The Difficult Life Of A Professional Athlete

Posted on May 29, 2015 By

I’m sure this post will upset half the people reading it (meaning 1 or 2 people at the most), but I thought I’d voice a different point of view than the one I’ve been reading since Belak’s death.

I like hockey. I like sports in general. And while I stay current with the four major sports, I consider myself a casual sports fan at the end of the day because I rarely ever plan my days around sports — with the notable exception being the NFL Playoffs.

I refuse to put these athletes on some pedestal like I may have when I was a kid. Reading some of the stuff I’ve been reading the past few weeks leaves me a bit perturbed because it showers pity on professional athletes. That’s just silly, in my opinion, of course.

Wade Belak committed suicide (allegedly). Rick Rypien committed suicide (allegedly). Derek Boogaard mixed pills with alcohol (allegedly) and died.

All sad tragedies for those who knew them on a personal level. And extra painful and sad for Belak’s daughters who are the biggest victims of their father’s death.

But I’m sorry, heroes or martyrs they are not. People commit suicide every day and most don’t have the options or possibilities that professional athletes do.

And that’s why these words by Georgs Laraque on the plight of enforcers really made me see what a delusional world some people live in.

“This job is so hard, physically and mentally,” said Laraque. “You can go to a movie theatre the night before a game and you’re thinking of the fight you’re going to get into the next day.

“Like, you have to fight Boogaard. Then that game’s over and it’s like, ‘OK, I have to fight Jody Shelley.’ After that it’s Brian McGrattan. You try not to think about it, but you start with the drugs or the alcohol and that creates the problem,” Laraque continued.

“And, when you retire, most of the tough guys aren’t set (for life). You don’t make a lot of money as a fighter, so they’re thinking ‘OK, now what do I do?  So they go back to drugs and alcohol. There’s no options.”

I’m sorry but this is typical “I have it so rough” drama queen type stuff.

Let’s address the “when you retire, most of the tough guys aren’t set (for life)” line. Minimum salary in the NHL these days is over $500k a year. You play in the league for four years and you’re basically a millionaire after agent fees, taxes, etc. 100% of the population can retire with $1,000,000 in their bank. That is, unless they want to live a lifestyle that’s not entirely needed.

Now the line “So they go back to drugs and alcohol. There’s no options.” Are you kidding me? There are options available for professional athletes that aren’t available to anyone in society. Putting “NHL Player” on your resume I would imagine opens up way more doors than, say, “Hockey Blogger.”

Some use this to their advantage. others toil away in self-pity; Just like in the general population.

And now to the line “This job is so hard, physically and mentally.”  While I can see the fighting week in and week out taking its toll on a person, this is another self-pity line by Laraque. The life of on an NHLer is not hard, no matter what some people will write. They are pampered and taken care of in every single aspect of their lives.

They play a game that is made out to be more than a game, which some buy into causing unneeded stress. And while they may have to deal with physical injuries more often than the general population, it is the line of work they chose. Don’t like it? Quit.

Which brings me to the other contradiction I keep reading. If life is so hard as a player, how can it be depressing when you retire?

I guess the one thing it’s all about at the end of the day is personal greed. Some people want their fame, their perks, their lifestyle and their money. When they have to sacrifice something to get it, they wallow away in self-pity or complain. Kind of silly when you think about it, no?

As far as the disease of depression goes. It is just that: A disease. It affects everyone from athletes to cashiers. People shouldn’t make the sport the story when it comes to depression but rather they should focus on the individual, his story and the disease itself. I know very little about Rypien, Boogaard and Belak’s life story. You’d think people would focus more on that rather than the fact they were just hockey players.
Well, hockey players have been powerlifting for months and even if it means getting one of the best power racks, that’s what they get!

In the case of Rypien, I just found out a few days ago that his girlfriend died in a car accident while he was in junior. Makes you think that would have a greater effect on his life path than fighting ever did, no?

And if hits to the head because of the sport are to blame for some athletes, then I’m sorry to sound cold, but that’s the price of doing business. Just like every time I get on a plane, there’s a chance the plane will crash. And even  if we eliminate all unnecessary physical contact (like fighting), there’s still going to be individuals abusing drugs and alcohol, because while they may live in a fantasy world, they’re still human. And like many humans they like to create problems for themselves rather seeing their blessings.

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