The tough side of being a professional athelete

Chad Johnson (Yunner/Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

I have never been a big fan of Chad Johnson, the now former wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins. Although he was entertaining I felt he was always looking out for himself before the team and that is not a trait I would want in a teammate. Too disruptive and a distraction to the team game.

After watching HBO’s Hard Knocks showcasing the Miami Dolphins I may have found a soft spot for old 85. As the exchange between coach Joe Philbin and Johnson unfolded in which Joe was cutting Johnson, I was transported back fifteen years or so to the time I was cut by the New York Islanders.

It was my third year pro and I really felt that I was ready to have a very strong showing in camp. I was hoping to maybe make the team or at least position myself to be the first call up player from the AHL.

Right away it was clear I wasn’t in the mix for any kind of opportunity. I was practicing with the duds and even more telling was my stall. It was so far away from the main locker room I think I was set up across the street at a local bagel shop! (good breakfast burrito)(solid raspberry lemonade as well)

On day three of camp I was asked to play in a rookie game. Back then they were fight fests! A quick look at our opposing teams lineup, the New York Rangers and then at ours and I realized why I was playing. My team needed toughness. So be it. I would do anything to get noticed. Let’s get it on.

Half way through the second period I was just wrapping up my third fight. I was out of the game and feeling pretty good about my chances of having been noticed. Soon after I was sitting in the training room, icing down my hands, which looked like hell. An assistant coach comes in and says Mike Milbury, the G.M., wants to see me.

I thought this meeting could be a promising sign for my camp to turn around until Milbury proceeds to tell me I was being sent down! He says I have no future with his organization and I can have my agent attempt to work out a trade to another team but most likely nobody will want me.

Wow! Talk about a kick in the Crown Royal Bag. I was still sweating from fighting for his organization and he slits my throat. Talk about the tough side of pro sports.

I ended up using that talk as motivation so my story ended a lot differently then I believe Johnson’s will but that is a terrible feeling to experience.

Johnson was cut for other reasons then I was. But I recognized the look on his face of utter disappointment. I couldn’t imagine going through that on T.V. Brutal.

When the season starts and players are bring sent down to the minors, cut or waived give them a little sympathy. It sucks no matter what age you are.

  • yawto

    Great article.

    As already noted by another poster, Milbury was an epically terrible GM. How he ever landed a job as an “expert” commentator is totally beyond me.

    I think there is a bit of a paradox with pro sports … athletes are idolized on the one hand, but totally commodified on the other – perhaps the unifying factor is that we don’t appreciate the humanity of either idols or commodities.

  • yawto

    Thank you for that insight,it was moveing and defineing of the 100% heart and commitment that professional athletes invest into their careers and lives,and it helped me understand just how committed each and every one of them are to their craft.

    I do believe my perspective has evolved in the last five minutes in a positive direction,as a fan I have often leveled criticisms at players without giveing fair and accurate and proper consideration to their personal and emotional dynamics beyond the ice.I am ashamed to say that I honestly believe that somehow I have in a self-serving way consistantly justified the exclusion of the Players perspective as if they were machines–believing that as a fan I had a paid right to de-humanise them in a figureative way by thinking of then as parts instead of people.

    Kudos to the efforts all of these athletes give to their trade and to the fans.

  • DaveChamp

    Good on you for taking the demotion as motivation, but Milbury was a hilariously bad GM. He and Matt Millen should have statues erected, in honour of their ineptitude. Milbury’s could be him holding a shoe, about to strike.

    He’s one guy I’d like to kick in the nads for sure. I hope CBC devotes an entire segment to him and Glenn Healey kicking the crap out of each other. MacLean can be the awkward, sweaty ref. PJ Stock as the bumbling announcer.

    I have to go e-mail CBC now. Congrats on the retirement, Struds.