Let me preface this piece with one fact: I am not a baseball fan. I was raised in a family with an avid Cleveland Indians fan (my late grandfather), and can tolerate the sport if need be, but I wouldn’t classify myself as a “fan” in any respect.
I’ve never been to an MLB game, and don’t have much of a desire to ever attend one (even living in what a co-worker has affectionately described as “Braves Country”). Forget watching baseball on television: it’s like watching paint dry. Basically, being from Florida (where there wasn’t much of a baseball presence, outside of spring training, before 1993), basketball and football will always have my heart.
That said, the recent news about New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy caught my eye. Not only did Murphy attend my alma mater (Jacksonville University), but he did something truly special and rarely witnessed in the glitzy world of sports and entertainment: he put family first.
Murphy went on paternity leave after his wife gave birth on Opening Day – an event to many baseball fans that is akin to a national holiday. I get that. Though, in reality, it’s just the start of a long season that extends well into the crisp autumn month of October.
Sadly, Murphy’s decision to leave his team in order to be with his wife and child has drawn the undeserved and ill-informed ire of New York sports radio hotheads Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason.
“You’re a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse. What are you gonna do, sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?” Francesa said, with a laugh.
Yes, he actually said that, folks. Because, you know, that’s just what women do when having a child.
On his show Esiason opined (and being born via C-section myself, this one particularly bothered me):
“Quite frankly, I would have said ‘C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry, this is what makes our money, this is how we’re going to live our life, this is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life.’”
So gee, if the baby isn’t full-term, or if pre-mature labor occurs (because boy, that never happens), I guess that woman is on her own! I mean, how dumb can he be?
This story was very personal to me. My parents divorced when I was 6 years old. I lived with my mom, and my dad lived across town. This same story plays out across America in over 50% of all households and marriages – as a result of separated (I refuse to use the term “broken”) homes.
I was never a gifted athlete by any means, but the one sport I excelled in was swimming. Throughout middle school and most of high school, I swam in the 50 and 100 meter freestyle, 100 meter breast, and team 4X4 relay events. At most any swim meet my dad was there cheering me on.
Sure, the meet may have been at 3:00 p.m. in the middle of the afternoon when he maybe had an important meeting scheduled, or at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning (when he could’ve been watching “This Old House” or sleeping in), but dammit he was there for nearly every one I ever had. No matter the distance from his house, or convenience with his work schedule, he was there. The fact that I am almost 29 years old, that I remember nearly every meet vividly – whether running up to give my father a soaking wet hug after a big win, or lamenting over a delicious “All Star Special” at Waffle House after a close loss – says a great deal.
Whether it is being there for the birth of your child, teaching it how to walk, introducing your kid to coin collecting and Motown (like my dad did), attending a sporting event, or just enjoying a beer together on a random weekend, fathers complete their sons’ lives.
For individuals such as Boomer Esiason and Mike Francesa to blithely diminish the role of a father’s place (either physically or emotionally) in a child’s life – most especially from the beginning – it is both insulting and ignorant. While they later issued apologies, it doesn’t remove the idiocy that still lingers with their original statements.
Last I checked, the year on the calendar read 2014, not 1914. While these guys prefer to reside in a different millennium, many of us live in a world where men value their families more than anything else.
Shouldn’t we be celebrating that? Shouldn’t we be lauding a man for dropping everything to be with his wife on such a momentous occasion? Shouldn’t we be saying, “What a great feel-good story in sports” this week?
Apparently not. Apparently it’s a lot easier to look past familial love. Apparently it’s a better hot take to focus on dollars, cents, and a game that, in the grand scheme of things, no one will ever remember.
We work all our lives to hopefully leave the world (and our children) in a better condition than we had: it’s the American Dream. Men like Murphy do that and more by demonstrating that to be a hero, you need to have committed a heroic action. This may not be rescuing a cat out of a tree, or carrying a child out of a burning building, but his action is heroic in its simplicity.
“It’s going to be tough for her to get up to New York for a month. I can only speak from my experience — a father seeing his wife — she was completely finished. I mean, she was done. She had surgery and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off. … It felt, for us, like the right decision to make.”
That was Murphy’s response to all the unnecessary hoopla: simple, classy, and unapologetic. He was going to stand by his wife – who was medically ravaged by a very invasive surgical procedure – and be there with his newborn baby. Life is a precious gift, and Murphy realizes that. If more professional athletes thought (and acted) like him, they might just have a better reputation. Bottom line: he made the right call and I applaud him for doing so.
Raise your hand if you remember the score of the opening day Mets game. Raise your hand if you watched the Mets game that day. Raise your hand if you remember what you were doing opening day. Chances are, some of you might have answers there. If you don’t, fret not, because you’re in good company.
However, I bet Daniel Murphy remembers the emotions of holding a bundle of joy gifted to him and his wife. He will for the rest of his life. Good for him.
He makes me proud to be an alumnus of Jacksonville University; makes me proud as a casual watcher of baseball; and makes me proud to see that there is indeed some decency and character left in the world of professional sports.
Good on ya, Daniel. Good on ya, indeed.