July 6, 2010, - 12:14 am
The big story around Detroit and throughout the sports world–today–is the “untimely” death of Bob Probert, the former NHL enforcer. If you are a hockey fan, as I am, you will remember Probert as the ’80s and ’90s enforcer, the fighter–one of those who made hockey exciting for the brawls for which it was once known as opposed to the boring kabuki dance of male ballet it has become. His on-ice brawls and fights make up at least four hours of footage on two DVDs. And his death is sad news.
Bob Probert, RIP
But I disagree with press descriptions of Probert’s death as “untimely.” When you consume hard drugs like candy and constantly abuse your body, you are risking your life then and at all points in the future. Eventually, your body gives out. Probert’s story is not all that different from the much-pressified failed Black athletes in the NBA and NFL–proof that pro athletes who waste their lives and fortunes on drugs, excess, and immature behavior span the races and all major league sports (if you can still call the NHL “major”). His own father died of a heart attack at 41, so perhaps it is hereditary. But I doubt it.
Over the years, I occasionally saw Probert work out at the gym I go to. He seemed like a nice guy. But there is a reason a healthy 45-year-old man collapses of an alleged heart attack, the speculated cause of Probert’s death this afternoon while relaxing on a holiday weekend boat excursion. Years of cocaine use, excessive drinking, and refusing to grow up despite having fathered four children who did not choose this–it takes its toll. I am sad for him and his family that he died. Even though I am no medical expert, it appears this was no freak collapse, but the culmination of a life lived in the way he lived it.
Even when he was a big NHL star, for a long time Probert couldn’t go to Canada for NHL games, or he would have been deported from the U.S. after being caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Detroit from Windsor. He also drove his motorcycle in suburban Detroit while drunk and crashed. While his fights on the ice were exciting, his life off of it was a little too exciting. And not in a good way. And it wasn’t just the coke and drinking.
After his hockey days were over, I rooted for Probert, as he tried to make a go of it as a businessman, investing in and opening a local Greek restaurant, “Little Daddy’s.” His other hockey partner in the restaurant has had a similarly tragic existence. Darren McCarty wasted his fortune, filed for bankruptcy, and had a bizarre, short-lived marriage in Canada. Their restaurant still exists, but long ago, they cased to be part owners or employees. They just couldn’t participate in the humdrum regular rigors of working-class life, away from the glare and minus the headlines.
And so it went that Probert returned to the headlines again in 2004 and 2005 in three run-ins with the law–including attacking a police officer and having to be tasered in another incident after assaulting witnesses and bystanders over drugs (after he drove and parked his BMW the wrong way). This was at a time when three of his four kids were aged 4, 4, and 7. Yes, we remember these things because they were in the news . . . constantly. It could be that, off the front pages, he was a fine and loving family man. But the stories say otherwise. It appears he put himself before them, at least at that time.
Some people say that Probert was turning his life around. And perhaps he was. We’ll never know, and only his closest friends and family knew for sure. But that wasn’t the case as recently as five years ago. And one of the people who was allegedly on the boat with him today is a man who attended a past Fourth of July party, which I quickly left because the man was smoking up a storm of pot.
May G-d rest Bob Probert’s soul. I’m sure it is of little solace to those who loved him that his demons will no longer haunt him. I pray for his family. And I remember the entertaining hockey fights he provided us in the ’80s and early ’90s when hockey was exciting. He was a big part of why it was exciting.
Bob Probert’s tragic story is a lesson for us all: drug and alcohol abuse affect you forever. And their tragic consequences aren’t just reserved for the pro athletes who grew up in the welfare-ridden killing fields of America . . . but also the white bread working-class environs of Canada. And everyone else who refuses to turn away from this lifestyle.
If you don’t grow up for your own kids, you may not live to see them grow up. It is truly tragic that this is the case for Bob Probert, regardless of whether–in the last five years–he did turn things around.
Bob Probert, Rest In Peace.
Tags: 45, Bob Probert, Dead, dies, enforcer, fights, hockey, National Hockey League, NHL, pro hockey