David Andrews sat on a duck boat, shirtless, chugging beer from a can thrown to him by one of the approximately one million people in attendance at the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl parade. At just 26, he had reached the peak of the football world for the second time in his four-year career as a professional — and he seemingly enjoyed every minute of it while thousands cheered him on. He was quite literally on a pedestal.
In this day and age, we generally like to see athletes as almost super-human beings. They are able to withstand pressures that the regular person cannot and perform at levels none of us could ever reach. However, they are not that different from your ‘average’ person despite the championship parades, million-dollar contracts, and fame beyond the sports. At the end of the day, they still have to fight their way through issues.
The news that Andrews was diagnosed with a blood clot in his lungs came surprising yesterday, and are without a doubt a blow to his team with less than two weeks to go until its regular season opener. More than anything else, though, the reports about the diagnosis painfully clearly put things in perspective: sports is one thing, living a healthy life is something completely different and so much more than just that game.
Football is entertainment for fans around the world, a hobby for those who play it in their youth, an occupation for the men in the National Football League. But while every movement and transaction, every play-call and performance that get closely analyzed and scrutinized at that highest level by fans and the media alike, the underlying aspects remain the same: it is still a game played by normal people who encounter everyday problems.
Patriots team captain Matthew Slater summed it up best last year. While speaking about the substance abuse struggles of teammate Josh Gordon, he pointed out that the public tends to focus too much on the game at times than those who actually play it: “I think we have a tendency to become so infatuated with what’s going on on the football field, as players, as media members, that we lose sight of what’s going on with the man sometimes.”
Slater hits the nail on the head: the personal experience and the public one cannot be viewed separately, and Andrews’ recent medial issues show this again. First and foremost, the news are about his health situation and treatment — and not about the potential impact they have on the Patriots. While, yes, there is a forum to discuss this as well in the context of sports coverage, the bigger picture needs to be kept in mind at all times.
As the NFL picks up its pace heading towards the regular season, things like rooting interests or fantasy football lineups take center stage. But when a player — like Andrews — goes down with an injury, the personal perspective cannot and should not be ignored either.