Hats off to Delonte West

October, 20, 2008
10/20/08
12:13
PM ET

There is a game that professional athletes play. Despite the fact that every single human is a human, with a wide array of emotions and vulnerabilities, athletes pretty much are supposed to pretend -- at least when the media is around -- that they have no weaknesses.

(If you could watch 10,000 locker room interviews with athletes, I bet you'd find 20,000 instances of reporters asking questions that could be paraphrased "Is such and such a thing a problem?" Because of the weird rules about how athletes are supposed to relate, I'd bet you'd that in something like 20,000 of those cases, the response was something that could be paraphrased as "no.")

I understand why athletes do that. Small-minded people will pounce on any admission of weakness. But I think it's actually a much stronger person who can stand up there, admit some faults, and take any guff that may come from it.

You just know that after a few beers all kinds of athletes start whining about how hard it is to live up to everybody's expectations. I say: Tell them the truth, and their expectations will adjust. You're not a gladiator -- no one is, really -- so stop giving everyone the impression that you are.

Anyway, it's in that context that I read about Delonte West, and feel very proud that he decided to talk to the media about some long-term mental health issues he has been wrestling with, and that recently took him away from the Cavaliers. From the Associated Press:

"In a sense, you feel like a weaker man because you have to raise your hand and ask for help," West said. "But I found out over the last week that it made me a stronger person. I came back focused, and with the help of some medicine and talking with people on a regular basis, I'm back in good spirits.

"I'm back here 100 percent."

West played 28 minutes in Cleveland's loss to San Antonio on Thursday night. He made only 2-of-12 shots from the field and scored only 7 points, but the former Saint Joseph's guard said it was "the funnest game I've played in years."

"Being on the court felt like being on the playground as a child again," he said. "I had the time of my life last night." ...

"When everything is on the upside, I'm feeling the worst," said West, who thanked his teammates, including LeBron James, for their support while he was away.

"This is the epitome of a family organization," he said. "I want to go to war for these people. I would die for them, I really mean that."

I wish him the best of luck.

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