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Professional athletes get more attention than just about anyone else in America. There are television networks, websites, and publications that are solely devoted to athletes. Athletes make themselves famous, they make other people famous, and they live and die with games that are, on the surface, so simple.
Beyond the fame, though, what are athletes to us? They put their bodies, their reputations, and their skills on display night in and night out, but they also have their own lives. There is a fine line between an athlete’s public life and his private life, and when the private becomes public, we, as fans, have to make a choice. We either root for the guy to sort out his personal life, or we root for the best interests of the guy as an athlete.
When I learned that Ray Allen’s son, Walker, has recently been in and out of the hospital because of his diabetes, of course I was pulling for Ray and his family. How can you not? But, at the same time, I was left wondering how this will affect the Celtics. Is that wrong?
I would guess that 9.9 out of 10 people reading this do not know Ray Allen personally. The only reason that Walker’s hospitalization is relevant is that we watch his dad play basketball a few times a week. We want Ray on the court because that implies that his son is doing well, but also because Ray is a huge asset to the Celtics’ success. He hasn’t missed a game yet, but will it hurt the Celtics if he does? Yes. Will it hurt the Celtics if he plays with the emotional baggage of his son running through his mind? Maybe. But, as they say in the biz, the show must go on.
Unfortunately, Walker has been hospitalized before, during the 2008 NBA Finals. Ray flew to Boston for Game 6 after spending the previous day with Walker in the hospital. The good thing about that timing was that the Celtics won the game and the series, and Ray had the entire off-season to spend with his family. This timing, however, is not so opportune. In the next 30 days, the Celtics play ten road games. The time that Ray spends away from home will undoubtedly be taxing for Ray and his family, but it’s part of the job description.
I’m not suggesting that Ray Allen is the only NBA player who has to balance his NBA career with his family. All NBA dads have to endure this same separation from their families. LeBron James is a dad. Kobe and Shaq are dads. Allen Iverson now has all kinds of time to spend with his kids. We don’t usually think of athletes as family people, but we don’t need to because that aspect of their lives does not manifest itself on the court.
Professional athletes, like anyone, need to find time for their families. NBA players must plan family time around their games, which can’t be easy in an 82 game season which has no regard for weekends or holidays. When the Celtics have a four game road trip from December 25-30, do we feel bad that they won’t be at home with their families on Christmas morning, or do we look forward to playing with our new toys while watching the Celtics suit up against the Magic on Christmas day? Again, it’s part of the job description.
Regarding Sunday’s Miami game, Ray said that “…just knowing what he’s (Walker’s) having to deal with and me trying to switch the focus, it was tough. Teammates carried me through it.”
KG took some of the pressure off of Ray by scoring 24 points in what may have been his best outing so far this season. Rasheed took some media pressure off by getting docked $30,000 for criticizing refs. There are so many ways for an athlete to make news, and Boston is currently hosting three very different examples. One is for the right reasons (KG), and two are for the wrong reasons (Ray and Rasheed, although Ray’s situation is out of his control).
Teammates double as family members during the season. It seems as though the Celtics are rallying around Ray on the court, and presumably off it as well. As Ray continues to balance his job and his family, all we can do is hope for the best, first for his family, and then for his job.