Thursday, March 21, 2013

Royce White, We ALL Want You Gone

First, and foremost, it's important to note that mental health issues in this country should not be taken lightly, especially in light of the multiple school shootings over the last 18 months. But when people use it as an excuse for every mistake in their life, it gets to be a bit much.

Royce White has been dealing with off-the-court issues since he enrolled in the University of Minnesota as a freshman in 2010. At that point, White had yet to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but he was already showing poor judgment in his early days as a freshman. Any time one would spot White on campus, he'd have an entourage of people following him around. And I don't mean 3 of his closest friends like in the HBO show; no, he'd have packs of girls, and some random guy friends just trailing him wherever he went. Royce White was the ticket to get in to all the good parties, so the entourage kept growing  

Eventually, White or one of White's "friends" stole laptops from dorm rooms, and White refused to cooperate with local authorities. White insisted he was innocent and the authorities were "out to get him" although the police insisted they had reason to believe White knew something about the laptop thefts. As a top recruit in the country who's future earnings were directly tied to his basketball talents, surrounding yourself with a bunch of fame-grabbing 19-year-old kids isn't the best way to stay out of trouble. But he was a college freshman, who had been thrown into the spotlight because of his high recruit ranking. He's hardly the first kid to make a mistake his first semester or two on a college campus, and he certainly won't be the last.

After the laptop debacle led to an indefinite suspension White decided to announce his "retirement" from the game of basketball with a YouTube video. White is fairly well spoken, although he'll often accidentally misuse a big word to look more intelligent. It's easy to understand why people like him; he's an amazing talent on a basketball court, and when he's engaged and focused he seems to be very charming. However, White continues to create problems when they really aren't there. He eventually transferred to Iowa State and kept playing.

Royce White's fear of flying has been well documented, and teams knew about it before the draft. The Rockets even went as far as specifically asking White if it would be an issue, since pro athletes need to be able to fly to travel from game to game. White insisted it wouldn't be an issue in pre-draft interviews, and then of course after the Rockets drafted him it was White's biggest issue. He wanted to be able to take a bus to some of the team's games, and while the Rockets agreed at first, they couldn't seem to agree on just how it would work. The stalemate undoubtedly angered the Rockets front office. Eventually, though, they did come to an agreement for his travel. The Rockets wanted White to play some games in the D League, though. All of the Rockets rookies had already played games there, so asking White to do it wasn't out of the ordinary at all. Royce's conditioning was also terrible, so playing in a few D League games would hypothetically allow him to get his conditioning back in a low-stress environment. 

Coincidentally, (or not), just days after the Rockets informed White they wanted him to report to their Rio Valley D League team, White suddenly wasn't happy with the way the Rockets were going to take care of his mental health and travel. He insisted the team allow him his own doctor, because he believed the team doctors didn't have his best interests at heart. Again, are you kidding? Look, I'm not naive enough to believe that all team doctors in every pro sport are always ethical and honest. I imagine there is a doctor or trainer or possibly several who are just like the one in Any Given Sunday, lying to players when he feels it's necessary.

That said, White wants special treatment. While it's not ridiculous for him to ask, it is ridiculous for him to feel he's entitled to his own doctor. Again, being an NBA player is a privilege. If the team grants you your own doctor, where does it end? Do you need to eat a specific kind of food for breakfast? Do you need to run less sprints in practice so you don't get upset? Giving someone special treatment is always risky, especially when the team already has qualified individuals on staff to help Royce White and make daily checkups on his situation. It's not like the Rockets put White in a straight jacket and sent him to the loony bin; they've been trying to work with him all season to get him back into shape and just simply playing basketball.

White attempted to portray the Rockets as an organization that didn't care about the mental health of their players, and while some fans may have taken the bait, I certainly didn't. If Royce White wants to be a professional basketball player, he has to overcome his fear of flying. Asking someone to fly with their team is not out of the ordinary, obviously, and if White is unable to overcome his fear of flying, that means he needs to find a new career path. There are plenty of careers in which people never have to fly, and if White's mental health issues are so severe that he can't even get on a plane, chances are he's not going to deal with the day-to-day grind that an NBA player deals with all season long.

White's been on a crusade against the NBA and the Rockets, insisting that they "just want him gone." Get a desk job, or go back to school, get a degree, and do something to help other mentally ill people. White isn't "entitled" to being an NBA player like he seems to believe. He isn't fighting for civil rights, and while he continues to insist he's doing this for everyone with mental health issues, the fact is he's not, even if he thinks he is.

I ask this question honestly: How many of you know more about generalized anxiety disorder today than you did two years ago? My guess is very few people, and the ones who have learned more in the past two have likely done so for their own reasons, not because of Royce White's silly crusade. The biggest problem White seems to have is that he can't comprehend that the NBA and the Houston Rockets don't need to cater to him. He's the employee, he's replaceable; if he doesn't want to stay in shape, doesn't want to play in the D League, and doesn't want to fly, it seems pretty simple to me: Retire.

Go away. Get out of the spotlight. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is supposed to give White "irrational fears" of every day things, such as paying bills, flying, taking care of loved ones, etc. In other words, White just gets MORE stressed out about the same kinds of things every normal human gets stressed out about. Very few people enjoy flying--although the hassle of airport security is more of an issue than the plane crashing, as White seems to be afraid of. Nobody enjoys paying bills, and everyone worries about their loved ones. I don't doubt that White's mental health issues makes these slightly stressful topics a huge deal to him in that moment.

Of course, the reason White's crusade has bothered me so much is mainly because he seems to use his Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a crutch far too often, like the travel arrangements he couldn't agree on with Houston.

I've seen people mention Royce White's fall as "sad" but I just can't get on board with that feeling. White has brought most of the issues in his past upon himself, and now when he doesn't get what he wants from an NBA team, he cites his mental health issues and tries to portray the team that drafted him with plans to pay him millions of dollars as an organization that doesn't care about his health. It's ludicrous. 

Expect the Rockets to waive White this off-season, and when he doesn't get any calls, he'll insist he's being black balled because of his mental health issues. In reality, nobody has any interest in a rookie who's earned nothing walking into the building acting like he's the second coming of Kevin Garnett.

Hopefully White can find a career path that allows him to keep his issues under control, and I think he likely will. However, it's very clear today that Royce White should not be an NBA player, because quite frankly, it's not doing any good to his "mental health." Maybe another YouTube video would suffice for the retirement.