Well this is disturbing. My favorite current/active athlete in any sport (Julio Jones, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons), and my favorite all-time athlete from my high school (!) (MLB Hall-of-Famer Dennis Eckersley) are both in the news today for having excessively first-world problems. Ugh.

I love Julio. I’ve lived in Atlanta since 1990, and for the last 27 years, I’ve been hopelessly devoted to the Atlanta Falcons. I have consistently missed church events on Sunday afternoons in the Fall (some of which I was supposed to be leading) in order to just be left alone in front of my TV to watch the Falcons. That’s my jam, and if you push me (please don’t) I would say that the Falcons are definitely more important than what my family wants to do on a Fall Sunday, and probably (unless I’m stuck in my full priestliness in a Scorsese Silence-level dilemma) more important than what Jesus may require (though I like to think that He has always kept full veto power).

The astute among us may already know where I’m headed. I am a first world problem. However, I do sometimes find it easier to admit that about myself than about my heroes. For example, it occurs to me that as recently as just now, I may have been fairly confident that Julio Jones was sinless. I’m talking without “sin condition”, not just “action”—that’s messed up—but stay with me. I had just never considered that he may be an actual human being until 15 minutes ago.

My biggest issue with Julio prior to today was that he was possibly the “Achilles” of our generation— dipped immortally into the finest gold except for (in this case) a meta-tarsal instead of a tendon. The only thing to date that has slowed him down from superhero status (in my mind) is the screw that doctors have had to put in his jacked-up foot. Other than that—model citizen? (check)—awesome teammate? (check)—void of the on/off field drama that has (pretty much) befallen every other wide receiver in the league? (those sorry divas) (check).

That was until this happened over the past weekend. Julio lost a diamond earring worth over $100k in the deep water while jet skiing at the lake. What? Julio?, or “Who-Lee-No!”, as I now like to say when he betrays my trust. Just let it go, dude. Check that, I don’t know about your finances, but I’m pretty sure that the earring is at least paid for, though maybe not insured. Regardless, if it’s paid for, let it go. Let-It-Go. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t dispatch divers. Don’t let it show up on the news. Don’t be like all of those other diva wide receivers! Crap, too late.

“We all about to become some pirates yo. I’m bringing a floatee, a life jacket and Jack Sparrow, and we’re gonna find that earring.”

Meanwhile, around the same exact time, somewhere in a plane over our Heartland, my main man Dennis Eckersley (again: from my high school!) was being berated by a good percentage of the Boston Red Sox.

Quick summary: “Eck” is a grad of Washington HS in Fremont CA (my old stomping grounds).  He’s our most famous alum. He came to my elementary school and signed my glove way back in the 70s when he was rookie! I never washed it (not that I have ever washed a glove, but that’s beside the point). He’s my guy. He’s the only major league pitcher with seasons of 20+ wins and 50+ saves. He’s currently doing color commentary for one of his old teams—the Red Sox.

My guy Eck is also in alcoholism recovery and working the 12 steps. He’s been through it. He’s seen all of the highs and lows. He’s in his 60s now, so he’s a bit past the BS. He just tells the truth now, which makes him a bit “risky” as a broadcaster for a major league team. However, he’s a hall-of-famer, which is probably why he has this job. Eck made some “honest” comments recently during a broadcast when a Red Sox pitcher’s stat line came up on the monitor in front of him.  When he viewed the less-than-stellar numbers coming across his screen, he exclaimed “yuck”.

This was just one of a handful of times when Eck has been honest, and (as the numbers bear out) truthful about the performance of some of the Red Sox players this season. The raw veracity of my guy Eck’s remarks has not sat well with a good percentage of the Red Sox players. As Eck boarded the team plane this week, he was met by jeers and expletives from David Price and other players. The general consensus among the team was “get the F off our plane”. Yikes!

Was Eck out of line? I don’t think so. He’s a hall-of-famer (street cred) and a 12-stepper (done with the BS). In my mind, those realities qualify him to be “truthful”. Granted, most ex-players-turned-color-commentators (even those who are hall-of-famers) tend to squelch how they really feel, and today’s players correspondingly expect all of the color guys to fall in line. When one doesn’t, well, that’s a problem.

Eck’s problem is also a first world problem, albeit of a different sort. Julio’s first world problem? – dropping an earring in the lake and (allegedly) paying divers to go down 65 feet to try to find it. Eck’s first world problem? – being honest and thus incurring the wrath of a bunch of (currently first-place, mind you) baseball players with first world problems.

I know, it’s so awful. Try not to lose sleep over all of this. I’m pretty sure that both Julio and Eck will be just fine, even if the glimmer from their stars is blinding us a tad less now than before—whether it be for self-inflicted reasons or not. Even though I am the biggest possible fan-boy of both guys, I find that I have judged both situations (readily and harshly). I feel like Julio has let me down, because I didn’t think he would be the one to summon an entourage to find his jewelry. I also want to judge the Red Sox, for messing with my guy Eck, who’s just daring to be himself in a profession that shuns that.

I am a first world sports fan, riddled with (self-inflicted) first world problems and first world judgements. I’m in need of someone to come and save me who is from a world where first world, third world, and twenty-seventh world problems are not a thing.