Friday, September 7, 2012

The Changing View of #Fatherhood in the #NFL

Fatherhood is the only reason you will ever see me writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers on this blog.  Being a dad that takes parenting cues from Ravens games, it is incredibly difficult for me to write a post about Big Ben.  But as someone committed to championing involved fatherhood, I just could not ignore this story.  Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying, 
"I'm not missing the birth of my child," Roethlisberger said emphatically. "There's no chance. I know some fans probably don't want to hear that, but there's no chance."
Being a die-hard Ravens fan, I decided to look at the schedule to see if we could expect to see Charlie Batch or Byron Leftwich against us this year.  But Yahoo's blog The Shutdown Corner estimates the decision will only affect one game against division opponents (Cincinnati).  Not that it would matter.  I would still applaud him for making that tough decision.  Statements like his are a part of the changing culture of the NFL.

A Tough Decision?  Not for me.

I understand that when your employer pays you millions of dollars to play a children's game, your work/life balance is unusually skewed.  You are on the road more than most guys.  You have 40 other guys and a whole host of ancillary employees whose livelihoods depend on your freakish physical abilities.  Then there are all of the fans who pay the money to cover your salary.  The pressure must be immense.  But if you are in a position to make a decision like this, you should probably think about the one person who will be there when you're retired from football - the mother of your child.  To me, there is no choice.  You go with your wife.  If that means that you have to strictly limit which months you try to get pregnant so that it doesn't interrupt your season, that's the price of being an employee of the NFL.  And I would argue that it's a small price to pay for the lifestyle it affords.  But if the pregnancy is a surprise, and if the baby happens to decide to arrive on game day (trust me, this will be the first of many inconveniences that this child brings you), I think most fans would be forgiving.

Changing Culture of the NFL

On The Dan Patrick Show this morning, the guys had a few laughs about scenarios that would make a player choose his team over being with his wife.  Former coach of the Indianapolis Colts and former player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tony Dungy, was asked (at the 13:15 mark) if he would miss a game for the birth of his child.  He said that now he would.  "It's a different culture now, you go with your wife," Dungy said.  Dan kept egging him on, throwing out different scenarios that would make for very difficult choices.  Would it be okay to miss a regular season game?  (71% of their listeners said "Yes")?  What if it was your second child?  How about a rivalry game?  A playoff game?  The Super Bowl?  Dungy said that if it was between Super Bowl game or his first child's birth, he would leave it up to his wife, and if she asked him to come with her, he would probably take the head set to the hospital and have to coach from there.  But all jokes aside, Tony does truly understand the importance of a father's influence on children, as evidenced by his work with The Mentoring Project.

The Female Friendly NFL

Twenty years ago, I'm not sure Tony Dungy would have given the same answer he did today.  He told a story about being with his wife for the birth of their son, Eric, who came in January.  Dungy's team has just lost their first-round playoff game the previous Sunday.  When in the hospital with his wife the following Sunday, they were watching the team that beat them when she asked, "If you won your game last week, would you be here or there?"  He said that he told her he would have been with her, but he wasn't as sure then as he is now.  The NFL has made great strides to become a more family-friendly game.  And as a business, they should.  After all 44% of NFL fans are women.  These women are proud to represent their team, and, more importantly for the NFL, they are proud to buy team merchandise.  In a world where Alyssa Milano is modeling clothing for the NFL, it is even more important to project a family-friendly image (take note Dez Bryant!).

Big Ben on Fatherhood

It was not long ago that people were ripping Big Ben for being a real jerk that liked to use his sway to have his way with college girls.  While none of those accusations ever stuck, getting married and expecting a child seem to have changed Ben's perspective.  Later on the in the article from the Post-Gazette, he was quoted as saying,
"When you're going to be a father, all you think about is having this little baby, you don't think about the registry, the room, the diapers, all the little things that go along with it. It's exciting and it is a little bit scary, too. It is. Before long, you're going to have this little life that you're taking care of. But I've heard nothing but great things from people [about] just how it will change your life. I'm just so excited for that challenge."  
That is the kind of quote that we need to hear more of from our athletes.  After all, parenthood, and not he Ravens defense, is likely to be the biggest challenge that Ben faces this year.  I am glad that he seems to have turned over a new leaf and put his wild ways behind him.  I am also glad that he has given voice to the new, family-friendly NFL image that the league has been trying to portray.  I hope that he understand that even though I'm a Ravens fan, I'm still rooting for him as a dad.


  1. Nice story about Ben and glad he publicly announced his commitment to fatherhood.

  2. Hear, hear! And for the record... big STEELERS fan here since 1969 :-)

  3. Maybe Ben was too distracted by his upcoming fatherhood... at least you'd have an excuse for why he threw that awful pick last night!

  4. Thanks, Hogan. What do you think our chances are of lining him up as a speaker for next year's convention?

  5. Great story Matt! I agree these are the type stories we need to hear more about!

    Keep up the great work about promoting fatherhood! I nominate you for the Versatile Blogger Award


  6. Thanks, Aaron! I appreciate the nod.



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