Every day brings more information about Barret Robbins's problems, his history of depression, and more sympathy for everybody involved in his "dismissal" from the Super Bowl.
Millions of fans, as well as casual observers, want to figure out how to feel, who to blame and how to frame our discussion of one of the most bizarre, troubling sports episodes in years.
The proper response should probably be: sad, not mad; helpful rather than judgmental. Robbins, as well as those with the Raiders who were initially angry with him, need to be cut miles of slack.
This isn't the time for blame, although plenty has been passed around. We're probably never going to figure out who deserves how much. And who deserves none at all. Instead, this is a time to try to understand and then err on the side of forgiveness, because everybody, especially Robbins, is going to need generosity.
As Oakland Coach Bill Callahan said Wednesday, "Somehow, some way, we have got to help this guy and, hopefully, save his life."
Most of that work will fall to doctors, counselors and Robbins himself. But the public and media play a part, too. Before it is too late, and Super Bowl lore is locked in place, let's be absolutely sure that Robbins isn't forever lumped with Stanley Wilson and Eugene Robinson.
Those players had famous misadventures (a drug overdose and an arrest for solicitation) that may have contributed to their team's Super Bowl defeats. From everything we know so far, Robbins, 29, is in a different category. He has a serious medical condition. He doesn't deserve a lifetime of idiots giving him the Bill Buckner treatment. Sports does not need another Donnie Moore.
Other than that, we mostly have questions. As of yesterday, Robbins's whereabouts were still unknown. His precise medical and mental state was a mystery, too. Is he still in a hospital? Has there been, or is there still, a suicide watch around him, as has been reported? If not, should there be?
We know Robbins was benched by Callahan after he showed up "incoherent" and apparently inebriated at a team function on Saturday night. On Sunday, Callahan changed that to "dismissed."
"There was no distraction. I eliminated it," Callahan said after losing the Super Bowl. Callahan reportedly told the Raiders, "No one is bigger than the team."
After a 48-21 loss in which the Raiders' offensive line played poorly, several players were angry. "If someone chooses to do something wrong, that's on him. We feed our family and he's got to feed his," said guard Frank Middleton, who plays shoulder-to-shoulder with Robbins. Disparaging remarks were reported; one player said Robbins's illness was "bad tequila."
Oakland linebacker Bill Romanowski, famous for spitting in an opponent's face and for cultivating outrageousness in general, actually had it right immediately. Was he angry at Robbins?
"No. The guy's got a problem," he said. "He's got to get some help."
What Romo knew, everybody knows now. Robbins was hospitalized with depression in 1996, began taking medication and also thought he'd had undiagnosed incidents while in college.
"It's a battle within your head," Robbins told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. "It's not an easy thing to deal with." We also now know Robbins's mother died in 1999 at age 52 and the player was deeply affected by it. "I was holding her hand through most of it," he told the San Jose Mercury News then. "It was really traumatic."
Hindsight gets smarter the longer we study the old clips, doesn't it? Robbins was ejected from a game in 2001 for kicking Ray Lewis, then got publicly chewed out by Callahan this season for a "completely and totally uncalled for" penalty for hitting a foe. So perhaps Oakland should have added it up and known Robbins wasn't just your average skull-and-crossbones outlaw Raider.
But we still don't know which of several kinds of depression Robbins suffered from, how it was treated or if he still needed or took medication. In the '90s, famous Americans, such as Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes," stepped forward to talk about their battles with depression. That helped destigmatize the disease. However, other forms of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, can correlate with alcoholism or substance abuse.
It's easy to say, and plenty have, that Oakland didn't focus on Robbins the person, just Robbins the player, until after a catastrophe. But don't be too quick to judge unless you've spent time in NFL locker rooms. If you "monitored" every player who ever acted outrageous or abnormal, you'd need 500 bodyguards.
We're still sorting out the testimony of all the "eyewitnesses" to Robbins's desperate odyssey last Saturday. Why did he miss morning and noon meetings? Was he alone in a Tijuana bar that afternoon, chasing shots of tequila with beer? That evening, was he at Moon Doggy's in Pacific Beach, still drinking? Several papers, including The Post, have spoken to people who say so.
Was he alternately happy, then crying, even suicidal? Some, who claim they were there, say that, too. Was he so inebriated he did not even know he'd lost his wallet along the way? The Raiders say they couldn't put him on a plane Saturday because his ID was lost.
All that, however, may be incidental to questions we'll never absolutely answer. Did the stress of the biggest game of his life trigger mental problems Robbins thought he'd left behind? Should he have seen it coming? So, in that sense, is he responsible after all?
There again, we shouldn't be too quick to judge. Robbins coped with the stress required of being an NFL all-pro this season. Isn't that a kind of reality test for your stability? Maybe a Navy SEAL goes through more rigors in six months than an NFL player. But few others do. Why wouldn't Robbins think he was okay?
"We all have stress," said Callahan. "He seemed to handle it very positively in the past."
You'd have a hard time finding an illness with more gray areas than the various mental illnesses that afflict large numbers of Americans. How do you to treat the illness? How much medication is right? Can you stop? How much stress is too much?
And how would you like to have Warren Sapp play on your nose with the whole world watching?
If you root for athletes and sometimes even tell them so, don't spend it all on Michael Jordan. Save a little for Barret Robbins.