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Prince Fielder, Cecil Fielder and the significance of family

Jan 25, 2012, 8:17 AM EDT

Prince Fielder Cecil Fielder

Cecil Fielder was making the media rounds yesterday following his son’s signing with the Detroit Tigers. It was understandable given his own history in Detroit.

Thing is, Cecil and Prince have a very complicated history and, in recent years, have been reported to have no relationship at all. The whole story is known only to them, but the contours of it seem to be that (a) Cecil was not an attentive father to Prince when he was growing up; (b) his relationship with Prince’s mother was not good; and (c) Cecil is alleged to have squandered Prince’s signing bonus on personal debts.  Kind of ugly all around.

Cecil was quoted several years ago as saying that Prince had shut him out of his life. Prince, when asked, will not respond to any questions about his father.  Yesterday, however, Cecil had this to say about the relationship:

“We’re having a few chats. We’re doing a lot better than we were. Time heals all wounds, man. Everybody has to come back together at some point.”

It’s a difficult subject. On the one hand it’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be any of our business. But it’s been out there because, in the past, Cecil put it out there in interviews and, of course, because both of the Fielders are well-known public figures. And of course now that Prince has gone to the team with which his father found his biggest fame, it’s going to come up a lot more simply because it’s part of a new and wholly understandable dynastic narrative.

Outside of that (and outside of baseball, actually) the subject fascinates me because of what it says about the value and purpose of family.

I have a great relationship with my parents. It’s never been in question because I had a great childhood and they’re good people and all of that.  But at the same time, I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that you have to make a special effort to have such a relationship with family members no matter the situation. If your parents (or siblings or whatever) are jerks or bad people or have otherwise hurt you, I don’t see the need to try any harder to repair that relationship than you would to repair a friendship or another kind of acquaintance. Or to simply not try at all if that’s your choice.

Yet I feel like I’m in the minority here. I think most people default to the “but they’re family,” idea, and believe it to be incumbent upon a person to always — eventually anyway — try to repair such relationships. And think that a difficult or flawed relationship with a family member is better than no relationship at all.

I can’t see that. Sure, if a family member with whom you’ve had a falling out wants to try and make amends you give that person the same chance that you’d give someone else, but I don’t think you give them considerably more chances or, even further, continue to try to reach out to them out of obligation even if they continue to be a jerk out of some notion that shared blood makes the relationship so much more necessary.

I’m not saying I’m right. I may be very wrong. And like I said before, I have a wonderful relationship with my family so perhaps I’m just taking it all for granted and I’m totally missing the point. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I don’t see a father-son reconciliation as some necessary component of Prince Fielder going to Detroit. And, even though it would be nicer if the two of them had a good relationship than a poor one, I hope that Prince doesn’t get pestered too much about it by virtue of the public’s need to seek closure or resolution of a relationship that, by all rights, shouldn’t concern us.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Jan 25, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    I divorced my parents 4 years ago with the full support of my wife. They were and are physically and emotionally abusive people, bullies and cowards. My life has literally never been better now that I don’t speak with them. I would encourage anyone similarly situated to do the same.

    I make everyone in the rest of my family uncomfortable now, they don’t and most of them won’t understand. But we only travel this sphere once, and your highest and most holy duty is to yourself and the family and friends that you choose. I didn’t choose to have those ignorant insane people birth me, but I can damn sure choose as an adult to cut them off.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      I did the same with my dad – mentioned it below. Thanks for sharing.

    • largebill - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      UncleMo,

      Sorry to hear of your family situation. All each generation can do is attempt to learn from the preceding one and try to not repeat the negative experiences of our youth. It is never easy because unfortunately (or fortunately depending on the case) we learn our parenting skills from our parents.

  2. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 25, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    And like I said before, I have a wonderful relationship with my family so perhaps I’m just taking it all for granted and I’m totally missing the point. I’m curious to hear others’ thoughts.

    Personally I feel it depends entirely on the situation. If you have an issue with your parents/relatives/siblings because you feel mom/dad liked your brother better than you, or that mom/dad didn’t get you a puppy when you were a child, or bought you a new car at 16 but didn’t get you an iPad2 for xmas and you hate your parents for it, that’s a bit childish and is probably worth repairing.

    But if you have a situation like the first poster, or your dad beat the crap out of your mom and you, or your parents were drug addicts and abandoned you as a child, those are probably not worth saving unless you, yourself, want to. Seems like Prince went through a lot as a child with some messed up situations. If he doesn’t want to reconcile, that’s perfectly within his right

    • marshmallowsnake - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      I agree here. My parents got divorced when I was 2. Then, when I was 8, my brother and I decided that we were not going to go visit anymore. I still remember the day and where I was, 28 years later. Part of me wonders how much of it was us and how much of it was my Mom’s disdain for my Dad. I often try to locate him via the net, but do not have much success as he has a common last name. I just wish I could reconnect with him before one of us passes on, even though I really do not know him.

  3. Jonny 5 - Jan 25, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    I think you’re right. From my own experience anyway. If you can’t get over “wrongs” committed against you and/or loved ones by someone, then they have no right to your forgiveness.

  4. vincentbojackson - Jan 25, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    I remember going to Tiger games when Cecil played and seeing this chubby little kid swinging a bat near his father during BP. Odd how things work out.

    • sandpiperair - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:15 AM

      And stragely, that kid turned out to be Jonah Hill. Odd indeed.

  5. Francisco (FC) - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    Either point of view is valid. I do know that in Latin America, family is generally placed on a pretty high pedestal, so tolerance is usually higher for these sorts of things. I speak only of the experiences I know of. YMMV. (It’s why I use the words generally and usually)

    It doesn’t mean there aren’t difficulties or that people won’t give up. I know a friend who actually ended up in court against his father more than once. It was that tough. Despite all that, he always gave off the impression that the door is never really shut. But he certainly isn’t going to go out of his way to open it.

    File this one under personal preference. I had only mild disagreements with my parents. At one point or another I did feel they could be vexing, but the important thing to note was that the difficulties were normal and due to natural diverging viewpoints, not out of any malice or high levels on the jerk-ometer. In all my experiences I think only once, once did one of my parents really act like a total jerk and it was under a very specific high stress situation.

    Oh, and one time my father threw a small tantrum when he lost at a game of Clue :D (to be fair my brother was jerking him around a lot with the evidence cards, but in the end my father DID make a mistake, he sort of recognized it, but he’s just terrible at apologies, his pride is way too big for him to swallow).

  6. xmatt0926x - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Agree with Craig and I’ve had this debate many times in my adult life since I have family members who I don’t keep in touch with. Not all family isssues revolve around mere arguments over trivial fights that are random or a trivial squabbles here and there. That wouldn’t be the kind of thing that would keep me away from reconciling with a family member. For me it’s when the issues go deeper than that and common respect and a family bond are missing and you know that even if you speak with these people that the relationship will ever only be a shallow one at best. Someone being a “family member” means nothing to me if they will never really be more emotionally attached to you than a casual aquaintance would be or if you know that they will never respect you as a family member. It always amazed me to hear people say “but they are family” and time and time again they allow themselves to be taken advantage of or be treated badly. I keep respectful and loyal people close to me, end of story. Some biological connection means nothing if the person doesn’t have those qualities. I think what Cecil has done to Prince in family matters and money matters shows a lack of respect and fatherly attachment that goes above and beyond the basic family arguments that lead to a temporary falling out. I don’t blame Prince Fielder one bit. I wouldn’t allow a shit bag like Cecil Fielder anywhere near me or my family.

  7. billymc75 - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Prince wont talk cause its probably something he knows he should get over it, question is has Cecil asked for forgiveness?

  8. cur68 - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    I’m in the boat of having great parents. My parents, by contrast, largely loath their own families. We were raised almost entirely away from grandparents and other relatives. My father’s family are still, to an almost complete extent, strangers. My mother’s, much less so, but only to the extent that there a a few family members we pay any attention to. From seeing both sides of it, I can say that my parents feels terribly alone, rootless in a way. Both miss having contact with extended family but realize that contact means trouble, so they deal with it. I think, if you had to live alone, reliant only on friends, an equally bereft spouse, or just yourself for advice, identity, shared experience, your place in the world etc you’d want to do something about that. If you have all that (as I do) then you can more easily take or leave extended family.

  9. nightrain42 - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Like it was said….it really isnt any of our business

  10. Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    This entire conversation reminds me of that great episode of Fernwood Tonight wherein Martin Mull, Fred Willard and their guests spent the Mother’s Day program talking about how their mothers screwed them up. I think the denizens of Circling the Bases ought to wait until Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and then indulge ourselves in some serious bile-letting and talking about how we might best go about getting even with our parents. There’s no point in sitting at our keyboards marinating in impotent rage and frustration. We need to get past all that and start planning some serious vengeance.

    • nategearhart - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:52 AM

      In the same vein, the schlubs who appear on Around the Horn should have a very special episode coming to terms with their daddy issues.

  11. randygnyc - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    Prince is a grown man. We have no idea what type of circumstances surround his upbringing. It’s also none of our business.

    Personally, family has never been a priority to me, outside of my wife and daughter. I had a rough childhood and as a defensive mechanism, learned how to turn people off, like a light switch. It only takes one time and then my grudge is permanent. I went 14 years without speaking to my father before he passed. I didn’t bother with the funeral. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve spoken to my brother and it’s nearly 20 years since I’ve spoken to my two half brothers.

    Funny thing is, I never think about these people. Except at times like this. I still don’t feel anything, though.

    • Old Gator - Jan 25, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      Reminds me, for no particular reason aside from knowing your political inclinations, of something George Will said in one of his stints on the Ken Burns baseball documentary: “I lived in central Illinois. Half of my friends were Cardinals fans and they grew up happy and liberal. I was a Cubs fan and I grew up bitter and conservative.” Now how do we rationalize your take on the world in lieu of your Borg affinities?

  12. micker716 - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    I think if Cecil is serious about repairing his relationship with his son he needs to keep it between the two of them. Why is he making the “media rounds”? This is Prince’s moment.

    • wendell7 - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:27 AM

      Couldn’t have said it better

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      Excellent point.

    • baileyjb - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM

      He was in Detroit at a dinner at the time, so of course the media was going to flock to him. I heard him talk about it and he kept saying this was about Prince and not about him.

  13. trevorb06 - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:54 AM

    I am essentially not on speaking terms with my brother. We live hours apart, but even when we lived in the same town it was a strained relationship. The interesting part about this is actually baseball is the only reason we ever speak. We’re in the same dynasty fantasy baseball league that he runs and we’re also both die hard Twins fans. One of the main reasons I started to get interested in baseball as a kid was just because I wanted something in common with him so we could talk and hang out.

    I understand with Craig that it isn’t a necessary thing to try to repair a relationship just based on blood. For years I’ve tried to have a relationship with this man, and sometimes we actually would start to get close, but sometimes you just can’t get through to people. With our relationship there never was a ‘you wronged me’ or ‘I wronged you’ in an unforgivable way type of moment, we’ve just always been on completely different planets. I’m finally to the point where I’m just not going to try with him anymore, but I do know that if he ever does come around I’ll welcome it.

  14. glink123 - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    “Time heals all wounds, man. Everybody has to come back together at some point.” — especially when there’s 212 million new reasons to suddenly become a great dad again. Makes me kinda sick to her that. I’d imagine Prince feels the same.

  15. wonkypenguin - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    I wonder if this is different for men with their fathers? I’m a female and I have great parents, but I do not have any relationship most of my extended family for reasons beyond what HBT needs to know. I highly believe that it takes so much more than DNA to create a relationship but, more so, an obligation of any kind. So when people say “but they’re family,” they’re really saying, “you have an obligation” of some sort, which I disagree with.

    I’m a psychologist by trade so I see this with many clients I work with. “Do I cut this person out of my life?” and while only they can make that decision, I believe it is sometimes the best possible option for the mental health of whomever I’m working with.

    That said, psychoanalysts would have an absolute field day with the idea that Prince chose to go to Detroit even with all his daddy baggage. Seriously. Someone somewhere just started writing a dissertation about it.

    • marshmallowsnake - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      Yes, it is! My wife has a relationship with her Father, while her Brothers cannot stand him. So I think you hit the nail on the head. Guys tend to hold grudges longer when it comes to Dad, from what I have seen and experienced personally.

  16. hushbrother - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    My sister in law doesn’t speak to her parents, and though I don’t exactly know the reasons why, I think that like Prince and Cecil the bad relationship is rooted in money issues. But I’ve never asked her about it, nor do I really care to, and I certainly don’t care about the inner workings of the Fielder family.

  17. philliesblow - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    If questions about his dad were going to be an issue for Prince, he should have instructed Boras that under no circumstances would he agree to terms with Detroit (or any other team Cecil played for). If he’s willing to sell out for the big $$$, he should expect questions about the situation and answer them directly. We know the media won’t rest until they get answers they want, kind of like Romney & his tax returns.

  18. stex52 - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    Simple thought from a disinterested observer. Most people end up happier in life if they make peace with their parents. I see a lot of older people who regret how the relationships ended. Prince is quite young. Without judging the situation, he will be happier if he finds a nice small compartment in which he and dad can interact. They don’t have to be best friends. But I’ll bet he will be happier for it.

    But this is really general, and in the end it is not my business.

  19. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    My father passed of cancer when I was 20 year old. I wanted to take him to the movies to see Goodfellas but he went back in the hospital a few days before passing and never got out to go see it with me. I still regret that we didn’t get to see it and I think about him ever single time I watch it.

    My brother went into a coma the day after we were supposed to go see the newest Transformers movie this past summer. I was tired and cancelled seeing the movie and I still have his text saying that we would go see it next week. He never came out of his coma and died after 4 agonizing days in the hospital. Now I can’t even watch that movie.

    I had good relationships with my father and brother. So I am probably not the best person to comment. But when it comes to fathers/mothers/brothers/sisters…well, you can probably guess that I think you should do everything you can to be the bigger person and keep the relationship alive.

  20. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    I’ve been extremely sympathetic to this whole thing, because I have a very similar relationship to my father; he wasn’t good to my mom, he stole my money and even committed identity fraud, and he wasn’t always there in the ways I needed him to be.

    Believe me, this haunts Prince. We feel we’re doing the right thing for ourselves by keeping a heavy distance, but it comes with a weight. I know it does for me. I think about starting a relationship again, but then I think about what he’s done, and I almost wonder what the hell I’m thinking. But I miss him. It’s hard.

    Anywho, this post wasn’t supposed to be my therapy. I am saying that Prince isn’t alone in his complicated issues with his dad, and I hope he finds solace. Because whatever decisions him and I make will affect us and our dads forever.

    • marshmallowsnake - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM

      If I were in your situation, fully – as I only have the Dad not being present part – I do not know if I could go back to him. I would not be able to fully trust him, and would think that he was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to start round two.

      This reminds me of the show LOST. Where John Locke’s Dad is a con-man, and John wants a relationship with him. Well, he gets it, but his Dad is just doing it to get a kidney from him. Now, I am not saying that this will be the case…I just would not be able to get these types of thoughts out of my head.

      I wish you the best, and hope that you can come to a decision on it that makes you happy :)

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:37 AM

        Thank you :)

    • Jonny 5 - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      I have a very similar situation with my mother, besides she was never there. She just stopped picking my sister and I up on the weekends. We waited by the window for her every Friday night for 2 months straight before we gave up, we were 7 and 8. We never heard from her again for 10 more years, we didn’t know if she was even alive or not. Now she’s trying to be a part of our lives, but it’s hard for me. I’ll probably never forgive her for what she did, but I did decide to allow her back into mine and my family’s lives. Even though I’ll never forgive, I have gotten to a point where some contact is better than none. I actually feel a little better about things. I may have been misunderstood above, but Prince doesn’t owe his father forgiveness, it’s his to give when and if he decides to give it. We don’t know the situation and have no way of knowing what’s best for him.

    • stex52 - Jan 25, 2012 at 4:27 PM

      I am more fortunate than you. My dad was a decent man who took care of his family. My only problem with him ever was politics. Big deal. That and the fact he died too young.

      Having said that, there have been occasions where I saw things moving to ruptures, particularly in my wife’s family. You have to judge yourself what is right and I am sure that is a burden. But, in spite of my note about Prince above, in the end you have to be true to yourself whatever the cost.

      Good luck with it.

  21. youngwomanscreek - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Hopefully the media can leave them both alone on this issue, I’m sure its too complicated to be understood by outsiders in the short format the media provides these days, as most long-standing family issues are.
    That being said, I go with Craig on the general issue. Being family gives some leeway when problems arise, it does NOT give a free pass. I couldn’t conceive of cutting off my parents, who are loving and supportive. I fully supported my husband when he cut off his dad. The guy was hateful and violent, and 30 years was enough proof of that. We particularly weren’t going to subject our children to his behavior.
    I’m with unclemosesgreen on this –
    I make everyone in the rest of my family uncomfortable now, they don’t and most of them won’t understand. But we only travel this sphere once, and your highest and most holy duty is to yourself and the family and friends that you choose. I didn’t choose to have those ignorant insane people birth me, but I can damn sure choose as an adult to cut them off.

    Many of my husband’s outer circle of family and friends don’t understand and he’s lost them as a result of his decision. But that is their issue – they weren’t subjected to the behavior, they don’t understand, but still they judge. That being said…if someone does understand, it means they’ve traveled this road, or traveled a close road, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

  22. Amadeus - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Two words sum up this deal: Mo Vaughn

  23. hoopmatch - Jan 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    Why thank you, son. And dittos.

  24. hoopmatch - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    A little off topic here, but now that Le Tigres have the heaviest first baseperson in Prince Fielder, maybe they should bring back Dmitri Young (who recently lost 70 pounds) as a good example for the chubby one.

  25. badmamainphilliesjamas - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:15 PM

    I have nothing pithy or insightful to add to the above, but since we’re getting all Oprah/Dr. Phil here…

    I was blessed to grow up with a great family and marry into another great family. We’re far from perfect, either individually or collectively, and often joke that we put the “fun” in dysfunctional. But we kid–and consider ourselves lucky.

    For those who have to deal with real dysfunction, abuse or neglect, I wish you the strength to cope with it in whatever way brings you peace. For those whose family issues derive from the benign craziness of human beings, I say life’s to short to hold grudges. But it’s really none of my business, anyway.

    I’m feeling particularly wistful right now. Tomorrow would have been my father’s birthday, but we’re coming up on the 20th anniversary of his death. He was a wonderful father, husband, son and brother, and a true mensch. I am forever grateful for the love, support and wisdom he (and my mother) gave me.

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