Family Men

Andre Agassi, you may have read, is retiring from tennis and plans to spend more time with Steffi and the kids. Steelers coach Bill Cowher, according to a recent ESPN report, may retire after this year so that he can spend more time with his family. And Roger Clemens left the Yankees two years ago so he could spend more time with his family in Texas.

The athlete who retires so he can — all together now — “spend more time with his family” has become a tedious and misleading cliche. I can’t be the only person who’s sick of reading about these delusional athletes and their Norman Rockwell fantasies and the sporting media that happily traffics in these fantasies.

And if anyone else is as disenchanted with the sporting media which, always a sucker for an illusion (see Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds), happily traffic in these fictions.

There’s another side to this story, the one that gets far less attention.

Clemens, for example, barely made it through the holidays after ditching the Yankees before he was re-discovering his love for the game and signed a contract worth $18 million with his hometown Houston Astros. Which, when you consider that the alternative was carting the kids around in the Suburban, was at the very least a very prudent business decision.

And then, after another winter and spring of quality family time, Clemens signed again this year, having successfully avoided the tedium of spring training.

This is not to say that they don’t care about their kids and don’t genuinely want to be good parents. What irks me is the mindless assumption that the suddenly domesticated athlete would happily ferry the kids to little league and ballet, grill steaks every night and then settle down on the couch with the long-suffering wife to watch Dancing with the Stars.

Finally, then, a reality check in the form of an interview in the September/October issue of AARP Magazine with Dennis Gilbert, author of “Stumbling on Happiness.”

Gilbert says that family time is not everything it’s cracked up to be. While many parents have “transcendent moments of happiness” with their children, he says, they don’t particularly enjoy dealing with them on a daily basis.

“…Children are hard work,” he says. “A recent study shows that women looking after their children are significantly less happy than when they’re watching TV.”

I know he’s old as tennis players go and he’s got a bad back, but after a few months of looking after the kids and watching daytime TV, Agassi might be up for another cortisone shot and a couple of sets of tennis.

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