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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen
Monday, July 06, 2009
I’m cheering for Manny Ramirez.
For weeks now, we’ve had to endure a veritable flood of articles decrying Manny Ramirez and telling us, the paying public, how we should be reacting to the return of the Man-Child from his 50-game suspension. Whether it’s Bill Plaschke unleashing a torrent of sanctimony, matched only by the number of his one-sentence paragraphs, or some retired bridge author writing for the Palookaville Post-Gazette, one can’t help reading an article about Ramirez without being told how to feel, how to think, and how to act about the whole situation.
At what point does the reaction outweigh the crime? When is the counterattack sharper than the original thrust? That’s a philosophical point that everyone has to pretty much settle in their own minds. But for me, that point has been well-passed.
MLB has one of the strongest drug-testing programs, if not the strongest drug-testing program of the major Americanadian sports. Ramirez tested positive under the negotiated drug-testing program of the collective bargaining agreement. There was no slap on the wrist involved as Manny lost some $8 million, sat out for 50 days, and received a tremendous blow to his professional reputation and possibly had his Hall of Fame chances affected.
As far as I’m concerned, we’re now “supposed to” add an exclamation point to his punishment to Manny for supposedly sullying the National Pastime. When does justice become revenge? How do I or any fan or analyst or member of the media have any right to demand an apology when none of us having any right to grand forgiveness? The only people Manny hurt were other players, the true beneficiaries of a negotiated drug-testing arrangement, and his teammates and employers, who were deprived of what he brings to the team. I’m not Frank McCourt or Chad Billingsley, so where would I get off demanding a pound of flesh?
So, what do we make of the fact that Manny has received cheers wherever he goes? I think what we’re looking at is the limited scope of the public’s anger over steroid use. People clearly despise steroid use in the abstract sense or when the roider is a player they don’t particularly like. But when it comes to voting with their feet, the public’s had pretty low turnout and this seems to be the case when voting with the lungs as well.
As long as Ramirez keeps hitting homers, the cheers of the Dodger faithful and fans of Manny will continue. In the big picture, Ramirez broke a physical training rule and paid a steep price. He didn’t throw a game, rob a bank, or murder his girlfriend. Joe Fan didn’t suffer in any way.
It only takes one look at our culture to see how, when push comes to shove, people will frequently overlook the negative aspects of their heroes. Nobody comes out of a Batman movie decrying Bruce Wayne’s lack of reverence for due process of law. Nobody ever left a theatre angry at Michael Corleone’s cold-handed murders of the heads of the other New York crime families. I daresay very few have put down a book unhappy with Raoul Duke’s hedonism, Stephen Dedalus’s impudence, or Thomas Covenant’s abrasiveness. To many Ramirez’s many foibles, of which the drug suspension is only the latest, serve to make him more of a real person than the pre-packaged sheen we see applied to many athletes.
Another strong tendency that sports fans have is to root for the underdog, to root for the powerful over the weak. In this fight, Ramirez is the underdog, a single controversial man who has nothing he can say or do that will please the shrinking-but-still-big mass media industry. New media has made many inroads nationally, but there are still many bully pulpits manned by many Jeff Pearlmans.
I won’t literally be cheering Ramirez as he plays for a different team that I root for and I probably won’t see him play in person this year, but every cheer from every home run he hits, cutting into every demanding sportswriter too lazy to find something new to talk about, is something I definitely find worth cheering. #### ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
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