September 1, 2011

I'm tired ...

I'm tired of reading obituaries of hockey players gone too soon.

I'm tired of the soapboxing of some debating the purpose of fighting/role of enforcers in hockey in regards to the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.

I'm tired of reading about the uncertain returns of players who've suffered concussions like Sidney Crosby and David Perron.

I'm tired of reading about players who have to hang up their skates due to head injuries like Paul Kariya and Dave Scatchard.

This summer should have been about celebrating the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup title, the fun of free agency and catching our collective breaths after another NHL season.

Instead, it's been a summer of tragedy and questions about the returns of the NHL's top young stars.

Sports is supposed to be a distraction from real life; a place for fans to remove their brains for a couple of hours and cheer on their favorite team and players before returning back to reality.

This summer it's been the collision of real life into fandom.

This isn't how fandom is supposed to be.

We're not supposed to be reading about players in their late-20s and mid-30s being buried and leaving behind loving families. We're supposed to be debating roster moves, player improvements and predicting how teams will do the following year.

The collision of hockey and reality is scary because behind each player is a person like every one of us. A person with a family. A person with feelings and a person with issues, just like every one of us.

Boogaard, Rypien and Belak all battled demons before they met their end; demons that people in every day life also try to deal with.

Trying to play dime store psychologist with these players is worthless. We can't get inside their heads. We just don't know. It's like trying to talk about how a concussion affects a player in the future. All concussions are different and there's no way for any of us as fans and media to trying to predict just exactly what will happen. We've seen too many times before players feeling great one day and then symptoms return the next. It's a worthless cause to try and figure out -- same with trying to understand what happened to Boogaard, Rypien and Belak.

We don't exactly what was troubling these players right before they died, but it's just another sign that when athletes leave their field of play -- whether they're currently player or retired -- they aren't invincible like we believed when we were kids. They're not infallible. They're human.

Even as a 30-year old adult, I still want that inner child to come out when I watch sports. I want to believe these guys are supermen; that these guys are on a higher level than the rest of us. And they are ... athletically, but this summer has only reminded us that while the talents of athletes separate us, when you take that away we really are just like them: humans struggling with everyday life.

And like you and I, they too sometimes are too proud to ask for help.

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