In watching the NCAA tournament these last few weeks, it struck me how frequently members of the media questioned player’s “heart”, specifically one comment about a kid who made 1st team all conference in the big east. His team was getting drilled, and the kid had that glazed over look in his eyes that a teenager gets when his girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend. The quote was this :
“You just have to wonder where this kid’s head is at, he’s got no heart, he completely let his team down today by not coming ready to play. It’s remarkably sad that he can show up here and clearly his mind is elsewhere”
He went on to explain that he was referring to the kid possibly thinking about the NBA, his next “career move”. I thought about it at first because his language was incredibly strong, negatively, for a player that up until then had carried his team most of the season. What hit me next was actually my initial observation, “the kid had that glazed over look in his eyes that a teenager gets when his girlfriend cheats on him with his best friend”, because while I have no real reason to think that it IS possible. These athletes are real kids. They DO fall in love. They DO get dumped. They DO have traumatic experiences that impact their lives, how they think, how they live, how they play.
We tend to lose sight of that with athletes, actors, singers, people with some degree of fame. I’m hesitant to say we put them all on a pedestal, there are certainly celebrities we mock and thumb our noses at. But we often forget that they’re just as emotional as we are. I was fortunate enough that I had a few close relationships with athletes at relatively high levels. Their names were in the paper. Talked about on the radio as though they were a thing, and not a person. Ripped apart on message boards as though they ceased to exist once they exited the arena. But in reality I saw them struggle through term papers and finals. Go into “funks” when things were rocky with their girlfriends, or the one they were after had other ideas. I’m sure I’m guilty of it too. I’ve been predicting where coaches will wind up next season because a “better” job opens up, while a close family friend was part of a staff that was let go. It’s teh nature of the business, coaches are transient people by nature generally. But his youngest kid will know be moving to his 5 city in his lifetime, himself collateral damage. He’s read things on the internet about his father’s coaching ability, or recruiting, a lot of it negative. It has to be hard. What’s simple observation by an anonymous 3rd party on the internet is ripping a part the kids father, or a 19 year old struggling with his jump shot (while also dealing with having his heart broken), or a 22 year old suddenly realizing that his competitive playing days are going to come to an abrupt end.
It’s just weird to think about. Living in the public eye, with nearly everything you do being scrutinized by people that take emotion out of the equation.