This week there was more talk of NFL players and the birth of their babies than probably there has ever been before. Most of this discussion was in regards to a post from ProFootball Talk’s Mike Florio regarding Chicago Bears CB Charles Tillman and his decision to be present for the birth of his 4th child, even if it means the possibility of missing the Bears’ game against the Texans this Sunday night. Florio insinuated that NFL players owe an obligation to their teams because of their salaries to plan their family expansions to happen during the offseason so that this particular scenario doesn’t have to come up. Earlier this year Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger announced that he and his new bride were expecting their first child to be born sometime during the season and if Mrs. Roethlisberger goes into labor on a Sunday Ben is willing to miss the game to be present for the birth of his child. How in the world is this an issue that even needs to be discussed?
First of let me state that I am not a mother. I haven’t the slightest inclination on what it feels like to have a child on the way. But, I am a daughter and a diehard Steelers fan so I’ll give my opinion based on that point of view. Also, it’s important to note that Florio has since written an apology, more or less, on taking the stance that he took in regards to questioning Tillman’s decision to leave his teammates for his wife and child. I still have a problem of why it was brought up in the first place. It seems the sports media these days are more concerned with getting any kind of reaction out of headlines, regardless if it’s good or bad. With the NFL being leaps and bounds ahead of anything else in terms of popularity, it’s quite competitive to cover from the media side. Thankfully, for us fans, we are saturated in NFL coverage. From the games to the debate shows, from the beat writers to the bloggers, from the inside access coverage to social media websites we have all we could ever want as far as NFL coverage. Sometimes in order to distinguish themselves from the pack, the sports “news” stories look a lot less like news and a lot more like gossip rags you’d see about reality stars and former child actors with drug problems.
Think of the news that broke last week in regards to Saints suspended head coach Sean Payton. The NFL had voided his contract extension with the Saints due to some language in the contract that they determined wasn’t acceptable under the league rules. Bear in mind, there was no question of the monetary value or length of the contract, just a problem with the wording of it. So both the Saints and Payton already have agreed to those terms. With Payton’s suspension situation he is prohibited from having any contact with the team, therefore they cannot renegotiate or redo the contract until his suspension is up. ESPN then took it upon themselves to run with a story on the possibility of Payton leaving New Orleans to coach Dallas because his children live there and he has a good relationship with Jerry Jones. There were no confirmation from New Orleans or Dallas indicating that the Saints wouldn’t just redo the language of a contract they had already agreed upon or that Dallas would be firing current head coach Jason Garrett to make room for Payton. Now, because of ESPN running with this story that is just a theory or an idea at this point, Payton has to have a discussion with his children to say either “Yes, Daddy plans on living in Dallas to be closer to you.” Or “I’m sorry but I’m still going to keep my job in New Orleans.” Not to mention Garrett having to explain to his family the possibility that he might not have a job at the end of the season. Why should those kids have to worry about their fathers just because ESPN likes to speculate about things that might happen? Never once did they consider the affect on the kids.
Now Charles Tillman has to answer questions on whether or not he considers it a letdown to his team if he leaves them to be by his wife’s side for the birth of their fourth child. Also, Ben Roethlisberger has to continue to deal with the questions on whether he might miss a game for the birth of his child even though he’s already said he would, but we can all see the calendars and know that the Steelers will play their division rival Baltimore 2 out of the next 4 games and the Roethlisberger’s are expecting their child within the next 4 weeks. Coming from the point of view as a daughter, how dare you insinuate that a father’s job no matter how much money he’s paid to do it is somehow more important than the day his child is born? How dare you say that because you think my parents should have planned my arrival into this Earth more conveniently to the NFL regular season that now I’m not entitled to have my father present at that moment? How about Mike Florio takes a moment to consider how many children are born to NFL fathers that don’t show up for their birth or for any other moments in their lives? How about you highlight those guys and show that what they are doing is wrong rather than the NFL players with wives and families that they actually take responsibility for. Everyone saw Terrell Owens on Dr. Phil being confronted by the mothers of his children who claimed that Owens not only doesn’t pay the child support that was mandated he pay, but he also doesn’t take any time to spend with the children he played a part into bringing into this world. Why, when you know there are more players like Owens in the NFL would you single out someone like Tillman?
My father was not an NFL player. My father was a sailor in the US Navy. My twin sister and I were born in a naval hospital in Keflavik, Iceland. I must have heard the story of how my father, a young personnelman, was worried that he might get into trouble with the amount of yelling my mother was doing during her labor of twin girls a million times and I can hear it a million more. My father wasn’t always there for every birthday I had because sometimes the Navy took him away, but he was there for the day of my birth and no one can ever take that away. He was no less of a sailor that day because he wasn’t at work.
When the Roethlisberger’s welcome their first child into this world that is far more important than even the Steelers and Ravens rivalry. Ben has every right to be there for the birth of his first or fifth child no matter what time of the year they are born. I sincerely hope that the rest of Steeler Nation looks at this from the point of view of the child rather than from the team or the media side of the NFL. NFL players already have to miss Thanksgivings and Christmases some years because of the schedule, why should they have to justify missing the birth of their children just because we want to watch them on TV that day?
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