This is a column far more uncomfortable to write than anything ripping Mariners management, or questioning a coach’s strategy.
But when the entire town — and beyond — is buzzing about a topic, it must be addressed, in some fashion. So that’s what I’ll try to do, with as much tact and sensitivity as I can muster.
The topic is the pending divorce of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, announced Wednesday by Wilson himself, via the Seahawks. The news quickly hit outlets as disparate as TMZ and Deadspin, and has since been discussed extensively on blogs and social media.
Let me make clear off the top that I’m not at all interested in the whys and wherefores of the split. That’s their private business and hopefully will remain that way.
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Nor will I make any moral judgments, other than to say that the Wilsons are hardly on an island here. Forty to 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce — higher for those that began in college, as theirs did, so statistically, this outcome is not earth-shattering.
Fortunately, no children are involved. Russell and his wife, Ashton, deserve no scorn or ridicule, just sincere wishes that they find happiness as they move on with their lives.
So why is it news? Well, quite simply, because it is Russell Wilson. Probably no other player in Seattle would have warranted any coverage of a dissolving marriage. But Wilson is not just the most prominent athlete in Seattle; he might well be the most prominent citizen in Seattle. And as the quarterback of the Super Bowl champion, he has reached the national stature of a superstar.
That means, inevitably, that people are emotionally invested in him. They have come to care about all aspects of his life. And so far, it has appeared idyllic, from the athletic success to his community involvement to his home life. The result has been the formation of an almost too-good-to-be-true image for Wilson.
But this is a stark reminder that as much as we think we know our athletic heroes, we only are exposed to the public aspect of their lives. And while it was easy to deify Wilson – who deserves all the praise he gets for his superb quarterbacking as well as his hospital visits and other charitable endeavors – it’s also a poignant illustration that he is indeed human.
It’s also a reminder that privacy is disappearing in our modern culture, given the ease social media provides in knowing about all aspects of our lives, and in commenting on one another’s peccadillos. For the famous, that factor goes up exponentially. Fame brings with it much benefit, including financial. But it also comes with a price.
Don’t forget, Wilson himself was the one who chose to put this news out, which though unusual, was probably the wisest course. Sooner or later, someone was going to get wind of their pending divorce. It made sense from Wilson’s standpoint to get ahead of the story and break it on his terms.
Wilson also seems to be a person who tries to be as genuine as possible. While it will be a talking point for a few days, pretty soon everyone will move along to the next hot topic; now Wilson can proceed without worrying about this news leaking, and without having to be evasive about his home life.
I’ve heard some concern that these personal issues might hamper Wilson’s performance. But if Wilson has shown anything in two years in Seattle, it’s an ability to hyper-focus on his football. All players have issues in their personal lives, just as the rest of us do; you cope as best you can, and in sports, the great ones are able to rise above any adversity.
It seems to me that Wilson deserves as much admiration today as he warranted last week. He’s a great player, and his heart has always seemed to be in the right place, both as a teammate and as a citizen. He has handled this intensely personal issue as forthrightly as could be expected.
Wilson doesn’t walk on water, despite the adulation that has been thrown his way. He’d no doubt be the first to tell you that.
The revelation of his breakup, while titillating on the surface, is just an especially poignant reminder that even the biggest of stars aren’t immune from the trials and tribulations of real life.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry