In any career, there has to be some sense of self-fulfillment that functions as a reward to get you through both the day, and the years that follow. That’s the root of job enjoyment, and for an NFL player, the foundation of that concept starts with the team environment. A player is battered and bruised throughout his seasons as a professional playing a physical game, but he does it for the teammate next to him that’s equally black and blue.
As the exploration of Junior Seau’s death continues, we keep referring back to the sudden end of a career, and the emotional discharge that now has no outlet. Instead for some it reforms as a fuse, waiting to explode if the proper guidance isn’t received.
For the vast majority of aspiring athletes, the dream dies sometime around high school, where it becomes obvious that keeping food in a refrigerator isn’t possible through sports. It’s the very few who make it past that threshold who know the feeling of darkness that can descend when a playing career ends, the same darkness that may have led to Seau’s suicide.
Earlier this week we highlighted the words of Lorenzo Neal, Seau’s former teammate who said that as an NFL player retirement feels like your time has expired. Today Terrell Owens added his perspective during a radio interview with ESPN Dallas:
“Honestly dude, I’ve been in that situation where you do feel like giving up because nobody understands the world that you live in.”
“I think there’s a lot of people that have been at that point. Me, other players. People look at us as invincible beings when we’re playing such a macho game. A game that we play as kids but we’re playing as grown men. And nobody understands that. Who knows what Junior was going through. Who knows.”
Owens has had two rumored suicide attempts, one this past fall, and another far more infamous incident back in 2006. Both were denied, especially when we were told that Owens has $25 million reasons to be alive.
Prior to Seau’s death, it was easy to rip into the likes of Owens, and to a lesser extent Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco as they hold on to their careers far too long. Owens has looked especially guilty of that while he toils in the Indoor Football League, and continues the circus of his personal life with an appearance on Dr. Phil.
Owens’ inability to walk away is partly motivated by finances, and his ego-centric personality. But deeper down and perhaps subconsciously, there’s a more simple, and also far more daunting motivation to hang on.
Like Seau, Owens is afraid.