Human nature is a funny thing.
In sports, whenever a groundbreaking story hits the news, people want an immediate explanation for why it happened. So the 24/7 sports media jumps on the air/internet and begins drafting up a reason for why it occurred.
We’re all guilty of falling into this trap — like I said, it’s human nature. We need to have an answer for a problem, because we seek resolution everywhere in life. In the Internet Age, that has become even more necessary.
We have to know why, and we have to know it now.
So when future Hall of Fame NFL linebacker Junior Seau was found dead in his California, we had to know, immediately, the reason why he died. Past tragedies of this sort narrowed it down to two likely causes — either his wife/girlfriend killed him, or he killed himself.
Those are the two options we’ve been given in most cases when a 40-something former football player dies. So before he was even confirmed dead by most media outlets, people ruled it as a suicide.
Is that the right way to go about a man’s death? No … but we have an insatiable desire to put a label on every sports story and file it into the appropriate area of sports news.
Yesterday, the speculation verified — it was a suicide that ended Seau’s life, according to local law enforcement. But what if we were wrong? Most of us would feel pretty bad about that, much like we did when we spread the false news that Joe Paterno had died, several days before he actually did pass away.
I’m not trying to stand on my ivory tower and tell you I’m any different than the rest of the sports world. In fact, I might be one of the worst when it comes to jumping to conclusions in the sports world. I love to speculate. It’s gotten me into trouble in the past.
Full disclosure: one of the first thoughts that went through my head, after hearing the Seau news, was this: “I’ll never let my kids play football … ever.” But how do we, or I, know Seau killed himself because of the head trauma involved in a long football career? Other players suffering that fate doesn’t guarantee Seau killed himself for the same reason.
Another case — prior to yesterday’s Yankees-Royals game, legendary Yanks closer Mariano Rivera went down in a heap on the Kauffman Stadium warning track while shagging balls during batting practice. After being carted off the field and undergoing an MRI, it was revealed Rivera had a torn ACL.
His farewell season was suddenly over, and it was because he was playing outfield during batting practice.
Doesn’t seem to make much sense, right?
That’s what people said as soon as they heard the news. What was he doing out there? A closer fielding balls during batting practice? That’s just negligent!
But then, those in-the-know defended Rivera. How else would he get loose before a game? Why not shag fly balls?
The criticism that Rivera/Yankees/Girardi are getting because he got hurt shagging fly balls is absurd. He’s been doing it for 20 years.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 4, 2012
What happened when Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon this week? Some speculated that he hurt himself while playing a basketball game, while others said it was during a conditioning drill.
Does it matter which one it really was?
Suggs texted ESPN to say that it was the conditioning drill that led to his offseason injury, but these guys can’t live in a bubble when they’re off the football field. They have to stay in shape all 12 months, and they’re only going to do that by being active.
But we have to know the answer so we can close that story in our own minds. We speculate because it can help hold us over until we find the real answer.
It’s human nature, but it can be really inhumane sometimes.