My dad loves the Red Sox and, as my father’s loving son, I love the Red Sox. Following David Ortiz's questionably legal outing from from the closet of the Performance Enhancing Drug Club, I found it difficult to ground my feelings. I can't say I was surprised or shocked. I can't really be angry either.
After a solid 14, maybe 16 minutes of soul-searching I came up with this symbolic anecdote: Imagine that you are a kid again. Eleven, maybe twelve. You live in a fine neighborhood where everyone knows each other and the moms throw potluck dinners and the dads get together to build jungle gyms. All things considered, this is a great place to live. It’s perfect. Simple. Beautiful. Perfect.
Then shit hits the fan. One of the dads, a guy that everyone sort of liked but knew was a bit sleazy, gets caught cheating on his wife. With a mistress he’s had for years. He tries to talk his way out of it to no avail, and his wife divorces him, takes his money and his house, and boots him out on to the street. In a fit of spiteful rage, this guy blows the lid on the crazy mistress-filled coke parties that all the dads in the neighborhood throw once a month, but people think he’s crazy and ignore him.
Then another guy gets busted, and then another, prompting wives towards a clinical level of paranoia and they start a full blown investigation. Eventually, virtually every dad gets implicated. Your best friend's dad. The kid across the street who kicks the shit out of you? His dad spent the past four years knee deep in university co-eds. All of the guys you liked, you respected, you aspired to be like, all of them were adulterous assholes who for no apparent reason lived parallel lives to their picture-perfect ones.
And despite this shit storm, your dad remains clean. Unimplicated. He even goes so far as to chastise the neighborhood fathers for their indiscretions and the worse it gets the more innocent he seems in relation. Then one day you get out of school early. There's a broken water main or a bomb threat. Whatever. You walk home ready to seize the rest of the day with wiffle ball tournaments. You pull the spare key out from under the doormat, but find the door unlocked. The shades are drawn, which is weird. And there in the living room is your dad sitting on the couch, and on the floor in front of him, on her knees, with her back to you, is a woman, not your mom, blowing him.
Your dad looks up from his seat, and you catch his eye. You want to look away in disgust but can't. Your locked stare shares a deep sense of disappointment that neither of you can ignore.
This is how I imagine Big Papi.
I have no strong feelings either way on the use of PED's in professional sports, nor have I ever felt the necessity to come up with a stance on adultery mainly because it never affected me before. Distance allows for such comforts. Other than a disjointed account of HGH abuse by Rodney Harrison, Boston fans enjoyed the luxury of looking down upon those forced to wrangle with the fear, anger, angst, acceptance, and self-loathing that the fans of Rodriguez, Bonds, Giambi, Pettitte, and the like dealt with as they realized their idols were cheating bastards.
And Ortiz was ours, our Big Papi. The happy-go-lucky over-achiever who blasphemed his contemporaries. He advised them to take a leave from the game. He damned them for shaming it, much like I imagined my fictitious cheating father doing. It was ignorant to think he was incapable of the normative behavior that infected this era of baseball. I forewarn those who still hold in idol the few who remain on the pedestal.
That's right, sons of Jeter, Pedro, Griffey. Your shit does stink. And just because guilt by association does not hold up in a court of law, if my Papi punctured his ass with the company chemical along with the rest of the neighborhood, then those other guys probably did too.
I don't say this because I wanted them to. I like those guys and from afar, I root for your idols too, but be wary. I wish I listened, because for the first time I know what it is like during those times when the tables are turned and my dad looks at me with heavy eyes and tells me with weighty truth:
I am not mad. I am disappointed.