Often, individual accomplishments on the field are so extraordinary that we overlook what those accomplishments mean in the context of that player's life, in other words, forgetting that prominent professional athletes are humans with lives outside of sports. Recently, we have seen several of these scenarios:
- Donovan McNabb has picked apart opposing defenses while his wife becomes exceedingly more "with child" and then finally giving birth to their first child, just days before McNabb's most impressive play of the season so far, against the Lions in Detroit.
- Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins has had one of the most dominating seasons in recent memory. All season long, Santana has been extraordinary, but in his last 5 starts, he has 5 wins, an ERA of 0.26, and has held opposing batters to an average of .144, striking out 47 of them and walking only 6. All the while, he has had to concern himself with the safety of his family in Venezuela.
- Many PGA Tour players live in Florida ("golfable" temperatures year-round and no state income tax) and so certainly all have been affected in some way by the onslaught of hurricanes. But none have played as well as Vijay Singh has played. Singh has taken over the world rankings and in finishing off one of the greatest seasons in modern golf, all while having to worry about what the latest hurricane will do to his home.
Obviously, we should be impressed by these accomplishments on the field of play, but even more so when you consider what was happening to these athletes off the field of play and these are just some examples. As the old saying goes, "Sports do not build character, they reveal it."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Sammy Sosa. Several days ago, Sosa was thrown out sliding into second base while trying to make up for doing his trademark "homer hop" in the batter's box when he incorrectly thought he had hit a homerun. When asked if his trademark hop was a detriment to the Cubs effort to win the National League Wild Card, Sosa replied:
"I have been doing that a lot of years and I'm not changing now."This sounds a lot more like Leon from the Budweiser TV ads ("There ain't no 'we' in team" and "If they're payin' - Leon's playin'") than one of the two players that helped to rescue baseball in 1998.