On the morning of April 23, 2020, 31-year-old Jace Prescott committed suicide. His brother, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott, recently opened up about his own struggles with depression and anxiety following the death of his brother. Coward television host Skip Bayless decided to spin Prescott’s interview into a point about how it was a personal weakness and it made Bayless question if Prescott would be the right person to be a team leader. Of course, every other sports personality berated Bayless for such a senseless hot take and trying to make the death of Jace Prescott and Dak’s reaction a black mark on the Cowboys Pro Bowl Quarterback’s resumé. Of course, the irony should be pointed out that Bayless is calling out another person’s manhood and ability to lead a locker room despite Dak’s overall 41-27 record while playing in the NFL when compared to a sports personality who has never competed at any level comparable to the players he critiques. However, this recent incident is just another example of the ignorance of athletes’ struggles with mental illness.
The “hot take-ification” of athlete’s lives has very evidently run off its track. Everyone is trying to zig or zag one way or another to create a sensationalist opinion that’ll get them a fifteen-second clip trending on Twitter. I honestly believe that Bayless was being intentionally obtuse to get trending, and frankly, it worked because this is the first time I’ve thought about him and his show for a long time. So many people also used Bayless’ comments as a springboard for a performative “shame-on-him” segment without addressing the real issue at hand. Surprisingly, the most nuanced and mature reflection on this whole situation came from First Take with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman. The show has found its niche by being intentionally loud, obnoxious, quotable, in-on-its-own-joke, but most importantly, fun. Smith and Kellerman were brave enough to talk about their own struggles with losing a family member. Smith gave one of the most poignant and nuanced understandings of grief I’ve seen. He talked about losing his brother, and albeit not falling into depression, but succumbing and becoming numb to the overwhelming power of grief. He and Kellerman thoroughly explored the topic and by the end of the segment, both were near tears. Despite being some of the most beautiful and thought-out television I have ever seen, none of these clips gained any national traction and if I were to ask you about Smith’s comments from last week you’d probably think it had to do with clowning the Knicks or Cowboys.
Any player’s mental issue stories feel like a blip on a radar that gets lost in the 24-hour news cycle.”
When my grandmother died in 2016, I thought it was something that I could accept and process fairly quickly. However, I didn’t anticipate that I couldn’t listen to some songs or watch some movies the same way ever again. It’s something that I still carry with me to this day. Like Smith said on First Take, what’s so hard to process “is that the person who loved you most and loved you so unconditionally, is gone.” I believe that most, if not everyone, has felt some sort of loss like this, as death is very common in life, so twisting the death of a depressed man into a take for views is wholly unjustifiable. Athletes are expected to be better than us, everything that they do has such a brighter spotlight on them.
This sort of false idolization is an unfair expectation to place on anyone, let alone challenging a grieving brother’s manhood.
Everything about these players’ lives is over-examined, and it wasn’t even a month ago that the hosts on First Take were calling out Dak Prescott for some little statement he made, just because the Cowboys haul in views. And on top of all this, any player’s mental issue stories feel like a blip on a radar that gets lost in the 24-hour news cycle. Kevin Love opened up about his own struggles and the media loved it until they were done with it. Sports media is an ever-entertaining machine, it’s what I turn on when eating breakfast, but the yellow journalism within the industry has gone too far. It was refreshing to see a show like First Take be nuanced and mature, and hopefully, it’s something that we see more of in the foreseeable future.