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So, when is it OK to miss the birth of your child?

  • Ravens' Super Bowl-winning QB missed son's birth for game
  • 'That's terrible! Shame on him!' Well, not so fast...
So, when is it OK to miss the birth of your child?

Editor's Note: Jonathan Anker is the editor of's Parenting and Digital Life sections. He is also on Twitter.

It is inevitable. Every time a pro athlete retires, we hear the same thing:

"I just think it's time for me to step away from the game. I'm looking forward to letting my body rest and I can't wait to just spend more time with my kids in retirement."

Wait, can you repeat that for me? That last part?

"...I can't wait to just spend more time with my kids in retirement."

Right, but must these guys wait until then?

Super Bowl-winning dad Joe Flacco was back out on the field on Sunday, quarterbacking his Baltimore Ravens. The same as he was the Sunday before, when he missed the birth of his second child. That day was the Ravens home opener and the team's leader decided to spend it with the family -- his football one, not his actual one.

Flacco's wife went into labor and delivered a son shortly before kickoff, with her mother by her side. He received updates on his phone while nervously strolling around the sideline and locker room. Not quite the same as pacing back and forth in the delivery room, though there is plenty of terrifying screaming in both environments.

Intentionally missing the birth of your child seems like an unthinkably pathetic thing to do. What else could possibly be so important? But Flacco may get more slack than most for experiencing the joy of fatherhood via cell phone.

He has the pressure that comes with having just signed a massive 6-year $120-million contract that plenty of folks said he didn't deserve, the scrutiny of being the face of an NFL franchise and the burden of a season-opening beat-down by the Denver Broncos.

Also, football is weird. It's a massive, self-important universe unto itself that rewards unwise sacrifice ("Game ball goes to Bob today, who refused to let that massive internal bleeding slow him down!") and scolds kindness.

If Flacco had skipped the game and the defending Super Bowl champions opened the season 0-2 without the guidance of their "overpaid" quarterback, how many of the millions of critics which populate Football America would say, "Well, the Ravens may be a disgrace, but ain't it nice how Joe was there for his baby's birth?"

Probably one. Assuming Dana Flacco got a vote.

Faced with an identical situation in July, PGA golfer Hunter Mahan pulled an anti-Flacco. Mahan's wife went into labor while he was competing in a tournament, and he walked straight off the course once he got the call. And Mahan was leading the tournament. Which had a $1 million prize!

Asked about Mahan's decision, Flacco told CNN's Rachel Nichols, "It is a little bit different. When he leaves a tournament he's affecting, you know, himself. I have a big-time responsibility to this organization and this football team and my job as a quarterback is to show up for your team."

In other words, there's more pressure and responsibility; two things that any father, like Flacco, already knows a few things about. And, for a guy whose unibrow already draws him unflattering comparisons to Bert from "Sesame Street," additional scrutiny was not something Flacco needed.

So between the quarterback and the golfer, we've established that game-day conflicts for professional athletes are a bit of a gray zone when it comes to mandatory childbirth attendance. So are there any situations in which it is definitely OK to be a no-show for perhaps the most profound and significant event of your life?

Jury duty? A critical job interview? New iPhone/"Star Wars" movie/Black Friday? The bar exam? The "Breaking Bad" series finale?

Yeah, probably none of them. Lots of explanation and fallout would certainly accompany a couple of those, but highly unlikely it's any more than would already take place when informing your partner she's gonna be pushing solo. "BRB, TTYL, XO!"

But, wait, wait! One more hypothetical: What if you're an NFL quarterback (yes, again) about to make your first career start? No, there's no mega-contract to justify or expectations borne of Super Bowl success. But this is still the biggest, most high-profile day of your professional life.

Well, fortunately for Cleveland Browns' quarterback Brian Hoyer we never found out. He was under center Sunday for the first time when the Browns played at Minnesota. His wife wasn't there because she's reportedly nine months pregnant. The call never came.

Somewhere in Baltimore, Joe Flacco can't believe Hoyer's luck.

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