Many hopes have been spent on Aldon Smith finding his way clear of the demons that pour themselves out to him. A fair amount of money, too, if you’re one of those human being monetizers.
But the former 49er and soon-to-be former Raider has foiled it all. Whatever haunts him is more than football can fix, and the assumption that there is something to salvage in him will have to be made by professionals outside the professional sports cocoon.
Aldon Smith the human being is worth salvation. Aldon Smith the football player is not.
Oh, somewhere out there a team looking for the illusion of a linebacker whose best days (all 59 of them) are now three years’ past will rationalize a way to giving him some money in hopes of rekindling the sparks that once flew from him, but those sparks died out pretty much when Justin Smith retired, give or take a few days. Aldon Smith became a rumor of a spectre of an old idea of an illusion, and whether losing his namesake’s protection, getting into the deep end of the bottle, or crossing the law until the law won is the explanation for his talent’s end, end it has.
It is trite to say he ruined a great opportunity, because it assumes he had more game in him than those 2½ years in San Francisco, and there is no evidence to support that – only the misplaced conjectures of the angry.
Maybe this was the only fate he could have expected to have because the disease that undermines his resolve is the essence of true ferocity. Maybe his ghosts are the double-team he cannot split. Maybe Aldon Smith lives a despair we can only guess at.
And maybe not.
But at this point, the only assumption that seems safe to make is that football is not the cure for what ails him. It does not inspire him to stop drinking, it does not give him a focus or a reward for sobriety, and it does not steel his spine in those moments of weakness.
For that reason, and really that reason alone, he should be done with football, and football with him. The sport and the business may not be bad for him as it regards his alcoholism, but it certainly isn’t good.
And there should be the “punishment” for his last act(s) of wagon ejection. Not that he should be taught the no-more-games-for-you lesson for his bad behavior by people who are clearly not good parental substitutes, but that he should simplify his life down to its very studs and framing in hopes of finding the foundation for an alcohol-free life.
Ultimately, Aldon Smith really wasn’t that special a player based on his resume and the number of other players who had two great years and then faded from view. That, though, is irrelevant now. His job now is not to chase quarterbacks but to build his life, if for no better reason to save himself from the hideous end he seemed to be marching toward with a frighteningly purposeful stride.
In short, he doesn’t belong to our disapproving clucks and wagging fingers any longer. He belongs to whomever can guide him toward his better self – that is, if that person can be found and brought to him at the moment when he chooses the help he needs over the hell he has constructed.