Professional sportsperson... no thanks.

In this job, you hear sportspeople lauded and lambasted all the time. Over paid, over pampered, too many funky hair cuts, and what about those tattoos!? Not enough hard graft!

I can't think of one Kiwi sportsperson who's been spared public ridicule at some point in their career.

And before you pipe up with Richie McCaw, it was round two of Super Rugby 2014 when talkback was awash with callers, claiming McCaw was past it, too old for another World Cup campaign, and a wasted investment by the NZRU.

This after he missed two tackles in the first 10 minutes of a big loss to the Blues. It later turned out he'd played the first half with a broken thumb.


Another common catch cry from the public when teams like the Warriors and Black Caps take us on the most frustrating, and sometimes comical rides, is money. 'Dock them pay when they don't perform, that'll make them care.'

The presumption of course, is that Shaun Johnson is solely motivated by his bank balance. When Brendon McCullum was charging the first ball of the World Cup final, he lacked the better judgement of the common man.

The next supposed crime of the modern sportsperson is that they lack perspective on every day life. They have not been through the amateur days of hard knocks, of full time jobs, of steak and eggs pre-match.

In other words they are not like Colin Meads.

All of which is missing the broader issue. Beyond money, beyond profile and beyond champion status, can these young men and women deal with all those trappings when life is good and far more importantly when life is not?

This week the rugby world has been rocked by former Wallaby Dan Vickerman taking his own life. As John Kirwan pointed out this week, we need to stop dodging around the truth and start using the 'S-word' - suicide.

In fact under a change to our laws late last year, the media is now allowed to use that term, as long that is the official cause of death as defined by the coroner. An important change, which puts this issue firmly in the public domain.

It's too easy to just finger point and say those that take their lives are selfish. More than 500 Kiwis a year commit suicide thinking they are alone, somehow different and outcasts in life, when they are not. It is staggering when you chat with those that have reached the point of no return, how logical the decision actually feels. Plans are put in place, much like booking a holiday. That is the brutal truth.


Yes, sportspeople apparently live the dream life. Adulation, fame, you name it, they have it on tap. But, when you are no longer relevant, when the fan mail turns to social media ridicule, when the contract offers end, life can be bloody scary.

Just look at the recent examples across all codes and continents.

Grant Hackett, the giant of Australian swimming, his life is crumbling. Ian Thorpe, also part of that era where Australians dominated in the pool, has had his own demons.

Kieran Foran, this most grounded and likeable league star, tried to take his own life. Andrew Johns, one of eight league immortals, was telling me only two weeks ago of the dark hole he fell into during and post his career. He could not handle life as 'Joey' Johns the superstar.

Last year, it was gut-wrenching to watch Manu Vatuvei tearing up when he revealed his kids were copping abuse at school, because Dad "was playing like a loser".

I put these examples to you, not to place sportspeople into some 'unlucky' box. They are not.

But they are subjected to the type of scrutiny and pressure the rest of us simply will never understand.

I am often accused of being soft on our sporting stars, of being a fan. I have no issue with that. It's called empathy.

I can tell you that having spoken with so many of them in private and off-the-record, I'm not sure I would cope, nor want their lives.

The transition from sporting star to living the 'normal' life, is still a massive issue facing sport. Sure, there are the counsellors, the support networks, the former players employed as welfare officers.

But, as father of two Vickerman showed this week, with a full life to lead, more work needs to be done.

I recall vividly Inga Tuigamala telling me he thought just being an All Black would be enough to ensure success and happiness beyond rugby.

It wasn't. He struggled badly.

I speak to sportsmen on a regular basis who either fear retirement or simply could not cope with it.

McCullum is one who has set himself up very nicely beyond cricket. But, even he sounded like a new man when I chatted with him during the Big Bash a month or so ago.

He could go out have a beer, head to the races, get out playing a rash shot for the Brisbane Heat and he would not have to deal with the outright hatred that often came his way as Black Caps skipper.

I always wanted to be a professional sportsperson. That's what ultimately led to my passion in the media.

But given what I know and what I've learnt from interviewing so many sportspeople over the past 22 years, honestly, I don't know I'd want it now.

Sometimes less is more.

The IPL Cash Grab

There was talk a couple of weeks ago about Aaron Cruden's frustration that his new French pay packet became the source of intense media speculation.

That was nothing compared to this week's latest IPL Cash Grab.

I could have googled what edition of the Indian Premier League this is, but to be honest, I just don't care.

This pioneer of Twenty 20 franchise cricket lost me years ago once all the allegations of corruption came to light. Anything to do with India's governing body, the BCCI, is an instant turn-off.

But I must admit the IPL auction itself is like a really bad reality show; you know you should switch off, but you can't.

So, as the numbers came through on Monday night it made me wonder what Trent Boult must have been thinking when his going rate tripled to over a million bucks. As Steven Luatua would say, that's life changing!

I wonder whether Mike Hesson had a feeling of 'I told you so' when Ross Taylor went unsold.

Remember the Black Caps selectors have kept to a consistent line - that there are better options than Taylor in this form of the game.

Did Taylor lament 'if only they had played me, I'd scored 80 off 60, then suddenly I become valuable and relevant again'?

Then there is the destructive Martin Guptill, game changer it seems in only one form when it comes to the white ball.

Apparently the franchises still believe he's a liability against spin.

All in all, this is one competition, when the preamble is far more interesting than the main event.

As someone who loves T20 cricket, the Big Bash has now given me my fix of big crowds and even bigger sixes.

As far as the IPL is concerned, I couldn't even tell you the number of teams this year, let alone their names.

Care factor: Nil!

Question Time:

Which team will be the first to feel the wrath of the media and fans, the Blues or the Warriors?

Anyone else perplexed watching the Australian T20 side take on Sri Lanka when all the rock stars are in India?

Was former Socceroo Mark Bosnich right when he ranted about the Phoenix offering bugger all to the A-League?

Will Auckland ever sort out its sporting stadiums? Now there's angst over the cost of a specialised cricket ground. It just never ends!