The downside is minor, but it does exist. You can't buy some embarrassing personal product in the drugstore without being recognized, and you can't get through a public meal without being pestered, and heaven help you if you miscalculate the tip on a restaurant check, or yell at somebody sitting too long at a traffic light, or make even half a fool of yourself in a bar.
Most professional athletes do understand that. The flip side of the big contract and the fame is that they do lose something that the majority take for granted: the ability to hide in plain sight.
But because they forfeit their anonymity does not mean they forfeit their right to privacy, even in the modern Twitterverse.
That was Maclin's stance.
As Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said last night in a media teleconference, "Legally, I can't say anything until he gives me the OK." And that OK was not granted until yesterday, when Maclin was given the medical all-clear by his doctors in St. Louis and he told his story in an interview with FOXSports.com.
Before then, he kept it all to himself and insisted that the Eagles do the same. Which meant several weeks of speculation went unanswered.
Be clear, though: It wasn't traditional media speculation. The Eagles were asked about Maclin a hundred different ways, and coach Andy Reid did his best to dance around the subject, but the speculation about the disease was minimal in newspapers. However, in the reader comments below those stories, speculation about cancer and every other horrible possibility received a thorough airing.
From those comments, and just from people talking to one another in the way that people have always talked to one another, some bloggers then posted about the "rumors" of Maclin having cancer, or whatever - even though they really weren't rumors in the traditional sense but, rather, the same accumulation of unsubstantiated stream-of-consciousness that has ruled human behavior for as long as there have been humans.
The difference now is that there is no barrier to publishing person-to-person gossip to a wide audience. And the reaction of many celebrities is to throw up their hands and knock down the rumors by making a statement about something they had every right to keep private - a category into which, everyone would agree, testing for lymphoma certainly falls.
Maclin, though, refused. Burkholder said the player told him, "Don't do anything with the media . . . until we're really ready and more definitive with the testing."
This is a pretty strong person, obviously. Most professional athletes are, of course, but this is different. When the first handful of comments below a random Maclin story on philly.com the other day have you diagnosed with lupus, leukemia, sickle cell anemia and AIDS, it has to be soul-crushing. The lupus guy was a beauty, by the way. He wrote, "I just put it on record in case I am right."
To multiply that by hundreds, to have it read by you and your family and your friends, and to remain steadfast in your insistence on your basic rights as a human being is an interesting exercise in personal behavior. Interesting, and impressive.
Maclin told FOXSports.com: "I wanted my privacy on this until I had answers. I don't like to talk unless I have all the answers about what I'm talking about. It was frustrating to hear all the rumors about me. It wasn't until this morning that I finally got my final answer, and thankfully I'm healthy and ready to return to football."
All of which leads to two conclusions:
Read Rich's blog, The Idle Rich, at www.philly.com/TheIdleRich.
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