Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Certain Uncertainty

Garrett Reid, the 29-year-old eldest son of Eagles' coach Andy Reid, was found dead this morning. I won't get into the why and wherefores here, or the awfulness of a parent burying a child; that's what talk radio and trite cliches are for.

Rather, I'd like to address what sports writers do when faced with such a mission that is so beyond their pay grade. They talk about the uncertainty that's facing the team giving the head coach's incalculable loss. Oh, The Uncertainty.

And, well, I'm going to say something here that's going to sound really, really mean, and wrong, and hurtful... except that it's true for *every* head coach in the NFL, and many of the best players, and titans of industry and CEOs and celebrities alike.

Their work (and, yes, Andy Reid's) is more important to them than their families.

And if it wasn't, they would not have gotten the job in the first place.

Garrett Reid was a convicted drug dealer and abuser. He did time for a high-speed car crash. He tried to smuggle pills into jail when he did his time. He lived at home late in life. I suppose he's gotten better in recent years, and Reid was trying to spend more time with him, but let's face it. If he didn't have a famous relation, you would have never heard about him, and no one would care. And that's true even if he died of nothing more than natural causes.

If his family were more important than football, Andy Reid would have quit his job -- not just for the five weeks that he did before to go to rehab with the kid, but for good -- and devoted his life and fortune on getting him as clean as possible. What form that would take, I have no idea, and maybe parental concern was the fuel that was driving him in his bad decisions, but if Garrett were the only thing in his life, Andy would have thrown himself into his business like it was preparing for a Super Bowl.

He didn't. Instead, he coached the Eagles.

Now, an aside: I don't fault Reid for this. If I were in similar shoes, I don't know if I would have done anything differently. At some point, every person on the planet has to be responsible for their own actions and life. There's no way to say what makes a kid grow up wrong, and there's no way to know if your actions as a parent are correct and helpful until years and years in the future. I travel on business and isolate myself to write, and that time away does not make me a terrible parent. I actually think it makes me a better one, since too much time leads to too little patience. And if your family really is more important than your work, you aren't going to be very much of a provider. And there's no guarantee that being his kid's 24/7/365 watchdog would have kept him away from bad choices, or even that bad choices had anything to do with his death. (If you are looking for uncertainty, by the way, that's where you'll find it.)

So, here's what is going to happen now with the Eagles. To, well, fix this problem of Rampant Uncertainty.

Reid will take some time off -- probably about 1-2 weeks. Reid's underlings will run training camp, and given how much experience they have, camp will be fine. He'll come back to the team and speak about his loss. Prayers will be said, respectful words to the character of all involved will be invoked.

And then the games will start, and we'll worry about DeSean Jackson's ankle and Jason Peters' replacement and how well DeMeco Ryans is doing in the middle... and no one will think very much about this loss at all, and the team will be as well or as poorly prepared as they always are.

Life, in short, will go on. Along with football. Reid isn't leaving this job (perhaps ever) over the loss of his son, any more than Tony Dungy left his various gigs over the loss of his kid, or Robert Kraft after losing his wife, or...

And so on, and so on.

Andy Reid's job is more important than his family.

And, um, seeing how his performance on said job affects 45 other men's families on the field, and hundreds more in the offices and facilities?

It always has been, and always will be.

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