Dustin Johnson’s personal problems and struggles have been subject to an extraordinary amount of public commentary over the past few days. That’s a shame. While the estimates vary, sometimes wildly, even the most conservative numbers make clear that Dustin Johnson’s problems aren’t unique to him. CBS News reports current research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicating about one-third of American adults abuse our most widely available and culturally acceptable drug, alcohol. In a 3-part series on addiction The Lancet has reported equally startling figures for the use of marijuana and cocaine, Johnson’s apparent drugs of choice, as well as other opiods and hallucinogens. Whether Johnson’s a recreational drug user or is struggling with some form of drug dependency is unimportant. He’s asked for privacy while he deals with this personal matter. He didn’t get it.
What followed Johnson’s public request for privacy has been an endless stream of speculation and commentary on Johnson’s private life, his sexual peccadillos, and PGA drug screening policies. Johnson clearly hasn’t used performance-enhancing drugs. His standing as a pro golfer hasn’t been challenged.
At what point and for what reasons does the private life of a public figure become grist for the kind of speculation that’s been focused on Dustin Johnson? And for what purpose? Are we so salacious that we secretly hope the bloggers will ferret out the names of those wives Johnson boffed? I certainly hope that’s not an underlying motive for the continuing attention to Johnson’s situation.
Those three boys who watched intently while Johnson measured off his drop at the 143rd Open Championship last month, and all the other junior golfers and young fans who are watching Johnson’s story unfold in the press deserve a better example than we’re giving them right now.
Let’s step back from the paparazzi mode and back into the commentary mode, and take a closer look at the healthy strategies professional athletes employ to manage the stress of competition and the heady world of celebrity. Let’s give those kids something to work with.