Big Ben stated he would miss a game if it conflicted with the birth of his child. Why this is an important, visible step that can help dads in less glamorous professions.
After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback hasn’t always been the nicest of guys, especially to women. And, of course I am still quite pissed about the 2010 AFC Championship Game (My wife’s quote after that crushing loss: “If I treated you as badly as the Jets treat you, you would have left me by now”). (EDIT- I’m not so happy about this week’s game either!!!)
But, a few weeks ago, Big Ben made this statement:
“I’m not missing the birth of my child, There’s no chance. I know some fans probably don’t want to hear that, but there’s no chance…. When you’re going to be a father, all you think about is having this little baby… It’s exciting and it is a little bit scary, too. It is. Before long, you’re going to have this little life that you’re taking care of. But I’ve heard nothing but great things from people (about) just how it will change your life. I’m just so excited for that challenge.”
If this comes to pass (pun intended), and Big Ben misses a crucial mid-season game to attend the birth of his child, the attention this would give to the relative importance of work and fatherhood would be enormous. And, years after his atrocious behavior, Ben would suddenly become a great example for family men everywhere (need I remind anyone here about the dearth of shining examples of fatherhood in the NFL- *ahem* watch this video clip of Antonio Cromartie *ahem*). Even more important, it may make some more “old-school” managers around the country more sensitive to the issues their male employees face when a child first arrives.
This isn’t the first time work-family issues and sports have intertwined. From time to time, we hear of baseball players missing 1-3 games upon the birth of a child, but that represents less than 2% of the baseball season. Some baseball players who miss games are supported by their organizations; others get criticized. To its credit, MLB has supported new dads by implementing a 24-72 hour paternity leave for players (Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis was the first to avail himself of this policy).
I’m also reminded of NBA player Vince Carter who, back when he was the second coming of Dr. J, missed practices leading up to the seventh and deciding game of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals to attend his college graduation ceremony. He’d left UNC after his junior year, but took part-time classes while in the NBA to finish his degree. He rushed back to the game in time and scored 20 points, but his team lost to Philly by one. Reaction was intensely split on whether he had his priorities straight or whether he wasn’t sufficiently dedicated to the team.
Does that sound familiar to any of you who took some parental leave or time off for family reasons at your workplace?
Now, we have another high-profile test case. Selfishly, for the good of our cause (helping fathers better balance work and family demands and encouraging more supportive workplaces), I really hope Big Ben’s kid is born on a Sunday. Call me over-optimistic, but I think much of the sports world has evolved and would rally around Ben if he missed a game to experience the greatest moment of a dad’s life.
However, if Pittsburgh winds up narrowly missing the post-season this year, well, all bets are off (pun, again, intended), and there may be damaging blowback to our cause.
But as a Jets fan, that’s a risk I’m willing to take…
What do you think? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments section below.