Passing Judgment: A Reality Check with Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson sonMost of us that play fantasy football do not personally know NFL players.  We watch them play football and occasionally hear news and stories about them on TV or the internet.  Perhaps we can even gain some insight by following them on Twitter.  But generally speaking, NFL players are complete strangers to us and we only care about the statistics they accumulate for our fantasy teams.

This week, we learned of one of the saddest stories in recent memory with respect to the death of Adrian Peterson’s two-year old son.  Peterson’s son died as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of the boy’s mother’s boyfriend.  No matter what walk of life you are in, losing a child is heart-breaking and tragic.  As a father myself, I can’t even imagine what Peterson is going through.  Again, I don’t know him personally but I tweeted him the following:

There is no textbook for how to deal with the death of a loved one, especially a child.  It would be perfectly understandable if Peterson wanted to seclude himself in grief and be away from football.  But instead, the reigning MVP returned to practice at the end of the week and has vowed to play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.  Some people seemed surprised, but who is anyone to judge?  By concentrating on football and honoring his commitment to his teammates, it is helping him cope with the grief and sadness in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy.

When there was speculation as to whether Peterson would play or not, some people on Twitter chose to comment on this story simply as what type of fantasy football advice to give regarding Peterson’s status.  I understand some people make a living giving fantasy football advice and I also understand that some people really only care about how this situation affects his own fantasy team.  But, as the morbid saying goes, the body isn’t even cold yet.  Do you really need to capitalize on this tragic story by spouting off fantasy football advice?  Let’s get real…what exactly is the crucial advice to be given anyway?  Peterson is the best running back in the league, so you play him under any circumstances as long as he dresses for the game.  If he chooses not to play, then don’t start him.  It isn’t exactly rocket science.  But some “experts” and “pundits” out there felt the need to put a fantasy spin on this horrendous situation.

Look, it is human nature to judge what others do, especially celebrity athletes like Adrian Peterson.  But, he is a human being who puts his pants on one leg at a tine, just like everyone else.  And more importantly, he is a father who has just lost his son.  If that raw emotion is what he needs to play a game this week to cope, then so be it.  It isn’t outside the realm of possibility that he will use that emotion to lead him to an incredible game, much like Brett Favre famously did on a Monday night game right after his father passed away.

In order to not be hypocritical, I want to be clear that I am not judging anyone on how they reacted to this story.  If the extent of your relationship with Adrian Peterson is that he is on your fantasy team, then I understand why the only thing you care about is how this tragedy affects your team.  All I am saying is that this is another example of how precious life is and how quickly things can change.  Believe it or not, there are things that are more important than the NFL and fantasy football.  But to Adrian Peterson’s credit, he is choosing to deal with this tremendous loss by doing what he does best – playing football.  We as the fantasy football community do appreciate that.  But more importantly, we should recognize what a sad and horrible story this is and hope that Peterson can somehow deal with this loss as best he can for the rest of his life.  He can’t play football forever, so at some point team practices and game preparation will not be an available escape for him.

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