Reacting to ESPN’s “Imperfect” documentary


Back in December of 2009, the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay, Doc, as we’d come to know. I was a young baseball fan still angry at Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and especially Hideki Matsui.

All I knew is that we were getting better with this addition. I really had no idea who Roy Halladay was. The Phillies are in the National League. Young Alec didn’t know many players from the American League.

Within a year, I would never forget Roy “Doc” Halladay. Within a year, I was obsessed with baseball. I couldn’t believe such a pitcher existed. That was when I started learning, started collecting baseball cards. Roy Halladay, on the field, made me the baseball fan I am today.

When I heard that there would be a special on Roy Halladay, May 29th, ESPN, 7 PM, became must-watch TV.

Just watching the preview had me tearing up.

Those tears were released maybe 5 minutes into the hour-long special. Roy Halladay is shown the day he got his ICON A5, the plane he went down in. The first tear fell when Halladay said something along the lines of, “I almost don’t want to fly it. I don’t want it to get dirty.”

That notion felt too ominous, too on the nose for what was to come.

Early in the special, we got a peek into Doc’s early years. We learned of his love of flying at a young age and dedication to baseball. We met his family and his friends as they recapped the years knowing Roy.

Once he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, that team wasn’t addressed except for one thing. The story we all came to know following Doc. How he fell flat on his face when in 2000 posted an ERA over 11 as a starter.

The piece didn’t mention much of his All-Star appearances or 2003 AL Cy Young. It felt weird to gloss over an ace in a division where the Red Sox and Yankees reigned supreme.

ESPN focused more on his time in Philadelphia than Toronto. Fairly enough for the point that, nothing really happened in Toronto. With Philly, Halladay would see peaks that only 19 other men (at the time) and 1 other man (still) had ever seen, throwing the 20th perfect game and 2nd postseason no-hitter.

Those happy memories for Phillies fans switched up quickly as ESPN showed pieces from the 2011 NLDS. For us, we all know how defeated we felt on how game 5 ended. “Imperfect” revealed a new side to that.

Not only was Ryan Howard injured in that series, but Halladay was as well. His wife reveals that something popped in his back (Not specifying whether it was in game 1 or 5). He’d pitch hurt the rest of his Phillies career.

That shocked me to my core. How could someone so hurt pitch like this just 6 months later? Doc would allow hits to the first 2 Pirates and then none for 8 innings.

After that was when we learned that Halladay’s drug use started. It was in the offseason after 2011 with his back pain. An unnamed Phillies teammate recommended he see a certain doctor to get painkillers.

They showed interviews with Halladay’s eyes half glossed over and him barely composing his words. Seeing these interviews again, makes you ask, “How didn’t we know?”.

Kyle Kendrick was the lone Phillies player interviewed. He had the best view of Halladay’s state, being his locker neighbor. Kendrick told of how Roy seemed like he wasn’t ever there.

Halladay would finally seek help in rehab in December of 2013. That would only last for 3 weeks as the quiet Halladay became afraid he’d be noticed once a cellphone was snuck inside the facility.

His retirement from baseball would set the stage from what was to come. He was diagnosed with ADD, Anxiety, and depression and soon began taking medication as treatment. Coaching his kids would help him get through, but it was his love of flying that was the ultimate pick-me-up.

On November 7th, 2017, Roy Halladay had several of those prescriptions in his system when he flew his ICON A5. Watching the events again brought flashbacks to 2017. I was in my college townhouse trying to find any information I could once I heard that Roy Halladay might’ve been in a plane crash.

I wrote this as one of my early pieces with Philly Sports Network, just about an hour after he was confirmed dead. The special included some police bodycam footage of the wreck. My eyes couldn’t hold back the tears when thinking of what wasn’t being shown.

The Phillies’ ceremony in Clearwater was shown and several more interview segments were as well. Of course, his induction into Cooperstown was shown as well. All throughout, I couldn’t help but think, “How strong is Brandy Halladay?”. I think I cried more than she did on camera. To be able to relive those moments and openly talk about them takes a will that I wish I had.

Going into the special, I saw many comments saying how Doc should be left alone and be able to rest in piece. But the special gave us an important message, our sports heroes are human.

Roy Halladay ground for success under immense pressure. We, as fans, had no idea what he was going through. I think that’s important to keep in mind the human aspect. Treat athletes the way you would want to be treated. Understand they could be going through the exact same things as you.

We’re the best fans in baseball. Who’s to say we can’t get better?

Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports