You may have seen yesterday that former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Baron Batch is set to be arrested after he was identified vandalizing public property via graffiti, an act that he cited as artistic expression while acknowledging that he “broke the rules”.
That was, to be sure, not a terribly smart nor ethical decision on his behalf—nobody has the right to deface public property, which belongs to all, no matter what sense of artistic they might assign to the act—but aside from this little run-in, Batch is actually a good example of an athlete going on to find his “life’s work”, which I consider to be an important and underpublicized aspect of the game.
Not to campaign for sympathy in an industry in which even a single year of minimal contribution can produce financial compensation to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars—an amount that it might take decades for some blue collar workers who watch the NFL the make—but the fact does remain never the less that the average NFL career is far shorter and less glorious than the marquee names might suggest in their success and lavish expenditures.
A player such as Batch is actually fairly typical of the average NLF career. A seventh-round draft pick, he spent his rookie season on injured reserve, thus netting a rostered salary, he spent most of the 2012 season on the 53-man roster, recording 49 yards on 25 attempts with one touchdown, adding four receptions for 31 yards.
He returned to training camp the following season, but he did not make the 53-man roster, and rather than accepting tryouts or waiver claims from a few other clubs that had offered, he chose to retire. That is where his path from the ‘average’ NFL career diverges, as it was his choice to leave the game so early.
That is because he already had a passion, a “life’s work”, beyond football, which is a goal that many former players take years exploring, if they ever find it, after their playing career draw to a close.
Batch used his NFL earnings to open up a gallery and event space in the Pittsburgh area called Studio AM, which I presume stands for “Angry Man”, because he also produces a high-end salsa that goes by the moniker. He has been a painter and has dabbled in other forms of art throughout his playing career, and has continued to do so since then.
Players such as Batch are fortunate to have something beyond football that they are not only truly passionate about but also have the ability and acumen to turn it into a viable secondary career path when they hang up their cleats.
Other than his admittedly foolish legal run-in, he will be well-off in his post-football career, but many others struggle to find not just financial stability, but their identity outside of football, which has become even more the case as players turn to sports as their way out of a troubled neighborhood or upbringing, when they don’t quite reach their goals.