Hey all, I've just got done reading Bill Simmons story about Manny Ramirez's suspension (very moving piece, I recommend any baseball fan or sports fan read it). It got me thinking not just about Manny, but about team's futures, specifically my Detroit Lions.
As I read Simmons poignant piece, two thoughts entered my mind: "Holy crap, if the Red Sox were willing to go that far to win and the fans just put on blinders, how far would I accept the same level of PED(performance-enhancing drug) use on my Lions?" and "Where do I go from here, as a baseball fan?"
But first things first. As this article is about Manny, let me first react to the news.
Wow, am I blown away. It was one thing for Bonds, Clemens, and A-Rod to test positive (although I loved all three guys, I knew deep down, with the way they acted, they we're all a little fake and possibly bad guys).
But Manny seemed different.
Like Bret Favre, he seemed like a Babe Ruth reincarnate, someone who plays with the love and glee of a child, loves his teammates, and has integrity and ambition when it comes to the game of baseball(even if they don't show that same dedication in their personal lives).
Now I'm forced to accept this, despite all those things probably being true about Manny; pure and simple, he is a cheater.
I honestly thought I'd be more equipped to handle this. I mean, all those other guys had signs of shadiness: Bond's arrogance, Clemens suddenly going from washout to Hall of Famer, and A-Rod's timidness and insecurity. Heck, even Favre once battled alcoholism and an addiction to pain killers(only coming back from the two after almost getting kicked out the league and after his wife gave him an ultimatum).
Manny showed none of these traits, not the insecurity or arrogance and not the addictive personality. He seemed too stupid to cheat, and maybe that's my and many sports fans' problem. We simply underestimated Manny.
Anyone who watched him play knows that underestimation was a mistake.
Now, on to why this scares me to death: Baseball, the Boston Red Sox and Red Sox Nation let this all happen in front of them without a peep. Why? Because they desperately just wanted to see their team win again before they died!
We all know about the shady histories of Manny's teammates, but desperation is a scary thing, it can lead to to temporary happiness, and it can also lead to emptiness.
How does this relate to the Lions? Very simply, I am afraid because I can relate to Red Sox fan's desperation.
I have been a Lions fan my whole life, I can still fondly remember(albeit foggily) watching Barry Sanders dominate and dazzle in a Lions uniform. I have studied their history, and I appreciate the few legends we have (Bobby Layne, Charlie Sanders, Lem Barney, Barry Sanders, etc.)
I've even joked that if the Lions ever won a Superbowl, the state of Michigan would cease to exist because the joy of seeing a Lions championship would cause Michiganders to lose their minds and burn this great state to the ground.
And I am seriously pissed ESPN honestly hired Matt Millen as one of their analysts (more on a later date).
Why? Because I'm a sports fanatic, and because nothing hurts more than losing. Maybe you can't relate to this.
Maybe you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, or a San Francisco 49ers fan, or a fan of any prestigious franchise that may have reached rock-bottom but has not yet reached the point of desperation.
Now this is relevant for two reasons: 1. We all know, like baseball, steroid use in football has often been overlooked and ignored, and when football players test positive we typically buy their often weak and shady excuses(Shawn Merriman, anyone?) 2. Football fans are just as rabid and willing to overlook things in the name of a ring, as we have seen with the many stories about old NFL championship teams allegedly cheating as early as the 70s.
The Lions now have what they feel is a good recieving core, a franchise quarterback, and offensive and defensive lines best described as "atrocious".
Now this is merely speculation, but who's to say that the Lions, instead of building their team slowly, with smart drafts, great coaching and management and fans that are patient decide instead, "Hey, let's just jack up our lines with roids, get a ring, get the fans off our backs, and all just have a grand ole time!"
And the scary part is not that this is dispeciable and underhanded. No, what's scary is I'd probably actually be fine with this.
Yes, I said it. I've tried to fight this feeling for a long time, as my favorite players drop by the wayside with positive drug tests; but if the Detroit Lions cheated to win, I would ignore it, in fact, if I was a working professional journalist right now, I might even ignore it.
That's what desperation feels like. Wanting something so badly that you are willing to discard everything you believe in just for a chance to feel what it's like to be on top. And it's a feeling I know all too well from my sports fandom and my own love life.
There was a point when I was younger, and even now,, where I'd give anything to be that guy who has the ten on his arm, every guy likes, and is the center of the room.
Heck, that's probably why I love athletes and following their lives, their triumphs, and even their failures.
And I guess that's why I joined this site and still continue to follow sports passionately till this day. In the end, I'm still just a guy, desperately not wanting to feel invisible anymore.
And I think that's also why I love the Lions so much and always seem to want to root for the underdog. It's the invisible little kid in me just desperately wanting to come out.
It just goes to show you just when you think you have yourself and the world figured out, it drops a bomb on you and you learn something new.
I'll eventually come to one day accept myself and the steroids era of baseball, but until then, I guess I'm just stuck with a jigsaw puzzle that I can't seem to figure it out.
And the funny thing is I wouldn't have it any other way.
Philip Powell is an obsessiveve fan. His obsession include movies, sports and comics. He is currently a student at CMU studying journalism. He can be reached here or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org(though I'd add a byline for this one)