Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, sparking widespread discussion on mental health in the sports media sphere. The conversations continue today, including a very personal roundtable discussion on this morning's First Take in which both Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim opened up about losing loved ones.
Smith said he will never get over the passing of his mother, Janet.
"Every single day, I am miserable at some point," he shared. "But because of the loved ones and the support, I can move ahead. Naomi Osaka and everybody in this world like her that's suffering from mental health issues, they all move forward and survive because there's people that hug them figuratively and literally and say 'we're here, we get it.'"
Qerim revealed she and her husband Jalen Rose have lost five people in their family this year while apologizing for letting honest emotions come through on air. Which, of course, is nothing to apologize for. Collectively, we're in the top of the first inning in assessing just what type of toll the last year has extracted from us both emotionally and mentally.
The Osaka saga is being oversimplified in many different directions and requires more exploration than most hot-takers on either side are giving it. But what it's succeeded at doing is bringing the broader and much more meaningful conversations to sports' doorstep. We're long overdue for a reckoning in terms of how we can best humanize each other while remaining within the parameters of a professional setting. The more voices involved in shaping where the road should veer from here, the better.
One never really knows what others are going through until they speak on it. And even then it's tough to authentically empathize. Similar discussions are going to invariably increase in frequency around the show circuit and alienate the stick-to-sports circuit. And some will be challenging both in terms of execution and processing.
But it sure seems like a more productive use of platform than discussing LeBron vs. Jordan or if the Lakers are chokers for the sixth time in 14 days. Respect to anyone brave enough to peel back the curtain to show the more vulnerable corners of their psyche.