As an avid fan of football, I cannot help but be saddened by the suicide death, this week, of Junior Seau. This retired, 43-year-old , by all sports analyst’s standards, had a stellar career in the game. At first glance it’s hard to understand how someone who seemingly, “had it all”, could for some unknown reason, feel such desperation and lack of hope that he “ended it all.” Seau appeared to have all those things that most of us only dream of in life. Why would that not be enough? Were there emotional or physical issues? Is there more to the story?
As we take a closer look at the lives of sports figures, we see individuals who are pursued at any cost. They are adored at a rock star level, paid unbelievable amounts of money, and engulfed by reporters who hang on their every word. (A conundrum of its own making!) They are catered to on every level because of who they are and the God-given abilities they have. Does their mind deceive them into thinking it will always be like this? Do they think they will always be adored and loved at this level? Does the high they are riding delude them from thinking beyond this era of their life.? They pour their heart and soul into the game and become consumed by it, only to find at a point in time, age and injuries have diminished their skills. In their mind they can still play the game, but the body is unable to keep pace…but the desire remains.
Mike Golic, on ESPN radio, insightfully commented, that some players make their own decision when to exit the game and walk off into the sunset. He goes on to say, that the rest, probably 98% do not have that experience and are told by the league when it’s time to leave. An abrupt end to an all-encompassing period of their life. Now what? They are typically in their 30’s and life is suddenly, dramatically different. What next?
It appears to be a cold, cruel world in which the athlete exists. Sought after when their abilities are at their peak, but quickly cast aside for the next possible mega star ascending on the horizon. Could this be a microcosm of life in general? A reality that less known individuals face every day on a much smaller stage?
I have heard it said that everyone goes through the eye of the storm at least once in their lives. And there are many who go through the eye of the storm three or four times. What makes one person able to handle the storms and another not be able to do so? Maybe when the highs have been so high, the ensuing lows are of equal magnitude. Maybe the teenage mentality imposes itself here. That old, “It will never happen to me” delusion.
Might there be many athletes who gain the entirety of their value and self-worth from the game and the adoring fans? What’s in the self-worth tank when the game, for them, has ended? From whom or what do they now find their value and worth?
Could this be the moment in life requiring more courage and inner strength than anything encountered on a football field?
From a Christian perspective, knowing who we are in God’s eyes, is certainly key. This is not to suggest that Christians never experience lack of self-esteem or struggle with depression. It would seem, however ,that a believer has something more to draw from, during dark and difficult times. Yet many know someone who’s troubled mind deluded them into thinking that even God could not possibly have the answer.
Here’s another thought. Should there be some kind of counseling available for players when they are exiting the game? How much should be done for an already privileged group of people and would they even receive it?
Not a lot of answers, only questions. So sad, so tragic! What are your thoughts?
My heart goes out to family and friends who are now left to grieve his untimely death.