Screen grab from The Players Tribune.
I meant to post this back in December as a prime example of the kinds of pieces that Derek Jeter's Players Tribune website is putting out. I missed the window then, but a profile this month of the Players Tribune has this stat: The site's top two most-read stories since it started have been Kobe Bryant's November retirement poem — and former LA King Patrick O'Sullivan's sad, infuriating first-person story from December about his hyper-abusive father and all the hockey people in Canada and the United States who let it go on. When a pro athlete's story begins with "My father used to beat the shit out of me," you know it's going somewhere real.
O'Sullivan played parts of three seasons with the Kings and was supposed to be a star, but never became one. After LA he bounced to four teams and left the National Hockey League for good in 2012, done at age 28. Here's a snippet of his story:
My father used to beat the shit out of me.
I don’t say that to be shocking, or to get your attention. I say that because it’s just a simple fact. He would throw punches. Not like he was hitting a small child — but like he was in a bar fight with a grown man. Whenever some people hear the phrase “child abuse,” it’s very hard for them to think about what’s really happening. They imagine discipline that gets out of hand once in a while, because it’s easier that way.
How many times have you heard someone say this?
“My parents used to give me the belt, and I turned out OK.”
So let me be really clear about what happened to me. From the moment I got my first pair of hockey skates at five years old, I got the living shit kicked out of me every single day. Every day after hockey, no matter how many goals I scored, he would hit me. The man was 6-foot-2, 250 lbs. It would start as soon as we got in the car, and sometimes right out in the parking lot.
By the time I was 10, it got worse. He would put cigarettes out on me. Choke me. Throw full soda cans at my head. Every time I stepped on the ice, I knew that my play would determine just how bad I got it when we got home. I’d score a hat trick, and afterward we’d get in the car and he would tell me that I played “like a faggot” (that was his favorite term, which says a lot).
I thought it was normal. As a kid, you just don’t know any better.