In Newjack, his account of working as a guard at New York's Sing Sing prison, Ted Conover writes of the travails of corrrectional officer work.
Being "society's proxies," is a difficult job. Conover recounts a story of the ice-breaking joke told by a trainer to the cadets seeking to become COs in the New York State system in the 1990s.
"What's the first three things you get when you become a CO?" the trainer asks. The punchline was: "An car. A gun. A divorce."
Gallows humor, to be sure. The (relative) financial security represented by the car comes from excersing power (the gun) in a soul-sapping system of incarceration. The relentless cops-and-robbers role-playing takes a toll not only on the officer, but on his or her family. Hence the inclusion of divorce in the bitter joke.
I was reminded of this Conover material when reading press accounts over the weekend of the death of Derek Boogard, the former on-ice enforcer for the Minnesota Wild hockey team. According to the Star Trib, the guy was a sweetheart off the ice.
On the ice, however, he took on the role of tough guy. Boogard scored only three goals in his six-year career. But he carved out a niche for himself as a fighter in a fast, violent sport - a niche that his skating and puck handling skills alone would not have merited.
Boogard was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment at the age of 28. Though his history of history of concussions may have been a factor in his untimely death, the press also reported that he had entered the NHL's substance abuse program.
What follows is purely speculation on my part. But could it be that Boogard had trouble squaring his on-ice fighter role with the good guy he sought to be in every other realm? If so, Boogard's problems with substance addiction may have reflected a split personality in need of integration.