Oh Baby! Boomer Should Know Better
Saturday, April 05, 2014
I’m no Dr. Drew, but I can safely assume if Boomer Esiason had the balls 22 years ago to tell his pregnant wife, “Babe, can you think of someone other than yourself for a change and slice that baby out of your stomach tomorrow because I’ve got a game this weekend?” he’d have been sleeping on Icky Woods’ couch.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, which is why I can’t imagine why he or his colleague, Craig Carton, or fellow sports talk guru Mike Francesa, would advise Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy to tell his wife to get a C-section ahead of time so the impending birth of their child wouldn’t interfere with the start of baseball season and – gasp! – force Murphy to miss a few games in lieu of being a human being and father.
For the time being, let’s forget the inherent dangers of early child birth, which Esiason apparently failed to educate himself on prior to his unprovoked attack on Murphy this week during the “Boomer & Carton” show on WFAN, and focus more on the sheer hypocrisy of Esiason’s rant.
Esiason’s son, Gunnar, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in 1993 at the age of 2 after being rushed to the hospital with breathing difficulties while Esiason was at mini-camp with the Jets. We don’t know whether or not Esiason left camp to be with his child that day, but you can only imagine what his reaction would’ve been if coach Bruce Coslet told him to “hire a nurse,” as Francesa suggested Murphy should’ve done, if he had asked permission to take a few days off. Esiason would’ve unleashed holy hell, and rightfully so.
Yet in the aftermath of Murphy missing the first two games of the Mets’ 162-game season, Esiason, Carton and Francesa ripped Murphy to shreds for having the audacity to put real life ahead of sports for a change because, as Esiason said, “this is what makes our money,” conveniently ignoring the fact the players’ union allows new fathers to take up to three days off for paternity leave. And it's not as if Murphy is the first athlete in sports history to temporarily leave his team to witness the birth of his child. This happens all the time, and it's generally a footnote in that day's team notebook. The player comes back a few days later and life goes on, but for some reason, in 2014 in New York City, it's suddenly taboo to miss nine or 10 at-bats to sit bedside with your wife or baby momma as she cranks out the fruit of your loins.
Where do we draw the line between real-world issues interfering with sports? Should we hold off pulling the plug on a dying relative so the funeral doesn’t overlap with Game 1 of the NBA Finals? Since when did being a compassionate father, brother or son become a nuisance, and since when did we, the average sports fan and/or media personality, earn the right to tell other professionals how to live their lives?
Maybe because athletes offer us a bigger glimpse into their personal lives than ever before through Instagram and Twitter, we take that as an invitation to dispense unsolicited advice and wisdom. If Knicks’ guard J.R. Smith posts a photo of himself in a VIP lounge at 3 a.m. wearing a $40,000 watch, at least one third of the comments from the mom-living sycophants will suggest he quit partying and focus more on basketball. They might be right, but it’s not their place to say it.
In an era in which we’re allowed more access than ever, the proverbial window into the pro athlete’s soul might start closing ever so slowly again if people like Esiason continue to overstep their boundaries. These are the same people who are adamant Jerry Remy should quit his job as the Boston Red Sox’ color commentator because his son is an alleged murderer.
Or maybe this isn’t about having too much access and more about competing for ratings in an already-crowded media market. WFAN isn’t the only game in town anymore in New York City. Listeners also have the option of tuning into ESPN NY 98.7. Maybe the most influential voices at WFAN felt the need to take a controversial stand on an issue, though it’s hard to imagine they’d choose this as their platform without realizing the repercussions. At the risk of omitting any key media members who might’ve sided with Esiason or Francesa, it’s safe to say most responders were more shocked than disgusted regarding an outlandish opinion on something that should’ve never been an issue to begin with.
Esiason recently apologized for being insensitive and intrusive on what is widely considered a sacred, private moment in most families’ lives and for being ignorant on the general facts of child birth, but the apology really isn’t necessary. This is America. He has the right to his opinion, even if it’s ridiculous, so no punishment or public flogging is required, but his comments shouldn’t be forgotten, if for no other reason than to remind radio hosts, bloggers, columnists, etc., that it is possible every now and then to cross the blurred line between athletes and average Joes.
The majority of us are paid handsomely for our opinions, some more outrageous than others, and the least popular of those “sports takes” generally draw the ire of fans who think we’ve breached some unwritten code. I took heat for my choice of words in criticizing the snail-like growth of the University of Rhode Island men’s basketball program, but at least I never told Dan Hurley to skip one of his wife’s Lamaze classes for a late-night weekend practice (even if the team needs it).
Anything on the field or between the lines is fair game. Athletes and coaches are compensated generously for having to deal with the fact their lives have become a 24/7 reality show. That doesn’t mean we have the right to tell them how to live those lives off the field or out of bounds, especially Esiason, whose personal life indicates he should know better.