Full disclosure, I have a kid. She is three years old and she is amazing. She calls me her "Superman" and routinely brings me joy that I never could have imagined before she was part of it. I love her dearly and try to give her as much of me as I possibly can - this has been the case from day one. I was fortunate enough to be granted a week off work immediately following her birth. That time was incredible. Everything was new and everything was amazing. Going back to work a week later was horrible.
That said, I was shocked to hear Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd was going to miss a game due to the birth of his child.
Why was I shocked? It has nothing to do with right or wrong. It has nothing to do with money. It has everything expectations that are - in all likelihood - far from realistic. Do I care that he missed the game? Not one iota, but I was still surprised.
I am not mad or offended that he misses the game, just surprised. If I was miffed, what would it matter anyways? My opinion has no impact here. Neither does yours. This decision didn't affect me or you - only his life and the fortunes of is hockey team were impacted here.
Before I get too far into what I want to say here, you should read this:
Read it once and then perhaps read it again. That is our starting point.
Unrealistic expectations are part of sports.
The Soldier Mentality
Wrightly or wrongly, sports are littered with allusions to war - especially when it comes to team, contact sports. At the highest levels, the players are literally putting their personal well-being and potentially even their lives on the line every time they enter he field of play. This isn't comparable to anything the average Joe does for a living. Sports are a different world and sometimes sports are weird.
As Mike mentioned in the linked article, sports exist in some sort of weird parallel universe where a players will play through a concussion, or even a collapsed lung before they throw in the towel or let down their teammates.
Is that right? Is that normal?
No, but that is the culture of sports.
Another oddity in team sports is the concept of a second family. I supposed this comes naturally with the bond of shared sacrifice, but many players talk about their teammates as though they are family. They often lean on each other for support and escape from personal issues with their teammates. Whether the issues be the loss of a loved one or any other trauma - players rally for each other and unite to conquer their problems.
It isn't abnormal for somebody to bury themselves in work instead of dealing with an issue, but the bond in team sports goes beyond that. Again, sports are weird.
The world of professional sports is very unique and hard for people to relate to. It is also hard to rationalize at times.
Rich Peverley's first query after his heart attack was about returning to the game. That is the culture of sports.
This is the culture of sports:
For the unaware, Byron Leftwich is playing on a broken ankle. He can't walk, that is why he is being carried.
Right or Wrong Doesn't Matter
Ladd staying home with his wife and newborn was probably the "right" thing to do (Cara agrees) and I have absolutely no objection to it, but I am not his teammate. One has to wonder what they think. The team was in tough situation with their backs pressed firmly against the wall - and their captain left them so he could deal with a personal matter.
Is that a fair judgement of the situation? Perhaps not, but given the culture of spots - it is a realistic concern.
Again, I have no horses in this race and I could care less whether or not Ladd took a day off to be with his little one. Sports are entertainment to me, nothing more. I have long seen the Jets playoff hopes as dashed and on the personal side, a baby is only born once. The bond that can be built in the first day is truly something special. I would want the day off too. I get it.
But I am a fan and I have no horses in this race.
Ladd's teammates do have horses in this race and his absence did impact them.
Would Ladd have been there is the game carried more meaning? Would he have been there if this were a playoff game? If the answer is "yes", could a teammate interpret his absence as Ladd throwing in the towel on the season?
Is that fair? Is that normal?
No, but that is the culture of sports.
Love it or hate it. The sporting world is a strange place with strange "rules" and customs. I don't care that Ladd missed a game and I would never judge Ladd for that decision, but I do wonder if his teammates will. If they do - or even if only a few of them do - this could be a problem.
Perhaps I am conditioned by the culture of sports, but I was surprised to hear that Ladd would miss the game. Hopefully that same level of surprise didn't extend to his similarly conditioned teammates.