime of doing what we love?
One might argue that a professional athlete loves his job with more intensity or power than a Joe Blow working at a successful advertising firm, or a John Smith running a mom-and-pop operation.
I don’t think it is possible to say that a professional athlete loves their job more than anyone else who is doing something they’ve dreamed of.
I do think one thing can be said. The before and after difference in income when you retire from professional sports is going to have a much wider swing for most athletes than it will for the regular man on the street.
That could be a big shock to someone who is used to spending $600,000 a year and didn’t plan for the afterlife.
I’m sure many athletes do prepare and save for retirement, but I know I’d spend a lot more money if I had it to squander.
I don’t know what the average rate of suicide in recent retirees, age 60 and older, is, but I can’t imagine it is as high as professional athlete retirees.
And even if it is higher, there certainly is no clamor about it, except within the families it affects.
Seau’s suicide is tragic and I feel sorry for his family. I’m sorry that they have to deal with his choice without any input of their own, but it isn’t any more, or less, tragic than anyone else choosing to end their life.
Let’s not allow retirement from something he loved color the picture with anything other than the bright shades of truth.
He chose to kill himself. Whether struggling with depression, or a drug addiction, or feeling like he had nothing left to live for, he made a choice.
It is the only choice that we all have where no one can change the outcome. When we’re dead, we’re dead.
But it is the most selfish choice that can be made for the loved ones left behind.
Live life, and if it gets too hard – reach out for some help.