I've avoided writing about Tony Gwynn's surgery because I have really mixed feelings about it. Of course I want Tony to be OK. Of course I feel for his family. Of course I think cancer is a terrible thing. I would never wish it on anybody.
At the same time, when you play with fire, you get burned. Tony has said as much about his health and his habit in the past.
But beyond that, Tony is a role model and getting paid to be a coach and mentor to kids... If it's part of his job is telling these kids right way to play a game, then it's his responsibility to tell kids the wrong way to play the game also.
And Tony Gwynn didn't do that.
Ask Tony Gwynn about hitting and he has all the right answers. He could pick apart a player's approach. He has advice for the right way and wrong way to approach an at-bat ahead in the count and behind in the count. What to do against certain pitchers and what not to do. Study the tape. Analyze it. Learn from the results. Be better the next time you're in the batters box.
The right way to do things to get the best results.
If you were to ask Tony if you should chew tobacco on a baseball field... "Everybody has their own decisions to make."
I read ridiculous stories all the time about people making "their own" decisions and getting themselves killed or maimed. If it's somebody getting dismembered in the process of building a homemade guillotine or falling off a cliff strapped to a home made flying machine, then we kinda snicker at them. Nominate them for a Darwin Award.
But apparently, according to Tony Gwynn and the MLB players, if it's chewing tobacco, then it's not ridiculous decisions. It's tradition! Who are you to question tradition!?
Last year, it was discussed, but the MLB players would not agree to ban smokeless tobacco on the field. Major League Baseball is really the only sport where emulating what your favorite player does on the field commonly includes using a carcinogen stuffed inside of your cheek.
Tony could've done a lot to persuade the players into agreeing to the ban, but he didn't. And it's because of that that I've hesitated to write anything until now. Because I am a fan of Tony Gwynn's, but this is something that could literally be the death of him and he refuses to be the role model that parents expect him to be.
Do me a favor and Google "cancer mouth surgery". There's plenty of photographs of people with their faces peeled back from their skulls, undergoing the 14 hour surgery that Tony had to go through this week. There are also plenty of photos of people with no jawbones or without access to the types of plastic surgery that have saved Tony's face and instead, they're left disfigured.
Speedy recovery, Tony. Good luck with your health in the future, and let's hope that players who want to emulate you ignore your so-called "advice" when it comes to smokeless tobacco.
Hey Tony, what do you have to say to kids who know you chewed all through your career?
Everybody has their own decisions to make. I made a bad one and I'm suffering the consequences.
Smokeless chewing tobacco is stupid, unnecessary, and unless you like to gamble, chewing will result with you in the hospital with your face peeled back from your skull, under radiation, puking your guts out while your hair falls out or potentially without a jaw, sipping food through a tube for the rest of your life.