By Darius Williams
Once a week I make a short commute over to Oak Cliff to fraternize with a group of guys who assemble at this little tucked away spot we call ‘The Den’. Four high definition televisions hang neatly on each wall, all tuned into some type of sporting event. The volume is never up due to the fact that the many booming baratone voices completely drown out the sound anyway. If you become hungry,there are a variety of snacks you can purchase from ‘The Den’. Get a little parched from a heated sports debate, there is a cooler full of beverages for sale so you can quench your thirst. ‘The Den’ provides another service as well. Let’s just say that if you feel that the Dallas Cowboys will beat the Philadelphia Eagles by more points than the Las Vegas oddsmakers have set the point spread…you can put a dollar on it if you so please to.
Men of all walks of life can be seen there. From doctors, lawyers and civil servicemen down to street hustlers and two-bit thugs. On last Friday ‘The Den’ had a new member to crack the burglar barred doors. It was a former NFL player. It took me a second look to recognize who he was because his 6’4″ frame was holding about 80 more pounds than his playing weight of 235 lbs. As he made his way over to the counter, everyone had by then recognized him as well. While glancing over his choice of games to wager on, one very inebriated guy screamed out, “Man what happened to all that money you made”? His reply was short, simple and surprising as well. “Family” is what he quickly replied.
I guess having an audience of about thirty “eager to know more” guys prompted him to go into detail. He spoke of how after getting drafted in the first round, the demand to bring his entire extended family out of poverty met him head on. Suddenly uncles who he always knew to be doing well were now three months behind on their mortgage. Cousins were needing college tuition paid in full. Everybody’s car no longer ran and now needed a new Cadillac. He said that a week never went by without having to help his family in some capacity.
Often we hear about professional athletes, African American athletes in particular, going broke. We immediately associate it with the irresponsible acts and social trappings that we are programmed to think. Too many mansions. Too many high end luxury vehicles. Too many “friends”. Too many women. Too many ‘baby mommas.’ Never do we consider how the pressure to save their desolate family can be to to a young man who has suddenly found riches.
Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith was faced with a plethora of financial demands from his family after he was drafted back in 2011. The demands became so outrageous that he decided after his second season with Dallas he would cut off his entire family altogether. That included his parents. It even got to the point where he had to take legal action against his siblings who felt they were entitled to his money.
It’s hard for me to say that I would do any different than ‘The Den’s newest member if I had been blessed that way. Knowing that I had $10 million in the bank, it would be extremely hard to tell an aunt who helped raise me that I couldn’t pay off the $15,000 balance to pay off her home. It would be hard for me to not give a cousin $30,000 to him start up a business of his own. For some it would be easy to say no to the family. The burden should not be placed on that family member who “made it” to “make it” for his or her entire family. Often in the African American community, we feel entitled to someone else’s profits due to kinship and friendship. That should never be the case. For the former Indianapolis Colt that was at ‘The Den’ last Friday, it was a lesson learned too late.