Eddy Curry began his career as a big boy for the Chicago Bulls with a lot of potential. Now he is a big man for the New York Knicks with the world around him falling apart. He has dropped out of the rotation, been accused of sexual harassment by his former male limo driver, and recently found out that his former girlfriend and mother of his three-year-old son has been murdered.
The latest tragedy, understandably, may the be the pinnacle event that sends Curry over the edge. Imagine that you have been struggling to perform at work, your boss has been riding you and is now leaving you out of key meetings, a lawsuit has been made public that shames you in front of your family and friends, and then you lose a person you once cared for and had a child with. I know I would lose it, Michael Douglas – “Falling Down” style.
It may help that he has a guaranteed contract worth nearly $10 million for the next two years, but, as a professional athlete, his ego is a very important part of his game and temperamental part of his life. Professional sport is littered with guys who have struggled on and off the field with personal demons and unthinkable tragedies. These athletes are never able to keep these things secret for very long and stadiums full of thousands of people look down on them, judging there every move.
One of the most extreme cases is former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Alonzo Spellman. Spellman came into the league in 1992 as a first round draft pick. He played well, but did not excel in his first five seasons. He had 30 sacks and was a presence against the run, but injuries limited his performance on the field and soon his personal issues became evident.
Spellman became increasingly erratic and his life became increasingly troublesome as he dealt with the inability to perform to his own standards on the field. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during his time with the Bears.
He refused to take medication and threatened suicide when a doctor was late to an appointment, after his career ended with stints with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys he again went off medication and forced a flight from Cincinnati to Philadelphia to make an emergency landing after becoming violent and insisting that the plane was crashing, and just last year he became involved in a car chase with police after an altercation at a convenience store in Tulsa.
Some players, like Pittsburgh Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, were able to hold it together on the field where he won four Super Bowls, but fell apart into a blend of tears, three marriages that ended with the wreckage of a plane crash, and drug abuse to avoid his anxiety attacks that eventually were diagnosed as clinical depression.
The lists of athletes with severe personal problems that were rooted in social anxiety (which many find hard to believe since they play in front tens of thousands each game) and deep depression goes on and on, much like people in the general population. Sometimes they are rooted long before the player takes the field as a professional athlete and sometimes they come as public pressure begin to shatter their psyche.
I am a Bulls fan and used to hiss, boo, and be generally outraged once Eddy Curry stepped on the court, but now I feel the utmost sympathy for him. I hope that he is able to get his life back in order and that he is strong enough to keep standing while dealing with a career in disrepair and a personal life compounding his frustrations with tragedy and crippling allegations (I can not say whether they are true or not, I was not there).
Perhaps he can use these realities as motivation to get into the weight room and attack the court and the boards with a renewed sense of purpose. Hopefully he can make the most of himself out of this tragedy. I do not want to read an obscure story in the news about a former NBA player robbing a gas station or holding a gun to his head.