Tim Crone: Remember that pro athletes are human too

The Examiner
Tim Crone

It is a great to see everyone at sporting events, but it is obvious that not everyone is out of the woods with COVID-19. 

Jon Rahm was leading The Memorial golf tournament last Saturday at the end of play by six strokes but found out suddenly he had tested positive and would have to withdrawal from the tournament. He had just shot a round of 64 to put him at minus-18 for the entire tournament. 

When something like that happens publicly it makes more real. Tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after refusing to talk to reporters after her matches – as is required by the powers who run the tournament. Her silence with the media was due to recent mental health issues. All players in grand slam events are required to attend news conferences or be fined $20,000 per event. I support the courage of Osaka to choose to not speak publicly. 

Professional athletes face daily pressure by the media and fans. Osaka is only 23 years old. Most people under that much scrutiny must feel like the live in a fishbowl. I do understand the obligation for professional athletes to be available to the media. It is all about money and ways to magnify the sport. 

However, how difficult would it be to show a little compassion and empathy? Why not show support rather than question motives? 

Professional athletes are put on a pedestal. Their ability to make money can give the illusion that they are at the top of the world. Although the pro athlete may possess more natural talent than the average human being, it does not mean they are a mentally superhuman. Many gifted athletes have trouble dealing with the regular world. 

Osaka admitted to suffering from extreme anxiety. How in the name of heaven can a talking head on a television sports show know how a 23-year-old young lady should be handled? 

Athletes should be held accountable, but when an athlete is aware of and admits to their struggles in public, they should not be questioned about the situation but be respected for their honesty. 

Osaka is going to take some time off to be with her loved ones to heal and recover. Because she has the courage to face her own demons, she is well on the way to recovery. According to some in the media, Osaka did the right thing by choosing to not attend some of those cold-blooded question and answer sessions following a contest. 

It takes a lot of self-confidence to stand up to the media after a loss to explain all the ins and outs of wins and losses. A 23-year-old young lady may not be ready for that level in her growth. 

It is time for the media to show empathy and give the young star a little breathing room. She may have shown a lot of common sense by her refusal. We all face our own problems. Pro athletes are not any different. 

• The quote of the week comes from French novelist and Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide: “It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.”           

Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at t.crone@comcast.net.