Balls Out: Stop The Criticism After Athletes Face Tragedies

The Green Bay Packers were scheduled to play a Monday night game against the Oakland Raiders in 2003. The night before, however, gave way to a devastating tragedy for quarterback Brett Favre: Irvin Favre unexpectedly passed away due to a heart attack while driving.

Despite the death of his immediate family member–most likely the family member who inspired Favre to be the exceptional sports phenomena he was–Favre made the decision to stay in Green Bay that night before heading home to Mississippi to be with family. The Packers were 9-6 at this point and were aiming to remain at the top of the National Football Conference North Division in a tied position with Minnesota.

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A photo of Adrian Peterson.

Thanks to Favre’s sacrifice and dedication to his team, not only were the Packers able to fulfill that dream with a crushing 41-7 victory, but Favre went on to have arguably one of the best performances of his career. In just the first half, Favre threw 311 yards and 4 touchdowns, such stats reflected Favre’s personally best at this point in time. Of course, the news releases following the event were nothing but majestic tales of personal triumph, positivity and praise.

October 11, 2013 however, provided a different response from the media following an athlete’s family tragedy. As it has been all over the news for a few days, it is no secret that Viking’s star running back Adrian Peterson’s 2-year-old son passed away on Friday due to injuries received from abuse.

The boy was in the care of the Petersons ‘ex’s new boyfriend. The child passed away in Sioux Falls, where Peterson returned and consequently missed practice, ultimately making the decision to remove the child from life support. Peterson dealt with the heart wrenching reality, but right off the bat he made it clear to the world that he had no intentions of missing the upcoming Sunday game. This decision and event caused a number of critics to hit the blogs about Petersons’ action.

While citizens, athletes and celebrities from Nick Swisher and Reggie Bush to Soulja Boy and Snooki poured out statements of sympathy and prayer, others took to blame-naming.

I have read several sickening blogs that the death of Peterson’s child was his fault for not being there, his mother’s fault for leaving the child and that Peterson playing on Sunday is unthinkable. Peterson claims that it is football that gets him through hard times, and this is what he is being criticized for.

In my opinion, this is absurd. The man watched his brother and best friend die as a kid, and played football. His other brother was murdered the night before the NFL combine, and he killed it the next day. Peterson has undergone tragedies others probably can’t fathom, and therefore the process of coping and compartmentalizing is beyond them and only up for accusation.

Peterson unlike Favre did not have a story of triumph and was defeated by the Panthers 35-10 on Sunday, which did not ease the voices of the masses. I was devastated by the news of the death, but have become viscerally sickened by the comments people have made regarding Peterson following the incident. I have hopes that at some point this type of story will not infest the news, and people will no longer be so harsh.