Superbowl MVP Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens missed the birth of his second child to play in his team’s home opener. Football fan Aaron Gouviea weighs in on work and fatherhood.
It’s not often football and fatherhood intersect (outside of cringing while Antonio Cromartie struggles to remember the names of his 184 children), but the two worlds collided yesterday when Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco missed the birth of his second child in order to play a regular season game against the Cleveland Browns.
His wife, Dana, went into labor yesterday in New Jersey while Flacco was in Baltimore warming up for the Ravens’ home-opener. On one hand I totally get it. I’m a HUGE football fan and with only 16 regular season games a year, players are hard-pressed to miss even one game. Add to that Flacco signed a whopping $120 million contract after winning the Super Bowl, and yesterday marked the celebration of that feat and the raising of the banner in his home stadium. Dedication to your job, your teammates, and fans is a positive and I’m sure Flacco (and his wife) discussed this at length and clearly felt this was the right move. And that’s a personal decision that is strictly between them as a couple.
It’s also been said that because of Flacco’s unique status as an elite NFL quarterback, he can’t be compared to the rest of us schmucks. And let me be the first to admit Flacco would’ve been excoriated by many fans and media members if he had decided to skip the game. People would’ve been calling for his head, talking about his lack of dedication to his job, how he let his teammates down (especially if they ended up losing), etc.
I get it — Joe Flacco was stuck between a rock and a hard place. And while I detest everything about the Baltimore Ravens (hey, I’m a Patriots fan), I’m certainly not calling Flacco a bad father or a horrible person for choosing to play instead of being present at the delivery. It’s a personal choice and he made the choice to play. So be it.
But while I’m far from outraged, I am disappointed.
I spend a lot of time talking about and promoting involved and active fatherhood. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your opinion of me), I’m a lowly Internet peon. And I’ve come to realize all my yelling and advocating for dads takes place largely in an echo chamber, heard only by other super-involved parents. That doesn’t take away from the importance of the message all the dads I know are trying to convey, it just means with the exception of the few things that go viral and gain a wider audience, we’re all just preaching to the choir.
I would’ve loved it if Joe Flacco had chosen to miss one game to be there for his son’s birth, because it would’ve sent one helluva message and forced people to talk about how more men than ever before are making work/life balance a priority.
Being an advocate for involved fatherhood means doing things like promoting paternity leave, urging men to work a little less and be home a little more, and being fully supportive of stay-at-home dads. As you can imagine, this gets a significant amount of push-back from people who have an antiquated view of masculinity and what it means to be a “real man.” Dads who actively downshift their careers to ensure more involvement at home face labels of “slacker” at best, and “pansy” at worst. It’s a worthy battle, but one that is very much uphill.
So imagine the boost fatherhood would get if the Super Bowl MVP in America’s most popular sport had stood up and said “Sorry, but I’ll get to play Cleveland again. I might not have another chance to see my child enter this world.” But it didn’t work out that way. Joe Flacco and his wife made the decision that was best for them. Will he one day regret it? Maybe, but who knows.
Flacco wound up beating the Browns yesterday and the Ravens won. However, I can’t help but think this is one in the loss column for involved fatherhood.
For the record, check out this article which highlights professional athletes who have opted to miss games to be there for the birth of their children.
—first appeared on Daddy Files
—image from wiki commons