As a reminder that depression strikes anyone, at any time, for any reason or no reason whatsoever, I give you Tiki Barber.
For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Barber, he was a professional (American) football player who decided to retire four years ago at age 32. A good time to retire as a football player, as your body starts to show its age against the physicality of the game. He took jobs as a sports commentator at NBC, both in their sports division and for “The Today Show.”
But Mr. Barber’s depression appears to be directly related to a number of events that occurred in his life after his retirement. And now he says he wants to get back into the game, at age 36.
His real problems appear to have started when it was revealed he was having an affair with a 23-year-old NBC intern in April 2010. That appears to have led to him losing both of his NBC jobs — not surprising, given that that kind of behavior is generally frowned upon for on-air correspondents.
The report recounts the downward spiral Barber’s life took shortly after his retirement. What started as a promising career as an NBC football analyst ended in his firing. His marriage to his college sweetheart collapsed. And his relationship with a 23-year-old NBC intern which continues today soiled a well-honed, family man image.
After the affair became public — during which time his wife gave birth to twin girls — he lost his jobs and suffered increasing bouts of depression and lethargy:
Barber said after his job at NBC ended, he didn’t do anything for a solid year.
“I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours,” [Barber] said. “I started to shrivel. I didn’t have that confidence. I didn’t have the, that aura anymore.”
He also claims that his marriage was already on the rocks when he started having the affair, and they had already decided to get separated at the time his ex-wife became pregnant with the twins.
He’s still with his girlfriend, the ex-NBC intern Tracy Lynn Johnson. And now he wants back into the game.
Men, Careers and Depression
Men are more likely to suffer depression after retirement because a great deal of their self-worth and self-image is directly tied into their work or career. Some men never fully retire, instead choosing to continue working as a consultant or even in lesser positions, because they often just don’t know what to do with themselves with so much free time on their hands.
When the way you define yourself is taken away, what’s left? For men like Tiki Barber, the answer appears to be something akin to, “Not a lot.” The symptoms he describes — feeling unmotivated, lethargy, having no energy, losing your self-confidence — are all symptoms that can accompany depression.
And while it’s possible to reclaim your self-esteem by returning to work, trying to do so as the same professional athlete that you once were seems to be potentially setting oneself up for inevitable failure. What are the chances you will be even just as successful as you once were, when the sport is so physical, and requires stamina that leaves us as we age?
In my book, not high. There seems to be a higher chance of Mr. Barber facing even more depression in his future. Imagine the feelings one might experience from being rejected — no team being interested enough in you to even give you a chance — or succeeding in getting a job only to not perform well, and to be cut again? Barber left at the top of his game. Four years later, could he actually expect to be the same player capable of the same performance?
A retired man — no matter what age — needs to find his new purpose in life. You can’t go back and do exactly what you did. You can’t be the CEO any more. You can’t run the store 15 hours a day. You can’t swing the hammer 9 hours a day. Mr. Barber successfully found a new career niche for a time, until he signed his own pink slip through some perhaps less-than-ideal choices. I can imagine that, like many men in a similar situation, he could do it again.
Just not playing football.
Read the full article: Barber battled depression, says he needs football
Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.