ESPN The Magazine runs a regular feature called Player X, in which a current athlete writes anonymously on a pressing issue affecting his sport. A couple of issues ago, the mystery NBA player tackled the topic of infidelity among pro athletes. What ran in the magazine was polished, snappy...and unenlightening. But we have the original draft Player X composed, before the editing process sanitized it completely. The draft sheds a lot of light on what athletes are really going through, and how unpublishable the experience is.
The final, published version is available on ESPN.com here. (If you don't have Insider, it's been reproduced here, and further below.) These two pages represent the unedited, uncensored version that Player X submitted to ESPN. Because what was taken out is far more interesting then what was added (mostly turns of phrase), we've indicated those ideas and words that ESPN deemed unsuitable by striking them through.
It's not hard to see why most of the excised material never saw the light of day. Implications of Eva Longoria's infidelity, or exhortations to watch your wife get it on with another man to save your own marriage are not the type of things that generally get printed. But in airbrushing out the down-and-dirty details, the Player X column loses a lot of what it sets out to be in the first place: a raw look inside the mind of a pro athlete. It still is, just a lot less real.
Appendix A: The original, unedited Player X column
Tiger's Fifteen? No big deal.
I know NBA players who are, right at this moment, working more than 15 girls-married guys and ones with girlfriends. Guys at the highest levels.
I'm telling you, the temptations we players face are crazy. You're seeing things you never seen before. Experiencing things you've never dreamed of. And the caliber of these women? They're goddam gorgeous. Not all of them. But the ones who put some work in, put on those dresses, let their asses pop, do up their hair and get their makeup going, they look fine as hell. Our natural instinct isn't to grab lunch with her. We wanna know how she smells, how she feels, how she tastes.
Tiger, we feel you.
Our marriages are a lot harder to maintain than yours. We're on the road and in-demand. And when we do come home, we've been apart so long, one or both partners' have changed. After a while, you don't even know each other anymore. And when you're on the road as much as we are, our ladies are prone to wander, too. Please note: Tiger's story isn't finished. Like George Foreman-whose book was still being written when, at the age of 200, he made that damn grill-Tiger's book could take a few turns. Why was he cheating on Elin? Maybe she wasn't making him happy at home, or maybe she was cheating, too. We don't know that she wasn't. Just sayin.
In my mind, Woods f- up in only one way: he didn't sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
I tell every young player who will listen: sign that motherf- pre-nup. If the girl won't sign, don't get married, and find a girl who will sign. Elin took Tiger for half his money. I'm sorry, but no girl on this planet is worth $300 million. Sign that pre-nup! You'd be crazy not to. Do everything in your power to protect what you've worked so hard for. You may think you're relationship will last, but it won't. You may think you're not going to cheat, but you will.
And look at the leverage a pre-nup gives you. Lets say you cheat. Let's say you get caught. Well, if she leaves you, she's not going to get that money. She can't live the way she wants to or expects to live. In other words, she'll never leave you.
If I had to guess, 85% of sports marriages fall apart. Some of the biggest names in the league are going through this right now.
Let's start with Tony and Eva. We all liked that couple. Seemed like they had a good thing. But towards the end there were rumors around the league that some crazy swinging stuff was going on-like the rumor that Tony was messing with Brent Barry's girl. My goodness. That's so against the code. Guys are not allowed to mess with a teammates' partner. Period. Totally against the rules, and Tony isn't the only one who allegedly broke it. I know a couple of guys who are messing with players' girls. Now, the ladies have some blame in these situations. To the wife or girlfriend, there is no code. They don't know what goes on in a locker room, how important trust is among teammates. I've seen a couple of wives get out of control, throwing themselves at other players. That's why a lot of guys keep their ladies far away from the team, which spares everyone from potential headaches.
But, remember, Tony and Eva's book hasn't been written, either. We've all heard stories about celebs who fake-cheated-planted a story about cheating-just to get more buzz. Well, I'll tell you what I heard: Tony wasn't the only one messing around. Eva was getting hers, too, with a couple of entertainers, who I won't name.
Not a big surprise to us. Dating a celebrity lady isn't easy. Their jobs are similar to ours: lots of travel, no shortage of partners to choose from. But athlete-civilian marriages aren't easy to maintain, either. Take Steve Nash and his wife. She's no celebrity, and Steve's probably the most down-to-earth star we have, but they've just filed for divorce-a big surprise to guys around the league. Dwayne Wade and his wife are finished, too, and I was really saddened by that. We all feel that those young couples, the ones who pre-date a player's pro career, have the best shot. She was with him before Dwayne was D-Wade. Didn't matter. They're done.
(By the way, we're all watching with keen interest Dwyane's custody battle for his kids. It's a bold move, to fight to be your kids' caretaker despite the demands of the NBA. But if you feel you're in a better position than their mom to take care of them, fight for them. Nice work, Dwyane.)
Now, I'm happily married. Wasn't always this way. We've overcome a lot of problems, especially early. And I think we could've avoided a lot of our problems had I known what I know now.
Here's a little secret: There are a couple of NBA families where a different type of marriage is practiced. Like Tiger, the guys are exploring other girls. Unlike Tiger, the guys are respectful of their wives.
Yeah, I'm talking about an open-door policy.
We're going to cheat anyway. We're going to experiment. Well, some guys are experimenting out in open, with their spouses knowing. Let me tell how it's done: I know a player who said to his wife, "Baby, I want to experiment. What do you think about that?" She asked why. "Well, this girl, she's fine as hell. I just want to see how she tastes." So, she said, "What don't you see in me that you see in her?" He explained it, they talked about it, and he got to mess around. The end, on that one, is To Be Determined. But here's what I'm sayin, ladies: Do you want a husband who cheats and then you get divorced anyway? I say, get it out in the open. Acknowledge it. Let your man experience someone else. See if he likes her more. If he does, well, now you know that you two weren't meant to be. Free the bird, see if he don't come back.
And just so you don't think I'm a chauvinist: Guys, let your wives play, too. Watch her get pounded. See how that makes you feel about her. Maybe you'll learn some lessons, make some changes. Maybe your relationship will be stronger for it.
I know this sounds crazy. But the world is going crazy. Something has to be done because this stuff-the Tiger thing, the Brett Favre thing-is happening too much. And it's not just us athletes. You're all cheating. You're all getting divorced. And it's hurting our country. It's affecting our youth. Think about it. It might just work.
But whatever you decide to do, young fellas, please, for the love of God….
Sign. That. Pre. Nup.
Appendix B: The edited Player X column that appeared in ESPN The Magazine
By my count, Tiger got to 15. It's a big number, sure. But I know some guys in the NBA, MLB, and NFL who juggle even more girls than that. Some of them are married too. So Tiger, we feel you.
The temptation pro athletes face is crazy, and the cards are stacked against those of us who get married. We're going to cheat; how can we not? We're constantly on the road, and we've got targets on our chests. I'm telling you, we see and experience things you can't even dream of. And the caliber of the women is just ridiculous. When they put on those dresses, do up their hair and get their makeup going, they look fine as hell. I'll tell you one thing — our natural instinct isn't to ask them out to lunch.
Being home is no picnic, either. You've been apart from each other so long you've changed a bit. Over time it adds up, and after a while you begin to feel you don't know each other anymore. Plus, there's another side to the story. Our wives are prone to wander too. And the truth is, that can be okay — provided you've got a strong relationship and have agreed to certain arrangements.
The first arrangement is a prenuptial agreement. Elin supposedly took Tiger for $100 million because they didn't have one. I'm sorry, no woman is worth that! I tell every young player who will listen: Get the prenup. If she won't sign, don't marry her. You have to protect what you've worked for, and a prenup does that for you. If she ever wants out, she can't touch your money. And without the money, she can't keep living like she's been living.
A few guys I know in the NBA have another type of marital arrangement: an open-door policy. They experiment with other women, just not behind their wives' backs like Tiger did. These guys tell their wives about the temptations they face, answer all their hard-hitting questions and come to an understanding. Part of that is they know they have to let their wives play too. Free the bird, ladies. Your man will come back, you can get yours and your relationship will be the stronger for it. I know some of what I just said sounds crazy, but something has to be done. Athletes let stuff happen to them way too much, and it affects their family and their kids.
One thing that is not acceptable, though, is messing with your teammates' partners. That's the road some folks are saying Tony Parker went down, getting into it with Brent Barry's girl. Whatever happened, I can tell you that wives and girlfriends don't know our code. They don't know what goes on in a locker room, how important trust is among teammates, even former teammates like Tony and Brent. I've seen wives throw themselves at other players, and I've seen some of those guys give in. It's bad news. That's why a lot of guys keep their ladies far away from the team. It spares everybody the headaches.
Whatever is going on with Tony and Eva, dating a celebrity isn't easy. Their jobs are similar to ours — lots of travel, no shortage of partners to choose from. Their book hasn't finished being written. I wouldn't be shocked to learn someday that Eva had something on the side as well.
Not that marriages to "civilians" are much easier to maintain. A lot of us feel for Steve Nash and his wife. He's probably the most down-to-earth star there is in the league, and he's getting divorced. That was a big surprise to us all. Relationships that predate pro careers have the best shot, but sometimes not even that's enough. Dwyane Wade and his wife are done too, and that's sad because she was with him before he was D-Wade.
By the way, we're all watching Dwyane's custody battle very closely. It's a bold move, fighting to be your kids' sole caretaker despite the daily demands of life in the NBA. But if you feel you're in a better position than the mom to take care of them, you've got to fight for the right.
Thankfully, I married someone I love. We're happy, but that hasn't always been the case. The early years were difficult for us. I think we could have avoided a lot of problems if my wife and I knew then what we know now. But we overcame and have a stronger marriage because of it.
It can happen when you're older and wiser. Still, whatever you do, young fellas: Sign. That. Pre. Nup.