“TMZ is reporting an NFL player was injured in a fireworks accident…”
The radio broadcaster hadn’t finished before I began unleashing a diatribe to my husband.
“Oh geez. What kind of clown thinks it’s a good idea to literally play with fire? And someone who is paid to keep his body healthy and intact, no less.”
I should have let the broadcaster finish. Because, as it turned out, it was one of my clowns.
That’s right, I’m talking about Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end for the New York Giants. A two-time Pro Bowler. A Super Bowl champion. And a clown.
On July 4th, the fact that he’s a highly paid professional athlete — one who, I should note, had been planning to hold out for a new contract — was the last thing on his mind. He was all about celebrating the holiday, which apparently meant filling up an entire U-Haul with fireworks that he himself would light. Pierre-Paul engaged in behavior that was “risky at best,” and stupid, mindless, and selfish at worst (NY Post), and although the incident was not life-threatening, it is going to end up costing him dearly.
According to the latest report, his right index finger was amputated, which understandably has the Giants “concerned.” There’s already speculation that the team plans to withdraw the $60 million long-term contract that had been on the table. Now with Pierre-Paul likely to miss training camp and the start of the regular season, there might not be any offer beyond his current one-year deal. What’s even worse is that the Giants already had some reservations about the 26-year-old, who is tremendously talented but has demonstrated questionable judgement in the past. This latest incident may very well have been the last straw.
Pierre-Paul, however, is by no means the first or last player to have his career hindered by careless off-the-field actions.
There’s outfielder Ron Gant, whose broken leg suffered during a dirt-bike accident cost him $4.6 million after the Atlanta Braves were able to void his contract.
There’s third baseman Aaron Boone, who tore his ACL playing in a pickup basketball game, prompting the New York Yankees to add it to the long list of activities prohibited by current players (along with table tennis, croquet and shuffleboard). Shooting hoops came with a $5.75 million price tag for Boone, who was then replaced by Alex Rodriguez.
Who knows how much it may have cost Jim Lonborg, the Red Sox pitcher who suffered a skiing accident just months after winning the Cy Young in 1967 and leading his team to the World Series. Lonborg, according to many, “was never the same pitcher again.”
But here’s the thing. What Lonborg, Boone and even Gant did doesn’t automatically question their character. Yes, they’re professional athletes who need to be mindful of the activities in which they are participating. But they weren’t doing anything extreme; they, unlike Pierre-Paul, weren’t doing something that’s known to be extremely dangerous and is illegal in most states.
No one is suggesting that athletes should live in a bubble. But when you’re paid to keep your body in top shape, it means you need to think first, then act. And if you don’t trust your own instincts, ask a friend. Because what you might see as harmless fun, others might see as a potential career-killer.
Now, it’s still too early to determine what will happen with Pierre-Paul’s future. But unless the damage is indeed permanent, I’m confident he’ll secure a contract, whether it’s with the Giants (which I highly doubt) or another team. But when his agent starts shopping him around, any owner with a brain will either stay away, or structure the contract so that Pierre-Paul can’t even go food shopping without a chaperone.
And really, is anyone worth that kind of risk? I don’t think so. I think that after what Pierre-Paul has put the Giants through, it might be time to send away the clown.