The Hockey News’ Adam Proteau, in the wake of the passing of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, and and Wade Belak, wrote an outstanding piece on the humanity of hockey players. It’s unfortunate to me that articles such as that have to come out after the deaths of three of the game’s most notable enforcers and colorful characters.
I’ve always held the point of view that these guys are just doing their job. Athletes, musicians, actors and actresses, authors… they’re all doing their jobs. Maybe that’s an unglamorous way of looking at things. Maybe that’s dull. Maybe it sucks the mystique and the envy that people have when they look at these guys right out of their careers. Who cares? Think about it. They get paid to create a product, no different from someone who works in a PR firm, an auto factory, or a McDonald’s. Their product is entertainment. That’s what we pay them for.
It’s odd, because it’s a sport – people break down stats. People obsess over standings. People live and breathe for their teams – but it’s just entertainment. Unfortunately, entertainment has the reputation of being the “easy” product to create; therefore, entertainers get ragged on for leading the easy life. They get paid millions of dollars! They get things purchased for them! Anything that they want is ready to go! Right thee n front of them is the chance to buy a house and a car that many of us can only dream of, and never have to worry about their bank accounts for as long as they work. How wonderful. It must give them a free pass from life’s worries, right?
Only in the minds of fans. Being a hockey player – being that guy whose face is on a card that you pull out of a pack of Upper Deck hockey cards, or the name that people fight over during fantasy hockey drafts – it depersonalizes you. It makes you a commodity, and a commodity can’t have any problems. It can’t have any emotions, or have interests off the ice. They can’t make mistakes, they can’t have private lives, they can’t have private problems. Commodities can’t do that, and when they do, it offends people. “How dare they be upset about _____?” people cry. “They have money!” The same people who say might say “you can’t take it with you” or “money can’t buy happiness” are saying that money can cure all of life’s ills. Apparently money isn’t worth anything only if you don’t have massive amounts. I guess that’s a coping mechanism for some.
Money only improves your perception of life in so much as it gets you over the poverty line. Generally speaking, in surveys, the quality of life as perceived by individuals remains about the same regardless of how much money they have (Myers Psychology, 8th Edition, 2006 – Chapter 13). People tend to be content, because they adjust towards the mean of what they have. People suffering from psychological problems, however, don’t adjust at all. Neurotransmitters don’t realize how much money they have. The serotonin in their brain doesn’t have access to their bank account.
You can be surrounded by riches and wealth on every level. You can be the monarch of a powerful country. Your body chemistry doesn’t care. The people around you, however, should – and for hockey players, the people around them doesn’t stop at their organization, or the NHL. It’s the fans, too. The sooner the fans realize the perils of psychiatric disorders, the better. To do so, fans have to realize that money isn’t the root of happiness, that being famous – being someone who “should be happy” isn’t enough. They’re people like you and I, with extremely visible and public jobs. We respect and enjoy what they do. Why not respect the individual?