The Realization That Athletes are Humans, Too

Should we be so haste to judge?

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Growing up, I had such admiration for the various Cleveland sports athletes of my childhood. LeBron James, Jim Thome and Joe Thomas, to name a few. These guys gave me inspiration in my own life through watching them have success on the field while representing the hometown teams in such a great way.

But as I grew up, the harsh realities of life hit me and my perspective on sports and athletes changed as well.

Despite all the problem and mistakes we have and make in our own lives, we hold these guys up to such high standards. There are many schools of thought to why this is:

One of the worst mental health stigmas is that more money equals less mental health issues when that is not the case at all. Sure, having millions of dollars has its perks, but mental illness doesn’t care. It attacks anyone and everyone regardless of the circumstances or zeros on a check.

So fans say, “Oh, you have millions of dollars, why are you depressed?” That is just not a fair statement to make because it has no correlation.

I recently wrote an article about how Josh Gordon should be cut from the Browns because he has been a constant distraction from the team for years. I was disappointed in the fact that he was not paying child support to the mother of his kid and it was the last straw. Literally the next day he returned to the Browns and was activated to practice with the team on Saturday.

Josh has had many issues with drug usage, addiction and a plethora of mental health issues that have kept him off the field for the majority of the last five years. I was critical of Gordon because I felt his absence was a distraction and enough is enough.

I feel guilty for writing the article, but if he gets into more trouble at some later date, I will be right in my analysis. Additionally, it is my job to hold these players accountable.

Last year, Cavs star PF Kevin Love came out and said he struggles with mental illness, as well as other athletes all making millions of dollars.

But here is the point that no one wants to admit and I’ll just say it.

Sure, we all have a heart and want the best for these people as fellow human beings, but the actual reason we want them mentally sane is so they can produce for our football team or our fantasy team to benefit us. I don’t know Josh or Kevin personally, they aren’t buddies of mine and I would never have known them if they weren’t athletically gifted.

So, I’m conflicted.

Here I am, the founder for this Cleveland sports website and I, myself, am suffering from a severe illness with very difficult psychiatric symptoms keeping me out of a day job or college and yet I am critical of Josh Gordon for going through similar issues due to the fact that I, and many other Browns fans, depend on him to catch the ball on Sunday.

It’s hypocritical, but it’s how it works.

Being an athlete on a professional sports team is a huge responsibility and you are held to impossible standards, faced with press and cameras throughout your entire life and the pressure to perform at your best every game.

Athletes are humans, too. Just like me, a scrawny young adult that can’t shoot a jump shot for his life. Except I’m not competing for a title on the Cavs or making millions of dollars doing it. Why is my mental health more important than Josh Gordon’s?

Once we accept and understand that athletes are human, make mistakes and have mental health problems, we will be better off as a society. I am proud of Kevin Love and Josh Gordon for speaking out. Now, I do not condone any type of illegal activity and even though smoking pot is not a big deal (just go on a college campus and you’ll see), it is against the law (in most places) and against the rules in sports. And that’s what frustrating about Josh. He knows the rules.

So think about it.

Is Josh Gordon the man more important to you than Josh Gordon the player? For me, it’s always been player first and person second. But I am trying to change because sports are just a game and even though I have dedicated over seven years of my life to talking about athletes on the field, they are people, too.

Next time I write an article about someone struggling with personal issues, I will check myself and make sure I am being fair in my analysis.

Welcome back, Josh.

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