Believe it or not, however, some might say that playing the Houston Texans in Week 10 of the NFL schedule is not one of those moments, at least not compared to say, seeing the birth of a child.
With that obviously in mind, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman has already said that if his wife goes into labor this weekend, he — one of the NFL’s best defensive players this season — will opt to be with his family (his real one) instead of with the Bears. The baby — Tillman’s fourth — is due Monday, but he told a radio station Wednesday that if his wife goes into labor Sunday, he’ll be there.
“The wife is due any day, so hopefully this baby can stay in until after the game on Sunday,” Tillman said Wednesday on WSCR-AM 670. “I hope she stays in — I’m having another girl. Monday, for sure, but if she comes Sunday, I think I’m going to have to be at the hospital Sunday. So, I hope she stays in until after Sunday.”
Coincidentally, the 7-1 Bears are set to take on the 7-1 Houston Texans.
Big game, obviously. Whatever. You only get so many opportunities to see the birth of your child — unless you’re Antonio Cromartie — and you get 16 Sundays a year to play professional football. And while I’ve never been a part of the birth process aside from my own entry into the world (and hopefully it stays that way for a long time), I’ve heard some pretty rave reviews about the whole fatherhood thing.
The decision to skip one of those games of football to welcome another human being into the world is harmless, no?
Apparently, it isn’t.
ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio is one of those people who think that Tillman owes it to everyone but his family to be at the game, instead of being with his family to witness the miracle of birth.
“It’s a thorny issue,” Florio wrote Wednesday afternoon. “My position was and is that the players have made a lifestyle choice that entails being available 16 days per year, no matter what. If they choose not to plan their nine-month family expansion activities to coincide with the eight months per year when their work activities don’t entail playing games that count, why should their teams suffer the consequences?”
Florio is right that players like Tillman have made these “lifestyle choices” to play professional football, that’s a good point. But just because you’re a football player, that doesn’t mean you’re not a human being. It doesn’t mean you’re not a husband. It doesn’t mean you’re not a father.
Those “lifestyle choices” come into play when teams fly to opposing cities for away games. They come into play when players put in long hours at practice, the weight room and classroom. They come into play when those players come home from practice and immediately turn on game film. They come into play when there’s nothing “off” about the offseason.
Those are the type of sacrifices pro athletes and coaches — and their families — make. And they’re rewarded for it, with a whole bunch of money. But some things transcend that. Correction: very few things transcend that. The birth of a child is one of those things.
Don’t expect someone like Tillman to take those types of things for granted, either. As ESPN.com points out, Tillman and his wife Jackie have been through some things before. His daughter Tiana was born with a form of cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening of the heart and the pumping system. That required a heart transplant.
So yeah. Slowing down Andre Johnson and the Houston Texans means a little less on the life scale when you start throwing around words like cardiomyopathy.
Florio also asks why teammates should suffer because Tillman just went ahead and decided to have a child during the season. Because they’re his teammates, that’s why. No matter how many tough-guy cliches we want to throw around about how football players are “brothers who go to war together” or some other lame saying, they aren’t family. Your family is your family. How hard is that?
Kudos to Tillman for standing up to these preconceived notions and putting his focus where it should be — on the things that actually matter in life.
Maybe, just maybe, Florio, who has a history of stirring up you-know-what, is doing it again to get some clicks on his website. He also does some work for NBC, including the Sunday night broadcast, which just so happens to be Bears-Texans this week. So there’s that week, too. Maybe he’s just so wrapped up in football that he can’t see there’s a real world out there that takes place outside the gridiron. Who knows.
We may never know his reason for openly criticizing Tillman and anyone else who makes the decision he may very well make this weekend. It might not be a stretch to say that Florio is probably in the minority when it comes those criticisms, though.