“For thy sake, Tobacco, I Would do anything but die.”
–Charles Lamb, A Farewell to Tobacco
Baseball and tobacco have a long history. Since the first baseball cards were in cigarette packs around 1900, tobacco and baseball have had a weird relationship. I understand why it happens. Baseball is a sport with a lot of downtime, either waiting in the dugout or standing around waiting for the ball to be hit in your direction. Besides the other “goofing off” activities, using tobacco has been one of those things ball players have used to help pass the time. As well, it is a very masculine sport. Men do the most repulsive things sometime to prove their manhood. Tobacco usage would fall into this repulsive category. The use smokeless and leaf tobacco has even been glamorized by the media in commercials and movies. I can still remember seeing a Red Man commercial on television during the early 80’s. A major league catcher was the spokesperson. Their slogan was “The Red Man reaction, satisfaction.” At that age, all I wanted to do was play baseball. This major leaguer would never try to sell me something that could give me cancer, would he?
I started using smokeless tobacco at age 18. It was during my last summer of American Legion baseball before I headed to college. I think I’m a relatively intelligent person, but I was obviously stupid enough to start that horrible habit. I started for the same reasons as everyone else who uses tobacco, peer pressure and wanting to look cool. My dad was and is a smoker. I grew up hating smoking. I should’ve known better. In some way maybe the smokeless variety seemed less harmful, but it’s not. My habit turned into a moderate one, about 2 cans per week. My mouth was feeling like a garbage pit. I had 2 kids and one on the way. Kids have a funny way of making us gauge our own mortality. I want to be around for all of their milestones. I finally quit, 3 months before my 30th birthday. I guess I just realized that I needed to be stronger than the nicotine. I analyzed when I was using tobacco. What situations made me more likely to pull out the tin and have a pinch? It was during times of STRESS and BOREDOM.
When I started hiding a small pinch in my mouth at practice and games is when I realized how dumb I was. Someone was going to notice sooner than later. I figure from ages 7-21, I had 7 coaches that used tobacco. I noticed them. Besides, it was against our state’s athletic rules. What kind of example was I setting for my players? A poor one. I decided that during the 2003 season, I would be strong enough, mentally, to not bring my habit around my players. I’m the kind of person that has to be doing something or I get fidgety. So, I bought gum, beef jerky, and enough sunflower seeds to choke a hog. So far, so good. I have to admit, I still desire tobacco, but the desire to do the “non-bush” thing has been stronger.
The desire for tobacco lingers to this day. I’ve heard intervention counselor and other experts compare the addiction of nicotine to that of heroin. In many cases, those experts say the nicotine hook is stronger than heroin. I believe it. I’ve shared a recurring dream that I have with other people that have either quit chewing or smoking. In this dream, I am offered a pinch of Wintergreen Skoal (my favorite!!!). Of course, I put a little pinch between the cheek and gum. I can actually taste it. I usually wake up remorseful and then relieved that it was just a dream. The weird thing is that my mouth is actually salivating the way it did when I still chewed Skoal over 6 years ago. Call me Pavlov’s dog if you want. The funny thing is the other quitters of nicotine that I’ve shared this with have had similar dreams.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, be a role model for your players. Don’t bring tobacco products near them, no matter what age of kid that you’re coaching. In turn, if you’re coaching older boys or young men. Don’t turn a blind eye when you see them using. Address it, and use discipline. They may not like you for it immediately, but when they’re 30, they will appreciate it.
For more information,for yourself and your players, about smokeless tobacco, I’ve included the following link:
As always, if you have any comments or experiences to share, feel free…..
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