Growing up, every middle school maverick who could pick up a baseball wanted to play professionally, myself included. What we failed to realize, however, is that playing a sport that's broadcasted across time zones and countries as your occupation, not only requires unwavering work ethic and determination beyond talent, but also comes with the immediate immersion into the public eye.
In St. Louis, the sports community prides itself on backing teams through torrential seasons or cheering for opposing players when they make star-studded plays. Unfortunately, with the way Jake Allen and Dexter Fowler have been treated by members of the Blues and Cardinals fandoms, it's discouraging.
That's not to say that the majority of St. Louis fans berate or wish ill on these players and that's not to say it doesn't happen in other cities with other players because it most certainly does. But for a city that prides itself on being "Baseball Heaven", we shouldn't be having players speak out after the season about dealing with mental health issues due to the number of people bagging him online. He's been playing baseball his entire life, he knows when he's playing well and when he's not, and he doesn't need to hear it from the people who are supposed to be rooting for him to succeed.
I think we are so quick to judge, and the salaries that these players earn make it easy to, but we have to realize, at the end of the day, that these players are humans too and are cyberbullied to an extent far worse than most people on this planet and just because they've acquired a platform does not make them immune to the pain that words can produce.
Take Jake Allen for example. A former 1st round pick, highly touted goalie prospect who has had multiple seasons as an adequate goalie in the league.
Has he gone through slumps? Absolutely. Most goalies have.
But the way fans treated him during those slumps, blaming him entirely for losses, using him as the scapegoat as to why the team hasn't won a Cup yet, does not help his mental confidence. The deterioration we've seen in his play is a direct result of that and the fact that his statistics in away games are better than his stats at home points directly toward that.
So next time you're watching a game, regardless of the city you live in, what sport it is, or how bad your team is, and you're tempted to tweet or message the player on social media regarding their performance, do yourself a favor, the sports world a favor, and that player who has worked so hard to get where they are a favor, and put the phone down.