Do We Even Know How to Talk About Beasley?

Forget ↵Twitter, or weed, or whether teams really should draft for character ↵above all else. As of now, all we know for sure is that Michael Beasley ↵was depressed, and checked into a facility seeking treatment for this ↵condition.
↵
↵A euphemism, maybe, and we could still learn that drugs or alcohol were ↵involved. But there's a reason why most people, including myself, ↵immediately pounced on the rehab/weed correlation, and it wasn't just a ↵certain famous photo.
↵
↵As a society, we still don't know how to talk about mental illness. Especially when athletes are involved. ↵
↵
↵There's a ready-made template for stories of addiction and recovery. ↵And no matter what your feelings on pot's relative harmlessness, ↵professional athletes have to go through the motions of penitence ↵whenever they're inextricably linked to big bags of green.
↵
↵But when athletes are confronted with depression, not only do they have ↵trouble seeking treatment—as fans and media, we're stuck dealing with ↵an exceptionally tricky issue, one that's at once a matter of science ↵and something that millions of people take very personally. ↵
↵
↵While there has been something of a thaw in recent years, athletes ↵have been notoriously reluctant to seek treatment. That's because ↵they're expected to be tough in the brain, have nerves of steel and ↵know all about facing the pressures of celebrity.
↵
↵On and off the field, the life they've chosen isn't an easy one, but ↵it's one they pride themselves on having mastered. That's the public ↵face of it, at least. Anyone with his brain turned on can see how pro ↵athletes would be subjected to incredible amounts of stress. Especially ↵when things aren't going their way. ↵
↵
↵That's ↵part of the mystery of Michael Beasley. He's a 20-year-old facing ↵enormous expectations; we've seen other youngsters, like Greg Oden, seek out help for these reasons. ↵And yet in Beasley's case, his depression—as of now, the only confirmed ↵problem he's dealing with—required his checking into a womb-like rehab ↵center.
↵
↵Do I know what the Heat forward is thinking or feeling? No, and yet ↵this move is certainly an extreme one. Compare it with, say, Oden's ↵treatment. The similarly eccentric Delonte West missed some games at ↵the beginning of 2008-09, and admitted problems with depression. ↵But that wasn't nearly the national crisis Beasley's turned into. If we ↵try and apply any across-the-board standard, Beasley suddenly looks ↵really sick. ↵
↵
↵Maybe that's the case. Maybe Beasley really is an acute case. Or ↵maybe, given how little we're willing to talk frankly about these ↵issues—whether with regard to athletes or in our own lives—the nuclear ↵option seems like the only obvious path. ↵
↵
↵Ultimately, this may tell us more about ourselves than about ↵Beasley's state of mind. What looked like the Summer of Race is ending, ↵at least in the NBA world, on an even more awkward note.
↵
↵This country doesn't like talking about race, or gender. But at least ↵these issues of identity, policy and culture are out in the open. ↵Trying to discuss, or negotiate, mental illness, though, is like ↵wandering through a minefield in the dark. People are hesitant to "out" ↵themselves. So this very personal issue, which prompts very personal ↵reactions, is reduced to a strictly medical topic.
↵
↵Forget the ways in which it flies in the face of the athlete ↵stereotype; it's virtually impossible to even broach the subject ↵without knowing whose toes you might be stepping on—or being able to ↵reveal that your opinion deserves special attention. That's why those ↵dealing with it feel so alone and why these stories explode like ↵Michael Beasley's has.
↵
↵Given the sheer number of adults dealing with some kind of depression ↵(check the sales sheets on SSRIs), it's absurd that the condition is ↵still in any way exotic or sensational. While it raises some of the ↵same kind of complexities as race or gender do, especially in the way ↵others perceive it, depression's just a fact of life.
↵
↵Perhaps the real takeaway from (what we know of) Beasley's situation is ↵how little it resembles all cliches about depression. It came as a ↵total shock, even to those around him, and seems totally at odds with ↵his whimsical personality. But if only the conversation about mental ↵illness were more public, we'd be ready to accept either this kind of ↵scenario or Oden's offseason tune-up. Especially when, God forbid, it ↵happens to us or those around us.
↵
↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.