During nearly four decades of covering small-, medium- and large-sized sports for this great metropolitan newspaper, the only part I never liked was the caveman mentality that existed in some corners.
Although, thankfully, the vast majority of those involved in the games we play are upstanding folks, you do have scenes like the bullying scandal last year that turned the Miami Dolphins into a punch line. That was sports at its worst.
It’s not confined to the locker room, though. Sometimes the most grievous offenders hide behind a microphone, which leads us to Boomer Esiason. You probably know he is the guy who, on his radio show, ripped into New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy for missing the first two games of the baseball season this week because his wife was having a C-section to deliver their first child.
Caveman’s response: “Quite frankly, I would have said, ‘(have the) C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day, I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life.’ ”
❖ ❖ ❖
Let’s stop here a minute.
Esiason has two children of his own. He won a couple of “Father of the Year” awards, the latest in 2009. His foundation has raised millions to battle cystic fibrosis, a disease that afflicts his 22-year-old son, Gunnar.
When he was a quarterback at the University of Maryland, Esiason met a desperately ill boy from Tampa in a hospital about 40 miles from campus. Instead of just dropping off an autographed picture, Esiason made sure to make regular visits to the boy. He was a great support to the family.
In 1995, he was the Walter Payton Man of the Year in the National Football League. That high honor is given for excellence on and off the field.
What I’m trying to say is, I don’t believe Boomer fits the caricature of the knuckle-dragging jock. He finally apologized on Friday for “... creating an intrusion into a very sacred and personal moment in their lives, and that’s the birth of their son, Noah. Daniel is the Mets’ second baseman, whose brief paternity leave led to a flippant and insensitive remark that I sincerely regret.”
❖ ❖ ❖
It’s obvious, but it should be stated anyway: Having a C-section is not the same as getting a pedicure. It’s major surgery and a wife needs her husband’s support. You don’t work a C-section around the baseball season.
That’s why it’s in the rules that players can take up to three days of personal family leave time for events like this. Sean Rodriguez of the Rays is in the middle of such a leave right now.
Rodriguez is a valuable utility player, but manager Joe Maddon said it was all about keeping priorities in order.
“The Neanderthal approach, that’s ancient history,” Maddon told reporters.
Unfortunately, that message doesn’t always get through. You hear proof of that far too often on sports talk — well, any talk — radio. I swear, the nutso blabber that spews from the mouths of some hosts makes me wonder if they realize they are speaking into a microphone and people actually are listening.
I hope that’s what happened to Boomer because it would be really sad if the good he has done in the name of parenthood and caring was all for image.
I hope the filter in his brain that separates gibberish from intelligence temporarily malfunctioned, causing some stupid stuff that should have remained forever in silence to come flooding out of his pie hole.
Based on his body of work, Esiason gets the benefit of the doubt.
But there’s one other thing worth noting, one that brings the story full circle. Esiason got the radio morning gig with WFAN in 2007 because host Don Imus imploded after making racially insensitive remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.
Caveman gotta speak sometimes, I guess.