JUST PLAY THE GAME

J. Steigerwald column for 1.31/2.01.14

Let’s hope that Richard Sherman’s about-to-be born son is as disciplined as Sherman expects him to be.

Earlier this week, Sherman was asked about the choice he might have to make if his girlfriend went into labor with their son on Super Bowl Sunday.

Sherman said he expected his son to be a disciplined young man and “stay in there” until after the game.
Should this really be a tough choice?

It’s a choice that athletes have been faced with only fairly recently. And just about everybody seems to have decided that there really is no choice.

Johnny Unitas would never have been faced with choosing between playing and being there for the birth of his child because, when he played, fathers were not allowed in the delivery room.

Yep. Shocking as it may seem, billions and billions of babies have been born without their fathers being present in the delivery room and most of them survived.

Come on. We’re talking about the Super Bowl here. Sherman has a contract that guarantees he will make $40 million over the next four years.

He plays for a team. This isn’t Phil Mickelson leaving after the third round of a major tournament.

There are 52 other players on the roster who have been working toward the goal of winning a championship for seven or eight months and Sherman will be at least the second most important Seahawks player in the game.

He’s employed by a billion dollar company that stands to lose millions of dollars if his absence costs it the game.

The knee jerk reaction when players are faced with this choice has become, “Family always comes first.” No it doesn’t. Or at least it doesn’t always have to come first.

When you are part of a team and when you are paid millions of dollars because you are an invaluable member of that team, sometimes putting your family first is being selfish.

We’re not talking about a death or some kind of medical emergency. Then there is no choice. We’re talking about passing up what could be a meaningful personal experience to fulfill an obligation and a promise every player makes to his team.

If it’s a shortstop missing one of 162 games, that’s a different story. For an NFL player, there are, at most, 20 games including playoffs and missing a regular season game could easily cost your team a playoff spot.

Shouldn’t your employer be allowed to expect you to make some family sacrifices if he’s paying you $600,000 a week?

Sherman’s coach, Pete Carroll, made light of the situation when he was asked. He, of course, said “It’s about family first and we’ll support his decision. I can’t wait to see little Petey.”

What else could Carroll have said?

The media would crucify him if he would dare to suggest that Sherman should consider his obligation to the team.

Again, because it’s become accepted that nothing should prevent a father from being present for the birth of a child.

It would be nice if a coach or an owner would have the guts to say that he expects his player to take one for the team and show up.

Carroll, by the way, is 63. You can be sure his father wasn’t in the delivery room when he was born and you can be almost certain that he wasn’t there for the birth of his kids.

The father witnessing the birth is a relatively new phenomenon and it’s an improvement over past practices, but have we become so sensitive and self-centered that it had to evolve so quickly into being mandatory with no exceptions?

By the time you read this, “Little Petey” might already be among us or maybe he’ll wait until the game is over.

But if Sherman chooses to play in the game and misses the birth, we shouldn’t worry too much about “Little Petey.”

What kid wouldn’t think it was cool to tell his friends that his dad missed his birth because he was playing in the Super Bowl?