Monday, January 31, 2011

Compartmentalizing

Over the weekend, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a piece that revealed that longtime Eagles K David Akers had a severe family problem during the week before the team's playoff loss to the Packers -- a game in which Akers missed two field goals he normally makes. The problem is that one of his young daughters had to have an emergency operation to remove a cancerous ovary.

It's just about the worst thing that I could imagine, as a father, having to deal with. And it might have had something to do with Akers' performance, which might have been his last as an Eagle. Independent of the lockout situation, he's 35, expensive as kickers go, and apt to be in a decline phase of his career. It's a cruel business, football. Coach Andy Reid cited the lost six points in his post-game press conference, more out of frustration with letting an opportunity go than Akers, one suspects. But since Reid is now the longest tenured coach in the NFL, ring-less, and the reason why Michael Vick is here (don't discount the deep undercurrent of hate in the area for the Comeback Felon), some have taken this as further evidence that Reid is a classless assclown.

To which I say... um... well... it is David Akers' job to make those kicks. No matter what's going on in his life. If his head wasn't in the game, and I completely understand why the hell it would not be, he should have begged off the job and given the organization the chance to bring in a free agent kicker. There are many. No one would have blamed him for wanting out. If my daughter was undergoing life-threatening surgery, the very last place on Earth that I would be at is at my job. Period. And if you think that Reid's to blame for being honest about his frustrations when he could have knocked off what turns out to be the best team in the NFC, or that he shouldn't be allowed to say anything it... well, you haven't been around football coaches very often, really.

(Besides, if Akers had made the kicks, we'd be talking about his incredible focus, or how the trauma had steeled him to the task. As above, so below.)

In my day job, I manage people. And if one of them came to work with something like this hanging over them and didn't tell anyone about it, I'd have given him or her the same jobs as usual. And if they had then failed to perform that work, in a critical situation that caused my business what we needed to succeed...

Well, I'm not going to lie to you: I'd be disappointed that they made the decision to come in. I'd care that they didn't manage their selves and situation in a realistic fashion, and that on some level, if they made that judgment error here, they are likely to make a similar judgment error later. I doubt I'd can them over it, but I would keep it in mind, the next time I needed someone to take a pressure shot.

To his credit, Akers didn't bring up the situation; the Inquirer dug it out. And if it was his last moment in the laundry, that'd be even more sad, considering how stable and productive he's been for all of these many years. I'm sure that he didn't know he was going to miss, and he did hit one of his kicks in that game (albeit only just).

But football, and life, can be a sad business. People who help their teams succeed bear the rewards; those that are partly to blame for the failure suffer the punishment. Whether or not there's a compelling back story, good intentions, or any other mitigating factor.

The scoreboard cares not for your pain.

And never, ever, will.

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