David Ortiz Reminds Us Why Sports Matter

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David Ortiz Reminds Us Why Sports Matter
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There’s an Aerosmith song that begins with the lyrics, “There’s something wrong with the world today...”

Never before have truer words been spoken.

The United States is caught in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Millions of people are jobless. The Fed expects the unemployment rate to reach a staggering 9.6 percent.

Far too many families have lost or are losing their homes.

Seniors, on the verge of retirement, have seen their nest eggs vanish in the stock market. They are now left to ponder how they’ll survive the rest of their days.

Sports, now more than ever, are so crucial to so many.

They provide an escape, if only for a few hours, from the constant strain of daily life.

Sports have always had a way of returning grownups to their youth.

In their simplest form, sports are a metaphor for so many of society’s good traits: Teamwork. Striving for a common goal. Hard work. Loyalty. Respect. Sportsmanship.

Fans beam with pride over their teams’ accomplishments, and they suffer on the inside with their teams’ failures.

Athletes are heroes to many a sports fan, young and old.

For Boston Red Sox fans, there has been no bigger hero this decade, and in some cases, ever, than David Ortiz.

To Red Sox Nation, Ortiz is more than just a power hitter. He’s been a main cog in Boston’s offense for the past six seasons. He’s feasted on Yankee pitching to no end at the mere sight of the pinstripes. He has an uncanny knack for delivering in the clutch time and time again.

Ask any Sox fan, and he or she will tell you no game is out of reach for Boston if Ortiz is due up in the ninth.

Ortiz has collected 16 walk-off hits in over six-plus seasons with the Red Sox. Ten of those hits left the yard.

Three of those game-enders happened in the 2004 playoffs. Of those three, two came in Games Four and Five of the ALCS, as Boston stared down the barrel of elimination against their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees.

Ortiz is a baseball god who helped lift a long-suffering fanbase to never before imagined heights, all while carrying the hopes and dreams of Red Sox Nation on his broad shoulders.

But mostly, David Ortiz is our guy. He’s one of us.

Make no mistake—the sports world has had its share of maladies, too.

O.J. Simpson now sits in a jail cell where he could very well spend the remainder of his life.

Michael Vick, a hero of many of a youngster, was just released from prison.

Other athletes, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, armed with egos and arrogance levels exceeded in size only by the financial figures associated with bailout funds, are practically daring the federal government to incarcerate them.

Alex Rodriguez, an admitted PED user, returned to a hero’s welcome from Yankee fans. While all may be well again in the Bronx, A-Rod’s legacy is permanently tarnished.

Another hitting savant, Manny Ramirez, currently serves a 50-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs.

If that isn’t enough, during the offseason, Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras—perhaps the most despised agent in all of sports—scoffed at a contract offer that exceeded eight figures per year.

They felt insulted. Poor babies. Try telling that to the millions of people currently collecting unemployment checks and scraping by to pay the mortgage and put food on the table.

Matt Jones of the Jacksonville Jaguars was busted on cocaine possession. An NFL player who has the world by the throat, and he’s messing around with cocaine. Yes, cocaine.

Buffalo Bills fans are now embracing the arrival of Terrell Owens.

Sure, T.O. is saying all the right things. But like he did in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Dallas, he’ll act up. Owens will open his enormous pie hole and transform into the locker room disturbance he excels at being. Maybe we’ll be treated to some shirtless sit-ups in his driveway again as his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, justifies his behavior.

The list of sporting knuckleheads is endless.

Yes, there’s plenty wrong with the sports world. But there’s an abundance right about it too.

Enter, David Ortiz.

Throughout baseball circles and to fans everywhere, Ortiz is known as "Big Papi."

He’s the type of player that Boston fans feel like they know, even though very few of them ever will.

But his struggles at the plate this season have been well documented.

Entering Wednesday night’s game against Toronto, Ortiz was homerless on the season through 133 at-bats. That string stretched to 147 at-bats dating back to the end of the 2008 campaign.

Boston manager Terry Francona sat Ortiz for the entire series in Seattle last weekend, just to let him clear his head and hopefully get his mind right.

With each strikeout, groundout, or popup, Ortiz grimaced with disappointment and frustration.

So when Papi strode to the plate with one out in the fifth inning Wednesday night, the fans stood and roared, almost as if they could will their hero to go deep.

With a count of 1-1, Ortiz unleashed a mighty cut upon Toronto pitcher Brett Cecil’s offering.

As the ball ripped a path through the Boston night, fans instantly leaped from their seats, hands raised triumphantly, and cheered in unison.

The Fenway faithful watched as the ball landed in the camera well in straightaway center field, over 400 feet away. With one swing of the bat, the streak was over.

Ortiz, to his delight and that of his teammates and fans, had just crushed his first home run of the season. And if you know anything about the dimensions of Fenway Park, Big Papi was not cheated on that swing.

A British sports writer named Brian Glanville once wrote the following:

“That is why athletics are important. They demonstrate the scope of human possibility, which is unlimited. The inconceivable is conceived, and then it is accomplished.”

Given Ortiz’ history of late-game heroics, is there a quote more suitable for Papi than that?

Doubtful.

Will Wednesday night’s eruption restore the thunder in Ortiz’ mighty bat? Time will tell.

But, at least for one evening, a sports hero stood up to be counted. And in the process, he reminded us all why sports matter.

For Papi’s legion of fans, it wasn’t a moment too soon.

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