Cancer Claims Tony Gwynn at 54

This is a man. - Mitchell Leff

In related news, I am the world's biggest asshole.

Tony Gwynn was a magnificent baseball player. He died today from cancer.  There are far better outlets to get coverage of that news than TheGoodPhight. I am writing because of my recap on Friday. Please do not read it yet, but go to it in a minute.

I blasted Tony Gwynn, Jr.'s performance at the plate. It was awful. He struck out 3 times. I did note he made some good defensive plays, but it was a ringing and negative critique. Of course, he was playing on Father's Day weekend knowing that his father was likely going to die any day from cancer. Yeah. That was all that was on his mind as 90 mph fastballs and Major League breaking stuff bore down on him. Just his father dying from cancer.

I had no idea, but I still feel like the world's biggest asshole. I am so sorry.

Folks, the fact that Tony Gwynn, Jr., could even be on the field, much less hold himself together, under such circumstances is a testament to his focus and professionalism. I really do not know the heart and mind of either father or son, but I know how I feel about my parents. Facing their mortality at any point, much less during Father's Day, is incredibly difficult, especially in light of a disease that killed Tony Gwynn far before his threescore and ten years.

I can't blame the team for playing him. They surely knew, and surely it was their mutual choice to allow a man to have some semblance of normalcy during a terrible ordeal. And I am sure that nobody would have wanted his son to carry on more than Tony Gwynn.

Fans, and that's what all of us here are, are often totally unforgiving. We do not see the full picture of athletes who struggle with professional performance in an incredibly cut-throat profession alongside the problems of daily life. They also struggle tremendously with personal lives that are as difficult as those of any other human being. They are full of a million successes, joys, tragedies, and defeats.

I don't expect athletes to share everything. I don't want them to. They are entitled to privacy, too. In the future, I will try to remember that there is more to the men we watch than just their baseball lives and performances.

When we forget, as I did on Friday, the essentially human aspects of going through life with its struggles, successes, and failures, we are doing a disservice to our fellow men and women. That includes professional athletes, regardless of their pay or status.

I am sorry, Tony Gwynn, Jr. Your strength and your ability to carry on are remarkable, and no matter what you do on the field this year, I will never, ever forget your resilience and dedication to the game and the people who watch it. You did not wear it on your sleeve, but your ability to show up and play on Friday says as much about who you are as anything you could have said in public. I am sure your father was proud, and he should be.

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