Separation: the agony of success

By
Updated: May 30, 2013

Although the life of a professional athlete might seem glamorous, it has its share of heartache too.

I’ve said for years that there’s nothing I hate more than moving.

Having been in the army for the better part of a decade and a university student for over half a decade, I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life living out of a bag. I’ve grown accustomed to uprooting my life almost every year — sometimes more than once a year. And I can’t stand it.

But after what I’ve gone through over the past few weeks, I think I might have been wrong. I think I may have found something I hate even more than moving.

Moving on

I’m talking about helping someone I love move out of my house.

I spent most of yesterday helping my wife relocate to a city three hours away. The fact that it was for a good reason — she got a well-paying job in the big city — didn’t make it any easier. Neither did the fact that I know I’ll be seeing her at least a couple of times a month over the summer or that we’ll be taking a long vacation together in June. Telling myself that I’ll be joining her in a few months after we take care of a few logistical issues didn’t make me feel any better either.

I still made the journey back to my hometown feeling a little brokenhearted.

I’m not sure why it was so hard. It’s not like I am a newcomer to long-distance relationships. She and I have been apart before. Heck, I spent two of the first three years of my marriage in Iraq — and that doesn’t count the months we spent in different states while dating or the times after we were married when I was stateside but away on training exercises for days or weeks on end.

Somehow, no matter how much practice I get at it, the pang of separation never gets any easier.

Price of success

While I was driving home last night, though, I got to thinking about the challenges faced by professional athletes, especially the lesser-known ones, those who spend their entire careers on the bubble. It occurred to me that moving around can’t be any easier for them than it is for me.

Not all professional athletes enjoy the kind of career security that enables them to move their families to the cities in which they play, as former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver did.

Imagine being one of those perennial practice-squad players, drifting from team to team, spending a few weeks in one city before being summarily waived and — if you’re lucky — being picked up by another. Sure, these are strong, tough men, but they are also people with feelings like any one of us.

Ignore for a moment the blow to the ego a man must face when he’s constantly told by teams he’s not good enough at the game to which he has devoted his whole life. Think how wrenching it must be to begin that tentative process of reaching out to your teammates, finding a few buddies, maybe even making a friend or two — only to be jerked away just as the bonds are starting to form.

Having experienced the mobile, transient lifestyle of the army, I know what that’s like. It got to the point where I stopped putting any real effort into making friends, because I knew they’d soon just be ripped away from me anyway. In a sport whose season only lasts a few months, the problem must be magnified severalfold.

Even if a player makes an active roster, it’s no guarantee he won’t be unexpectedly uprooted and shipped across the country. It doesn’t happen often in the NFL, but in professional baseball and basketball, in-season trades are a pretty common occurrence. Not only can a player be torn away from the camaraderie of his teammates, he can go from playing for a contender to languishing on a last-place team in mere hours. That must be unspeakably disillusioning.

Soothing the pain

The cynic in me wants to say, “We all should have such problems,” or “Sure, moving’s a pain, but these guys have millions of reasons to get over it,” or “It sure must be nice to be able to afford professional movers every time you pull up stakes.”

And there’s something to be said for that. The , so it’s not like they are being impoverished by their lack of job security.

On the other hand, the situation isn’t quite so simple for practice-squad players, who earn a , which translates to a tidy sum of $102,000 for a 17-week season. Therein lies the rub, of course: there’s no guarantee they stick on the practice squad for the full 17 weeks. If a player only manages to hang around for, say, four weeks, moving costs will quickly eat into that $24,000. Players who move around several times in a single season, as plenty of them do, could conceivably find themselves in the hole financially.

Suddenly the lifestyle of an NFL football player doesn’t look quite so attractive.

Many professional athletes spend months at a time away from their families, who must stay behind where the children can go to school.

Home away from home

If I were a professional athlete, I would probably try to get around this problem by maintaining a permanent residence somewhere and then leasing a cheap apartment or even an extended-stay hotel room in my team’s city. Many players do just that, particularly the ones with school-age children, and end up spending months on end apart from their families.

Now that I’ve gone and bared my personal business to the world, you’re probably justified in asking whether, in the grand scheme of things, my situation is really comparable to that of a sports star.

And you’re right. It’s probably not. But after experiencing the fresh pain of separation all over again, I think I have a little more empathy for these men as people. It’s important to remember that beneath the tough exteriors of the idols we expect to perform superhuman deeds week after week beat hearts of flesh that bleed just like our own.

About the author(s)

Rourke Douglas Decker covers the Green Bay Packers beat for Water Cooler Sports. He resides with his family in the Twin Cities. He can be reached for questions or comments at . Connect with .

626 comments
andylet445
andylet445

This Penn St. Sandusky shit is worse than walking into a damn God for President debate.

JVince 11
JVince 11

Paterno told the state police in the 90s.. the state police did their job and did not file any charges against sandusky... paterno told his superiors at PSU... they did their "investigation" and found nothing to charge him with...


Paterno STILL fired him and told him never to return to his facilities...


what the fuck did you want him to do next?  He did what was asked.. to his knowledge two different parties did investigations and found nothing... the punishment on Paterno's wins and championships is bullshit.. NO EXCUSE.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

This discussion gives me reason to post what is quite possibly the most unintentionally funny name for a biography, ever.

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

Joe Paterno is a piece of shit who should rot in hell. Inexcusable conduct from someone whose moral fiber is supposed to be beyond reproach. Simple question - if it were his kids in the shower, would he have done more? The answer is obviously yes and because he did not do more he's a fuckbag.

JVince 11
JVince 11

Joe Paterno is not responsible for being the university detective and investigate every thing that comes across his desk.  He is responsible for alerting the people whose job it is to protect the university above him.  Maybe when he saw the investigation by them go no where he thought that it was proven to be false.  To try to push this whole thing on the biggest name scapegoat you can is just bullshit.... and then to punish the people, coaches, players, and new faculty for the problems of the previous regime is even more ignorant....


Infinite.


LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 Agreed. Plus you can't really take away a win IMO. Everyone knows what happened in those games. The results don't change

andylet445
andylet445

Surely you can't be fucking serious

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, May 29, 2013 By  (Dryden, New York United States) - Amazon Verified Purchase() This review is from: Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story (Paperback) To bad others haven't taken the time to really read this book as this man gave so much to his community to only be brought down by being Falsely Accused, by greed and for others self gain. Now the children are with out such a GREAT program and they will be lost to the streets.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 Unknown that he didn't. There was a police investigation in the late 90s of Sandusky that was dropped

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

He did what he was legally obligated to do but that wasn't enough and it doesn't mean we can't question his character.

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

 Nobody is trying to push the whole thing on Paterno (at least I am not, there were several whose actions in this situation were worse than his).  But to completely exonerate him when he was one of many who failed to report it to the police is also wrong.

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

 I don't get how that lawsuit has a leg to stand on.  The NCAA has proof that Paterno and other university higher-ups knew Sandusky was a child rapist ten years before it came to public light, yet they hushed it up.

Sure, the university can claim that they aren't at fault since they fired the people who made the decision.  That's at least understandable.  But the Paternos have nothing to claim.  

Joe Paterno was a very good coach who did a lot of good things as a person in his time at Penn State.  But he also screwed up VERY badly with this Sandusky thing, and that is going to severely tarnish his legacy (as it should).

JVince 11
JVince 11

 I was just at Beaver Stadium yesterday.... took a picture in front of dat bitch...

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

Maybe the PSU fans can claim fluke molestation as the cause for the losses.

JVince 11
JVince 11

  i guarantee it is just someone who wants to become internet famous... 

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

I think that gif reversed is more appropriate

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

And he didn't fire him until years later when he knew Sandfuck loved surrounding himself with young boys.

JVince 11
JVince 11

  What the punishment was to Paterno was bullshit.. not fully exonerated but to vacate all of his wins and fuck his reputation like that is inexcusable.. he did he job... the state police dropped the case.. and the university said there was no case...


what would have been next?

niemerg1
niemerg1

  i also think it was pretty shitty that the NCAA vacated 111 wins of Paterno's because of this...as much as you hate to see this shit, this had NOTHING to do with what he accomplished on the field

JVince 11
JVince 11

  Yea.. he screwed up big time by removing Sandusky from his staff in 2001 but the university did not fire him but allowed him to still run his Mile High Club or whatever it was... Paterno even banned him from the Athletic facilities but the University kept him as a part time teacher...


totally Paterno's fault.. what a fuck bag.... 


*head desk*

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

The lawsuit is based on the fact that the NCAA used only the Freeh report, which was not entirely accurate.

niemerg1
niemerg1

  to be fair, from what i remember, Paterno DID talk to his higher ups when whats his face qb player told him what he saw. just not the police

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

No more than you are. It's all speculation. Unless you were there and care to share your inside information.

JVince 11
JVince 11

 oh for fuck sake.. you are grasping at midget straws now.

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

Police don't always do a thorough job investigating. Maybe Paterno told them not to look that hard. We don't know.

niemerg1
niemerg1

  you went to PSU...where did he touch you?

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 And I hate Sandusky more than anyone here

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 You need more information before you come at Paterno. You are operating under the assumption there was no police investigation. There was

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

No the bad guy is Sandusky. You act act as if its sacrilegious to question Paterno. It's not. And it's my opinion so what should I prove?

niemerg1
niemerg1

 no, because you are bringing in your dislike for lkp into this argument....'fluke molestation', 'concentrated penetration'...

JVince 11
JVince 11

 you aren't even trying to prove what you are saying... you are just out right being obnoxious with it... He did his job... you just have a vendetta to have a scapegoat.

niemerg1
niemerg1

 dude, you are being a total dickbag right now

andylet445
andylet445

she also commented on this book 

JVince 11
JVince 11

 depends on the POV... if it is Sandusky then the reversed makes sense... 

JVince 11
JVince 11

 he told the state police in the 90s.. the state police did their job and did not file any charges against sandusky... paterno told his superiors at PSU... they did their "investigation" and found nothing to charge him with...


Paterno STILL fired him and told him never to return to his facilities...


what the fuck did you want him to do next?

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

  He's coming off as misnformed about all the facts. And like I said, his legacy is each individuals personal opinion. Just because he hates the guy, doesn't mean everyone does

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

I'm not the one defending someone who turned a blind eye to protect his sexual predator friend.

JVince 11
JVince 11

 you are coming off as a dick leaf, bro.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 He might not have said shower. You don't know what McQueary told Paterno. And you don't know if Paterno went beyond the President and AD. He could have went to the police with an investigation dropped like in 99

Pat Fenis, Esq.
Pat Fenis, Esq.

Right it was just in the shower. Paterno is a piece of shit and I'm glad his reputation is gone - he deserves that.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 And it's unknown what McQueary actually told Paterno.

JVince 11
JVince 11

 how much do you konw about the guy that works 2 doors down from you?  it isn't like he sodomized people in his office during the day.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 He left in 99 about the same time it was dropped

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

   I'm not saying Paterno should have fully investigated this himself.  I'm saying that he should have gone to the police with what he knew.

JVince 11
JVince 11

   people that don't understand the whole fucking situation and think that every coach is also the world police and should investigate every accusation against one of the biggest and best instituations in the US are equally dumb... Cuz you know... no one ever tries to add fuel to a fire.

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

   the NCAA system of punishment is definitely stupid.  But people trying to defend Paterno as innocent are equally dumb.

JVince 11
JVince 11

  Yea.... lets punish the kids that had nothing to do with the cover up... and then ban them from the post season and tak eaway scholarships to further punish the kids and coaches that had nothing to do with the scandal..


FUCK YEA!!! that'll take care of the problem!

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

    but this incident, from what I understand, happened after that investigation.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

   There was an investigation in the late 90s that was dropped. Police were involved at some point

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

   But Paterno didn't do his legal responsibility of informing the police.  He took steps to protect his program's image, but not the actual victims, which is 100% disgusting

JVince 11
JVince 11

   McCreery... he was now let go because there was too much media and attention that he couldn't do his job I think.

niemerg1
niemerg1

   I would be more pissed at the college qb dude who SAW it and didn't do anything but tell his coach...what makes him different that Paterno...and don't give me the shit about how young he was...he was in college...and im pretty sure HE is still employed on the team

JVince 11
JVince 11

   the last molestation at PSU occured in like 2001 or 1999 i can't remember which... Paterno did he job to separate his players and faculty... 

Johnathan Wood
Johnathan Wood moderator

   If you know of this, yet say nothing publicly for 10 years, that is a problem.

Don't give me the shit that his bosses made the decision and he had to stand in line.  Paterno could have snapped his fingers and had them fired.

Vacating wins was dumb, but Paterno sat there and did NOTHING for ten years.  If I was one of the parents of a kid that had been molested in the last ten years, I would 100% want legal charges brought against Paterno were he still alive.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

yes, Penn State deserved a punishment.  The part that I still don't get (and can only view as a vengeful move) was the vacating of wins. 

There was no competitive advantage gained by keeping Sandusky around, so there was no need to vacate the wins.  The only reason I can think of them vacating the wins was so that JoePa's name would not come up as the winningest coach in NCAA history, and in turn give reason to talk of Sandusky again.  They knocked him down to 5th (I think?) so that he would just kind of go away.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 Penn State deserved their punishment even if it wasn't Paterno's fault. The President of the School (Spanier) caused the almost death blow to the football program. I think Bill O Brien did a great job last year despite all the problems. Love his offenisve mind and I can deal with missing bowl games for 4 years

andylet445
andylet445

   which its rough on them, given time that view will disappear its just far too fresh in the public's minds. 

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

   I have a tarnished view too but there are still a ton of great smart people at from that school despite the President of the school, AD, the VP being jackwagons.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

Ouch.  Zoomie here (AF Academy grad), so I don't really have too much interest.  But I think the NCAA screwed this one up.

andylet445
andylet445

  I will always respect JoePa but i have a tarnished view of the entire Penn St. University which in some ways tarnishes my view of JoePa by default. 

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 I'm a Penn Stater by the way so it really sucked for me having a hero maybe not be a hero

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

As do, and will, I.

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 I agree he in fact did inform the higher ups. Not enough when it comes to protecting children. We'll never know if he did more than that. His legacy will be peoples own personal opinion of him. I know he did a ton of good, so I still view him in a good light but I'll always wonder if he could have done more.

tmonson78
tmonson78 moderator

It is true that Paterno could have done more, and yes he probably should have.  But he did do what was necessary (inform his higher-ups). 

LKP 40 10
LKP 40 10

 FreeH report had inaccuracies but I think Paterno could have done more. Once Spanier and the AD decided to do nothing, Paterno should have gone to the police. And who knows maybe he did. There was an investigation in the late 90s that just kind of died. We'll never know. The good can outweigh the bad for Penn State fans of Paterno. The schools punishment won't change and it's well deserved

niemerg1
niemerg1

   i fully agree with you

JVince 11
JVince 11

  Paterno was told to stand down and taht they would handle it... Paterno wanted to call the state police but was told that the athletic department would handle it internally....


Paterno is a football coach.. he did his job.