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Boomer Esiason's Criticism of Paternity Leave Is Off-Base

The former NFL quarterback shouldn't have criticized the New York Mets' Daniel Murphy on the radio for taking time off from the season to witness the birth of his son.

April 4, 2014

The New York Mets' Daniel Murphy. Image by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons.

Before having kids, there was a time I could identify most Major League Baseball players, including many players of yesteryear. I could tell you that the New York Giants’ Ferdie Schupp had an unbelievable 0.90 ERA in 1916 because I studied “The Baseball Encyclopedia.”

But times change, and priorities change.

Nowadays, unless you’re a member of the White Sox or a star player, there’s a good chance I’m not going to know much about you — especially if you’re a National Leaguer. So when the New York Mets’ Daniel Murphy popped up in the news this week after he missed a couple of games for paternity leave, I had to look him up. He seems like a solid second baseman who made a solid decision to skip some games to be with his wife for the birth of their son.

As you might have heard, former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason criticized Murphy on the radio for taking paternity leave.

Although he has since apologized, Mighty Boomer has struck out.

On top of the criticism he threw at Murphy, Esiason, who I can only assume was trying to be provocative, had the gall to throw a curveball by suggesting Murphy’s wife should have scheduled a C-section before the season began. How could Murphy’s wife, Tori, be so inconsiderate and inconvenience those diehard baseball fans who need her husband to get hits for their team and perhaps their fantasy team?

I’ve witnessed two births in person, neither of which was by C-section — which, by the way, has a twofold increase in maternal mortality and morbidity than a vaginal delivery — and those were intense enough.

While I love sports and am somewhat competitive, which might be an oxymoron to some, the whole “sports is everything” mentality is totally off-base. It reminds me of that great scene in the movie “Meet the Parents” where Dr. Larry Banks (played by the recently deceased James Rebhorn) scolds Gaylord “Greg” Focker (Ben Stiller) for missing a shot in a “friendly” water-volleyball game. “Larry, I missed one shot,” Focker says, exasperated. “It was a big shot!” Banks fires back.

They’re all big shots, and every at-bat counts and every yard is important and so on and so forth ad nauseam.

There are 162 regular-season baseball games. That means, for 44 percent of the year, your favorite team is in action in “meaningful” games, meaning games that count in the standings, and that doesn’t include spring training and the postseason. Missing a couple of games for paternity leave (MLB allows three days under a recent collective bargaining agreement) is not the end of the world.

Right before I was hired for a new job, we found out my wife was pregnant with our first child. I didn’t feel comfortable bringing it up during the interview process because I, maybe irrationally, thought it might somehow dissuade my future employer from hiring me. It was a small company and having to take time off would surely affect the rest of the staff.

So I waited until after I started. I told the CEO, and he told me they didn’t have a formal paternity policy, but he’d be willing to give me two days of paid time off.

While I was grateful to have the time, I’ll tell you this much: It wasn’t enough.

Even in the short time I had at home with my kids after they were born, it was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Having a couple of weeks would have been even better.

For obvious reasons, women are often given more paid time off when a child is born or adopted. Companies often don’t think men should be afforded the same privileges despite research that shows children with involved fathers often fare better in school, experience less depression and are more likely to avoid using drugs.

It’s time more companies go to bat for dads who want to spend time with their children when they’re born or adopted. After all, criticizing men for wanting to be with the newest member or members of their families is baseless.