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What Can, Or Should, We Say About Aubrey Huff?

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I've started and deleted this post four times. I'm not going to get it right, but I have a bunch of words ringing around my head, so here goes. 

For any professional athlete to leave his team without warning, the situation has to be serious. "Serious" can mean different things to different people, but these are people who've trained their entire lives to perform under stress, to compartmentalize their lives, to shut out distractions. That's not necessarily a good thing for personal growth, but when you spend practically every day at work for eight months under the scrutiny of tens of thousands of people in person and hundreds of thousands more tuning, surfing or tweeting in, you build walls. When a wall breaks down, something weird is happening somewhere. 

I'm not going to ruminate on what "anxiety disorder" means. Could be a lot of things. But the bottom line is, you can't expect every athlete to shut out the distractions all the time. And when the distractions, external or internal, become urgent or frightening enough, we all need to cut major slack. How's your job? Or your school work? Do you have hundreds of thousands of people dissecting every spreadsheet or term paper or meeting you run? 

We all want what's best for the teams we root for, often to a brutal, exacting standard. And that's our prerogative. But what's happening with Aubrey Huff, whatever it might be, exactly, should reinforce a common minimum of fan decency. Don't make it personal. Joe So-and-So might not be doing his job, and someone else might be better suited to do it. But until you know Joe is disrespecting his teammates, his employers, his customers and himself, or doing things off the field that you cannot abide, don't make it personal. Advocate strongly for someone else to do the job, but don't make it personal. It's hard, unforgiving work, this hitting a baseball. Do it right for a while, and you make millions. That's the game. The millions don't give anyone the right to turn poor performance into something personal. 

I suspect most of you out there know this. But it's so easy in these days of casual access to a digital megaphone to toss off a quip, a clever bit of ad hominem snark, that I don't mind writing a reminder -- to myself as much as to anyone else -- that everyone deserves respect until he proves otherwise. The next time Aubrey Huff comes to bat in San Francisco, let's give him a warm welcome back.

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