I think that, with this comment, J.W. gets at the core of a good third of the baseball debates that go on around here and elsewhere:
I agree that Manny doesn’t deserve adulation or admiration. Neither does A-Rod (for cheating on his wife, etc.) But this brings us to a difficult question regarding entertainment. Can we divorce entertainment from the men and women who play the role of entertainer? Can we like Woody Allen movies and still disapprove of his conduct towards his wife and one-time step-daughter? Can we watch and enjoy Roman Polanski films? Can we listen to Chris Brown’s music? Michael Jackson’s?
I, for one, find it difficult to enjoy the products of people that I know are less than admirable. I had always been a staunch A-Rod supporter until the issues with his wife arose. Now it’s harder for me to watch him bat. And yet, I enjoy baseball and am a Yankees fan. So when he gets a big hit, it’s hard for me not to feel some satisfaction. I happen to enjoy Woody Allen films, but am definitely not completely comfortable watching them. I think Manny Ramirez is not worthy of cheers. But I think that people have the right to want the Dodgers to win, and he’s going to be a part of that and in that capacity—baseball player, hitter, part of a winning team—he’s going to be cheered. It’s a complicated situation, with definite gray areas. The people who send comments to blogs that read “Manny Manny Manny,” are probably morons. But they’re probably morons for reasons other than and in addition to their love of Manny Ramirez. In my opinion rooting for Manny Ramirez, while not something I would do, does not necessarily make you a bad person. Trying to excuse domestic abuse, well that does. I’m not sure it’s fair to equate those two actions.
I can usually ignore the personal baggage and enjoy the entertainment. Usually. “Chinatown” and “Annie Hall” are two of my favorite movies, but I have a much harder time watching “Manhattan” and “Tess.” I guess what that means is that if the performance is really, really good, I’m willing to put aside the baggage. Or heck, maybe it’s all just the performance talking because “Chinatown” > “Tess” and I don’t know that I need to reference Polanski’s issues to not like the latter as much as the former.
But it is worth thinking about. Do those who disapprove of Manny, Manny, Manny (and others) disapprove of the transgression or of the person? Is there even a valuable distinction to be made there? More relevantly, is it possible to enjoy baseball while disapproving of those who play it?
My answer to that last question is an obvious yes, within limits. Steroid use really doesn’t bother me that much from an enjoyment-of-the-game perspective. I enjoyed 1998 and 2001 and all of that stuff, and I’m not now going to pretend I didn’t. I’d have a hard time watching Roger Clemens pitch today, but that’s because of the Mindy McCready business, not the juice. Not that philandering baseball players in general bother me — no one knows what goes on in anyone’s marriage so it’s probably best not to judge too harshly unless you have all of the facts — but Clemens was messing with a kid on an emotional level at the very least.
Let’s see what else: I have no tolerance for domestic violence, so the Brett Myers and Bobby Chouniards of the world can die in a fire as far as I’m concerned. Some of my favorite artists and just about all of my favorite writers were drunks, so while I’d wish people wouldn’t do that to themselves, it’s not going to keep me from enjoying what they do. Pete Rose turned out to be a piece of crap, but if he were playing in 1973 form today and all of that stuff hit the fan I’d enjoy his game until the moment he was banned. Basically, if you avoid violence, cruelty and the mistreatment of kids, I’m probably going to still buy your product even if I wouldn’t seek you out at a party.
I guess that still leaves me conflicted about Polanski. But man, there’s no way I’m going to give up one of my favorite DVDs. Forget it Jake; it’s “Chinatown.”