08/23/2022 We Have A Long Way To Go With Mental Health In The Sports Biz

This one hits very close to home.  I could care less about “likes” or engagement on this. I write this as a please & hopefully a wake up call to the industry I grew up in and love. 

Jamey was president of the Texans from: 2002 – 2020, when he retired from the team. Incredible run.  Sell-out streaks. Pres of biz operations. Smile on his face. Lots of great words from those who knew him closely. Now, he’s gone to suicide.

I first want to thank his wife for being so open – selflessly, in the pursuit that dialogue happens. She/the fam did not have to do that. In her statement she even used “mental health” struggles & not mental illness. This is a continuum. She helped move the convo fwd at a time when we need it more than ever. 

But I have to talk abt MH in the sports biz industry bc we have such a long ways to go. When I shared my story in 2017, after my 2.5 yr battle essentially in “freeze mode” of my nervous system – check out these stats: the story was shared – btwn places like medium, Facebook, LinkedIn, Darren Rovell!/ twitter, over 150k times in a wk. From those shares – since my personal phone # was given for folks to reach out – I received over 400 calls from as far as China. 

I still have the excel sheet w notes – I was able to connect with 316 of those 400+. Guess what? Not a single sports exec, manager level or above, was one of those 316. Don’t get me wrong – I had amazing coworkers/colleagues who called to wish me well, congratulate me that I was back, say they missed seeing me at mtgs. But I’m gonna repeat – of the ppl who called to share their own stories & relate & ask for help – not ONE was from the sports biz industry.

Since then, it hasn’t been much better, Brett Zalaski who worked MLS & now ISBI came out w his story, @levine_scott_cpa who was w the FL Panthers at the time & now the Lightning came out w his. My former colleague at the Suns, @hamer.bob shared his battle. @doseofdenise1 from the Atlanta Hawks & now Spinzo shared hers. Darren eventually came out w his story. Mike Robbins from the Yankees, 9 months ago, talked abt a career long battle w anxiety. Finally, Fred Mangione, SVP for the Jets, came on a podcast/webinar w me to discuss some of the personal life challenges he he’s faced.  I may be missing a name or two, manager level & above…the folks who give permission to others bc of their titles. That’s IT!  The sports biz is relentless. In at 7am, often times not out till 12am, often 6-7 days a wk bc you’re mktg & selling a live entertainment property. Bc we LOVE the work, it feels good. We think we’re being good to ourselves. But the dopamine hits are fools gold. If we don’t actually stop & do WORK on ourselves – it’s a career of burnout & accumulation of our stress over time. 

I don’t know the particular’s of Jamey’s passing/personal life what else he struggled
w. But, I hope this tragic loss is a wake up call to all my colleagues, & to folks in all other demanding industries, 1) To prioritize YOU. 2) To openly talk. 3) To share & normalize. We have to do better.

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