Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Monsters We Create, We Deserve...

What is the difference between Bernard Madoff and Manny Ramirez? They are cheaters on opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of importance. One man dedicated his life's work to enriching himself, his family and close friends/associates while stealing billions of dollars from unwitting investors, leaving many penniless, their lives ruined beyond repair.

As a psychopath, Madoff will never show the amount of remorse commiserate with his crimes. How could he? The scale, breadth and depth are beyond what we are capable of grasping. One thing we are pretty bad at is empathy, and the bigger the catastrophe the less we care. That is human nature.

Ramirez, on the other hand, committed no such crime against his fellow citizens. All he did was test positive, but for what? The only thing we know for certain is that his testosterone/epitestosterone levels were 4 to 10 times higher than normal, which suggests some pharmaceutical hank-panky was going on.

The details don't matter. What matters is that during the first couple of weeks of his suspension, he was on pace to get the most votes for the 2009 All-Star game. Mannywood, the section in Dodger Stadium dedicated to him in right field, has reopened and will go back to selling fake Manny dread-style wigs and overpriced Ramirez replica jerseys. This section has been renamed to celebrate all things Manny and sell a product-the comic book character created in Boston that everyone refers to as "MANNY BEING MANNY"...

This "MANNY BEING MANNY" persona has been labeled an "idiot savant", a care-free, charismatic play-dough character come to life whose only concern is hitting a baseball and occasionally catching one if one is hit his way. And if he fumbles a routine fly ball, well that's part of his shtick isn't it? Any defensive miscues will be forgiven with a mighty swing of the bat.

Going into the Green Monster for a bathroom break during a game?

Playing a fly ball like one of the Keystone Cops?

Irrational demands to be traded?

Announcing to the media after a playoff game that if they don't win, "tomorrow is another day"?

That's just Manny Being Manny. It's his world, and we're just watching him live in it as he bemusingly wonders why people don't have anything better to do with their time.

But somewhere along the line things changed. Ramirez, the happy-go-lucky Dominican schmoo with the Hall of Fame swing, turned into an asshole of unprecedented proportions. He wouldn't run out routine ground balls. He flung the Red Sox traveling secretary to the floor(a man in his 60's, mind you) because he couldn't come up with the number of tickets Ramirez requested so his people could attend a game. He faked injuries and would forget which leg to limp off of. Manager Terry Francona was not allowed to say anything to this preening prima donna, so he did the only thing he could do-he bit his tongue and pretended the problem did not exist to the point where he was suffering from massive ulcers that went unreported in the press.

Lord only knows what other stunts Ramirez was pulling that got him removed from Boston, all because they would not discuss picking up his contract option for the forthcoming year. But those stories may never be revealed due to the "sanctity of the clubhouse" mantra that baseball players stake their very lives on. And now he becomes LA's headache.

But is it really a headache having an unrepentant cheater to cheer for when it is obvious that neither he nor his fans really care? Does it matter that he has defrauded the very game that made him rich beyond his wildest dreams without a hint of remorse?

Au Contraire. It wasn't the game that made him rich, it was we the baseball fans. And with the colossal sense of entitlement we bestowed upon him, he knows that regardless of how he behaves he still gets this... long as he keeps doing this...

In his latest press conference, Ramirez obnoxiously smirked at reporters, mocking his fans and anyone who loves the game of baseball by refusing to answer questions about his drug use, all the while smugly smacking his lips with every sip of water loud enough to be picked up by the microphone he derisively sat away from. He left over 7 million dollars go down the drain and came back snickering about the suspension like it was no big deal. Because in Mannywood, it's not.

He will continue to reap the rewards bestowed upon him by a morally vacuous, hypocritical, idol-worshiping society that sought to "support" Ramirez through this very trying time as if he were somehow the victim in all this. We will continue to manufacture kings out of court jesters once Manny is gone from the public eye. We will continue to forgive him for doing the very things we would claim as moral outrages if they were perpetrated by say, a neighbor or a best friend.

In the end, Ramirez and Madoff have learned the same lesson-that nothing you do to achieve fame and wealth can really be taken away because they know we wish we could be them. We'd sell our souls to the Devil to live their lifestyle for one day. They are morally repugnant human beings, no doubt-but it is we who are worse for granting them immunity from ever having to develop a conscious by forgiving their sins as long as they gave us a glimpse into a lifestyle of celebrity, hubris and excess that we continue to salivate over ever since Robin Leach brought us the show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous".

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