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Vince Young

I was going to do a run-down but this story deserves a little more attention. So this is it for today. I'll be back tomorrow with others. Sleep is for the weak . . .

"This story" is the one about Vince Young's mental stability. After Young disappeared "abruptly" and "without a cell phone" for a few hours on Monday night, his concerned family contacted his team, the Tennessee Titans, who then contacted the police. The police located Young at a friend's house not long after they began searching for him. It was later discovered that the family's concerns were "unfounded," and the Titans are now trying to sweep the matter under the rug.

Apparently, the cops noted that there was an unloaded handgun in Young's vehicle (I'm guessing it's a truck), but Young's agent said he had known his whereabouts all along.

By way of background, on Sunday, Young was booed by his own fans and ended up coming out of the game (which the Titans won) early - some say he took himself out because of his poor performance - with an injured knee. It looks like he might be out for at least a few weeks if not a month.

Young's mother made some statements indicating that her son is having a tough time with it all:

"What would you think, if you were tired of being ridiculed and persecuted and talked about and not being treated very well, what would you do? What kind of decision would you make? Young's mother Felecia Young told The Nashville Tennesssean on Tuesday. "He may not want to deal with it [all], but you have to get to that point before you make that decision first.

"But we're not talking about football right now. We're talking about what would make him happy, and that is the most important thing. ... You don't want people to be hurting like he is. But it is a growing-up process, and he will eventually come out like gold no matter what. But Vince is going to be OK. We are just going to try and give him some space."

Hmm. Well, it sounds like the kid has a lot more going on than meets the eye.

He actually came to my church one time and spoke about meeting his goals and how his faith had helped him get to where he was. I recall him talking about going through setbacks and just realizing that it was all a part of the plan to make him better. I talked to him briefly afterward, he seemed like a nice guy.

The high pressure on professional athletes doesn't receive much attention these days, and quarterbacks get it the worst. They are pretty much sitting ducks for criticism every single day while they are in season, and at least monthly when the season is over. Unless you're a doctor or have some other job on which lives depend, most of us go to our jobs and no one cares that much if we don't perform perfectly. Not the professional athlete. We expect them to not have any issues (other than injuries) and - especially when it comes to QB's - they're always to be tough. So then they turn to other (de)vices when they don't have an outlet, like sex, drugs/alcohol, etc. - you know, the "normal" outlets.

"He's fine. There's nothing to be concerned with," says his coach, Jeff Fisher.

Really? I'm not convinced. I know his agent is just trying to protect his investment, and his coach wants to calm things down, but if his family is worried about him to this degree, maybe they ought to be concerned. Since most of the sports world and writers are male, it should not be surprising that they aren't comfortable with the idea that Young might need help. Our society just won't accept the idea of an alpha male who can't work everything out by himself. There's no crying in baseball - or any other sport, for that matter. And if you think it's difficult for a layman to show vulnerability, weakness in a professional football player is pretty much a no-no . . .

. . . unless you're Brett Favre. He surpassed likable and reached lovable status because he has pretty much always risen to the occasion, no matter what was going on in his personal life (including playing the game of his life the day after his dad passed away). And while many people will remember how he performed in the face of adversity, Favre showed great vulnerability when he admitted that he was addicted to painkillers. But I don't think that the addiction receives as much press when his triumphs are mentioned, and my guess would be because we're still not entirely comfortable acknowledging that our hero succumbed to a weakness and was unable to control himself. But I think there was also a sense of relief that he struggles just like you and I do, which just made him that much more endearing. Kudos to him for being strong enough to admit his troubles (although perhaps he didn't really have much of a choice).

Unfortunately, the unspoken rule in all this is that Brett Favre can afford to be more vulnerable because he was already "Brett Favre" when trouble occurred, and he remained "Brett Favre" after they went away. A less revered player (read: pretty much anyone other than Tom Brady) whose vulnerabilities occur before he's "made" it, and might affect his chances of ever making it? Someone, somewhere, is calling him that other name for a cat as I type.

Oh, they'll write novels about the story of how you almost lost it all . . . after you get it all back. Redemption is what sports are all about. But while you're still losing it? They're just writing you off.

So while there aren't too many examples these days of vulnerability in sports ( one noted exception came today, ironically, which ESPN deemed the result of "dedication") much less football, if something really is wrong with Vince Young, I certainly hope that he and others around him are strong enough to do something about it. But he shouldn't be written off as a headcase or mentally unstable - or worse, a spoiled brat (I won't even link to that one but I will note that just because he plays sports for a living and his life appears to be more fun than yours doesn't mean he needs to just "suck it up.").

He's in one of the most high-pressure jobs there is. So perhaps he's having some trouble adjusting to life in the NFL where he's not necessarily performing like he did at the University of Texas. That's OK. All is not lost.

I'm pulling for you, Vince . . . on the field and off.

(Cross-published at Pleats 'n Cleats)


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