We may never know what exactly prompted CC Sabathia to check himself into rehab for alcoholism on the eve of the playoffs. The New York Yankees’ left-hander had been pitching his best baseball in three years during the month of September. For Sabathia, however, something flipped a switch in his personal battle with a disease that afflicts millions of Americans every day. Timing doesn’t matter. The playoffs don’t matter. CC Sabathia needs to take care of himself in order to be a healthy father figure and good example to his family.
That this decision comes a day before the Yankees will begin their playoff journey does not matter, but try telling that to the Neanderthals given the ability to broadcast their thoughts to the world using two thumbs and an iPhone. Twitter is great for many things, but serving as a public forum for rational thought is not always one of those things, especially when dealing with complicated issues like substance abuse and professional athletes. Overwhelmingly, the response to Sabathia’s announcement has been positive on all fronts, with hundreds sending positive thoughts and prayers in the direction of the big hurler. There was, however, an underlying sense that most people question the timing of the decision.
Playoff baseball is not a matter of life and death. Perhaps alcoholism is not in the truest sense of the word. I’ve never been an alcoholic, so I have no right to question the severity of the disease, and most likely neither do most of the people reading this. You’re welcome to wonder whether Sabathia could have gutted out a few more weeks of life without treatment, but I would encourage you not to. You don’t know the daily struggle Sabathia lives with. You don’t know what runs through his head as he battles through this personal struggle, and you have no right to. CC Sabathia owes us nothing, least of all an apology.
This is not a time to question the motives of a professional athlete. It is the time to express support and compassion. It’s a teachable moment for us all. Professional athletes are not gods. They are not immortal specimens. We place them on their lofty pedestals, but they suffer the same mortal ups and downs we each must face as we go through life. If anything, their worst, most difficult moments are magnified due to the spotlight in which they live.
The timing of this announcement may not be perfect for the New York Yankees, but it is the perfect time for CC Sabathia. A cry for help of this magnitude can never be ill-timed. Above all else, that is the primary takeaway from this difficult situation.