Special to Page 2
I am not now, nor have I ever been, jealous of professional athletes.
Despite the massive amounts of money earned by today's modern pro athlete, I've never wasted a moment regretting the fact that my athletic career ended as a mediocre Division I offensive lineman.
Even when I was broke and living in a one-room, roach-infested efficiency in a small southern Indiana town, I never once felt a minute of envy as my old high school teammate, Jeff George, was selected No. 1 in the 1990 NFL draft and received a seven-figure signing bonus.
Proud? Yes. Jealous? No.
I'm telling you this because I hope someone will pass this column along to Jeremy Roenick and every other professional athlete who believes that we meaning sports fans and sports writers live every day of our lives wishing we were them.
Roenick, the NHL star, made news earlier this week when he exploded during an interview and told sports fans who are upset about hockey's work stoppage to kiss his grits.
"If people are going to sit and chastise pro athletes for being cocky, they need to look at one thing and that's the deal we're going to be signing in about three weeks,'' Roenick said. "Pro athletes are not cocky. Pro athletes care about the game. Everybody out there who calls us spoiled because we play a game, they can kiss my a**.''
Roenick's comments received national attention. He was roundly criticized and forced to backtrack on his statement. A millionaire athlete shouldn't tell fans to kiss his grits, particularly when his union is getting smoked at the negotiating table because sports fans have sided with the owners.
I've had far better than Jeremy Roenick tell me to kiss his grits for no good reason. Doesn't bother me.
What bothers me is the statement Roenick made immediately following his kiss-my-grits line.
"I will say personally, to everybody who calls us spoiled, you guys are just jealous," Roenick said.
That bothers me. It bothers me because that's the thinking of most professional athletes. They think we want to be them. And they think any criticism of their behavior can be directly attributed to our unquenched thirst to be them.
Well, nothing personal, but I don't want to be them. It isn't because I think I'm smarter than them or better than them. And it isn't because I've lost my love for the games. I still love games.
The reason I don't want to be a professional athlete is because I'm lazy. It's because I've matured beyond the point at which I'm comfortable having a man I don't really respect yelling at me in front of my peers.
Maybe it's just me, but I decided long ago that athletes don't live the best lives. Many of them feel pressured into taking performance-enhancement drugs that shrink other well, enhancements. They're in constant pain. Society wants them to be role models for kids they didn't father.
We place expectations on athletes, and when you get over the age of 30, you realize the last thing you want to deal with is somebody else's expectations. That's a responsibility, a burden, a guilt, and I want no part of it.