Mental as anything

My last post ruffled some feathers. Unfortunately I’ll never know whose because they posted anonymously – but I’d like to point out a couple of things to anonymous – and their potential cohort of anonymous friends who like to post ridiculous comments.
1. My last post had very little to do with depression. If it turns out that Trescothick is suffering from depression then my sympathies are with him. If however, we take him at face value (and according to his official website) then he’s not suffering from depression – he simply struggles with being on the road 300 days a year in his life as one of England’s top cricketers. In fact here are some quotes that suggest it’s not a matter of depression:

“The opener now claims he flew home early from India because of a ‘virus’ — even though it was previously said he had domestic problems.
Tresco, 30, said: “My problems are now very much behind me, I just needed a break.
“Playing six years of solid international cricket just takes it toll after a while.
“You get to certain stages of your career and you just need to be with your family to recharge the batteries.

“We play so much. We spend 300 nights of the year out of our own house, either travelling the world or in hotels preparing for games in England.”

Now I’m no psychologist. And he may be in denial, or trying to avoid being tarred with the public stigma that comes with depression -I don’t know, and that wasn’t a point I was discussing in my post.

I was shocked by the concept that an international sportsperson could claim work related stress, because as we all know – SPORT IS ONLY A GAME. That was my point – it was a point that segued nicely into the story about Shaun Berrigan and the fact he was sacrficing his brother’s wedding to play off the bench for Australia. I did not mention depression – my post was an indictment of the way sport has shifted from entertainment to something much more significant for many people. The example these stressed out, emotional wrecks are setting for the younger generation of sports people worries me. I did not comment on depression – I’m simply not qualified to do so. I may have made some reference to the issue in my response to some of the comments but I’ll get to that next. An interesting side note is that the full page photo the Courier Mail ran of a bedraggled, baggy eyed Trescothick getting off the plane in England was in fact not him but an unnamed English business man.

2. Play the ball not the man – when commenting please stick to commenting on the issue at hand. I’m not publishing my opinions asking to be attacked for them. Feel free to criticise what I have to say – but if you choose to anonymously insult me – I will delete the post. I will also reply – and because you’re anonymous I may be scathing and somewhat vindictive. I have the decency to put my name to my opinions – please do me, and other readers, the same courtesy by putting your name to yours. Also play the ball that’s being played – not some different issue. You can’t play golf while the rest of us are playing football. Whoever the anonymous poster was who brought suicide into the discussion yesterday was using a pathetic attempt at pathos by bringing in an extremely emotive, and sensitive issue into a discussion where it had no place to begin with. No one can argue with a post that wields suicide as a persuasive tool – you instantly place yourself on some sort of unassailable pedestal of rhetoric. That’s poor. No one needs to put up with shoddy emotional arguments.

3. Stick to the facts. It’s all well and good to argue using hearsay and some “statistics” that you’ve heard of supporting your position. The fact is 74% of statistics are made up on the spot. If you’re going to throw facts – scientific, economic or whatever at me – please back it up with evidence. I made the original post based on quotes from Trescothick available on the public record and reports of the story as it unfolded. Unless you’re an expert in your field – try to at least have an expert backing up your position. The exception being if you’re a certified member of the flat earth society – then I’m happy to laugh at your delusion.

4. Please read the post before commenting – don’t comment about what you think the post is about, comment about what it is about. Or leave a message saying hi. With your name. This blog exists so that my friends – or random strangers – can read my thoughts, and be kept up to speed with my life – and so that I have something to do at work, and can keep in touch with people as such I’m all for discourse – but please don’t go putting words in my mouth, I do a good enough job of making myself look stupid without your help. Finally, if you do suffer from depression, and you were insulted by any implied or explicit things I may have said in these last two posts – I apologise. Please seek professional help… or something – just don’t try to play cricket for England.


Leah says:

My impression from your post was that it wasn’t solely about Trescothick, but about sportspeople in general who recently have had issues with emotional/mental problems. And yes, some of those were depression.

Nathan says:

what gave you that impression?

Andrew says:

hi (sorry, i’ve come into this discussion a bit late and missed a few previous posts and have no idea what has being going on, kind of like most of life really, never really knowing what is going on). *excuse me – knock at door* “pizza? i didn’t order a pizza…..?”

Mark says:

I believe the problem with sport being “only a game” is that it isn’t “only a game” at that level. In many ways, organised competition team sport at a state or international level has become the focus of nationalistic fervour in the “civilised” world. Given this is the same “extreme identification and ownership” that starts wars and justifies “ethnic cleansing” – it can be quite uplifting when channelled apropriately, but also frightening to behold, both for the players (weight of expectation) and other supporters (ask the non-combatants at any England/Croatia soccer game).
Additionally, I wouldn’t be surprised if certain sports had an annual turnover in excess of the GDP of some countries. (I couldn’t be bothered checking – leave that to the Journos). Money paid to “entertain” carries with it a certain “obligation”, and yet is so fickle in its passing fancy – sorry, you’re not on my wish-list this year – or an injury sidelines a player for a season or two.
Given the passion behind the “game(s)”, the money poured in, and the inherent job insecurity, I don’t think the pressure to perform is imaginary, or insignificant. Nor do I find it surprising that some people struggle to cope in any sport, cricket, league, football, tennis. Of these, I think cricket and tennis the most emotionally and mentally demanding – individually small instances of focused concentration, but add them up in a game and it becomes incredibly significant – mental and physical endurance need to be paramount.

While Trescothick leaving at the “wrong” time is unfortunate, and it would/could have been better for all concerned if he’d stopped earlier, I applaud the guy for actually doing it – it’s a gutsy move, and likely best now for all concerned. It’s easy to cast an “objective” negative judgement from afar – but is it really objective when you don’t have all the facts? And I think it very difficult to get all the facts from the media, and dangerous, given the personal and private nature of the circumstances. After all, “who wants the pressure of being Super all the time.”

As for the family aspect – the sporting hierarchies can’t go on blithely ignoring the wealth of evidence showing a strong and stable home/family environment provides a greater chance of mental and emotional stability – which improves performance – and having and encouraging the right team priorities to support this.

I thought the ACB handled McGrath’s wife’s illness well. Even though it’s a different situation, I’m with the majority – Berrigan should be at the wedding. I was saddened by Peter Schmichel’s (sp?) comment about missing almost every wedding /birth in his family for years. The pressure of performance has created sportspeople into high-class slaves, though many of them don’t realise it.

The sportspeople themselves need to take reponsibility for accepting the lifestyle – the good and the bad. Even so, there is an overwhelming weight of pressure, stress and expectation imposed from external sources in the upper echelons of any sport – how that is dealt with at the organisation, team, and individual level will have a great impact on the individual’s performance and longevity over the long-term, rather than just the short.

I guess in conclusion, yes, Trescothick probably should have pulled out earlier, but I commend him for his decision, and wish him all the best in his circumstances, as the pressure of competitive sport – even willingly entered into – is not something I would dismiss as insignificant, despite it being “just a game”

Nathan says:

See people – that sort of comment is much more considered than flying off the handle and throwing in depression and suicide.

Mark makes a good point – and one that I’d considered but chosen to leave out in my knee jerk reaction (which is what most of my posts are – they’re generally my initial response to an incident – that way things stay current) on the Trescothick situation.

As a spectator I’d much rather watch people who are enjoying their craft than those dourly going about their business. I’d rather watch Benji Marshall than Ben Hornby. I like watching batsmen who play with grace and enthusiasm like Damien Martyn or Michael Clarke. I love the way Willie Mason plays football – the intensity and passion that comes from doing what he loves. And I can’t stand the way Ian Thorpe has dragged his career out to the point he has – if you’re not enjoying something – don’t do it. It’s that simple.