Most of you probably don’t care about football, and I know a lot of you actively disapprove of the sport. I like it. I am a big New York Giants fan. I am a fan of the team and a fan of the organization, which is one of the best in all of sports. The Giants have a player named Will Hill who has just been suspended for the third time for using banned substances. The first time it was for using Adderall. The last two times it has been for smoking pot. Will Hill is a very talented player. He comes from a troubled background. His sins may seem minor. He suffers from anxiety and he takes drugs (prescription and otherwise) to deal with his anxiety.
The Giants took a chance on Hill when they signed him as an undrafted free agent. After his second suspension, they told him that there would be no third chances. Ed Valentine, who is the dean of online Giants fans and a man I deeply respect, makes a very convincing case that the Giants need to part ways with Hill. I think he’s right, but not necessarily for the reasons that Valentine lays out.
For Valentine, this is primarily a football decision. The problem with Will Hill isn’t that he’s some massive dope head. The problem is that he can’t follow the rules, keeps getting suspended, and the team can’t rely on him. Valentine has other beefs, but this is the central one, and it’s very compelling. No matter how good Hill is at his job, he can’t do his job if he isn’t allowed on the field.
But this isn’t the reason that the Giants should part ways with Will Hill. The reason they should cut him is because he probably needs to suffer consequences if he’s going to change his behavior. In other words, the Giants shouldn’t cut him because that is the best decision for the Giants, but because it is the best decision for Will Hill.
And here’s the second part. They should not only agree to pay for any treatment or psychiatric attention he wants or needs, they should tell him very clearly that he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a roster spot if he’s willing to demonstrate that he’s staying clean over a sustained period of time.
Will Hill may be a flawed person, but we all are flawed. He’s not a bad person. He has an emotional makeup that is vulnerable enough that he isn’t able to control his use of substances even when it should be clear that using those substances will be bad for him and bad for his teammates and bad for his employers. I wouldn’t call him an addict, but he exhibits the same kind of irrational behaviors that an addict displays.
Football is a business, but the Giants are a family. The Giants can’t sacrifice the team’s success to indulge a player who keeps letting them down. He’s only suspended for six games out of a sixteen game season, so it’s possible that some other team, even a rival, will snap Will Hill up and put him on the field and make the Giants regret that they let him go. But those teams would be enablers.
The NFL needs to review its policies about pot-smoking and Adderall. But Valentine is right that even if the policies are wrong, Hill’s inability to abide by them shows a lack of control and dependability.
As to the Giants, if they want to live up to their reputation, they won’t toss Hill aside, but they’ll cut him. For his own good. Football teams can’t put family before performance, but they should never lose sight of the humanity of their players.
[Cross-posted at Booman Tribune]