2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Tony Gwynn’s death has me reconsidering my addiction to chewing tobacco

Published: June 18, 2014, 1:43 pm, by interns

By Quentin Sickafoose


Every single person has been guilty of something they’re not proud of at one point or another. And if anyone claims they haven’t, they’re lying.

I’d like to think that I’ve made a handful of good decisions for each one I wish I could take back over the course of my life. At the top of that list sits the choice I made at age 15 when I tried chewing tobacco for the first time.

I know, I know. Gross. Believe me, there’s nothing new to be said that countless amounts of people over the past eight years haven’t already told me. The sad truth is that my habit of cycling through cans of dip is about as regular to the sun rising and setting.

My addiction is something I’m forced to live with every day. And I’ll be honest that many of them pass without a care at all while some are filled with hopeless feelings. However, the latter has grown exponentially in the last two days.

My fears became a reality Monday morning when the news was broken to me that a familiar face from my childhood had passed away from salivary gland cancer, and that it was more than likely linked to his persistent use of chew.

Born and raised as a Rockies fan, I had every reason to dislike San Diego Padres star Tony Gwynn. He joined forces with Colorado’s divisional rival in 1982, but his 20-year career was at its pinnacle during the time I was developing a love for baseball.

Those memories of being glued to the TV, watching the left-handed slugger take the plate with a fat lip and hoping that he’d strike out in between launching streams of brown spit from his mouth have revisited me since Monday — and, for once, have led me to give honest thought to my own battle I’m currently fighting.

I have a list of reasons validating my choice to chew that seems like a mile long.

I didn’t want to be the outcast in a group of my high school friends who were all partaking. Packing my lip full of nicotine helps me focus and deal with the stresses of writing under deadline. Heck, sometimes I even feel like chewing tobacco allows me to make connections when I share the press box with established sports writers who carry spit bottles next to their laptops.

But I’ve never honestly tried to come up with a reason not to — not until Monday.

Gwynn passed away at an eye-opening age of 54. He left behind his brother, wife, two children and three granddaughters. Needless to say, my feelings toward Tony Gwynn have taken a completely different direction within the last 48 hours.

It was a change of heart so drastic that my routine of waking up and going to the nearest gas station to buy my daily dose of Copenhagen didn’t happen Monday morning. Or Tuesday morning. And I’m happy to write that Wednesday morning held the same result.

Is this me calling it quits? More than anything, I’d like to say yes. Could I have given into my temptations by the time you read this? Unfortunately, that will forever remain a possibility. One certainty in all of it is that Gwynn’s death has me thinking about my addiction to chewing tobacco in a whole new light.

Whether it’s the life of a major league All-Star or terrible habit lasting nearly a decade, all powerful things will come to an end one day. And I’m going to do my best to be on the winning side.

Quentin Sickafoose is a Colorado Springs native and senior journalism student at Colorado State University. Follow him on Twitter @QSickafoose.