Mangling The Mang

by on January 28, 2011 · 2 comments

If you saw yesterday’s Daily Pujols, you probably got the drift that Brian Boyd’s piece at The University News didn’t go over well.

Well, naturally, Dennis and I spent some time discussing it and what it meant to Albert Pujols and what it meant to fans of Pujols.

Snark, sarcasm, and dry wit.  All fair game, all perfectly acceptable methods of expression.  There are few sacred cows, lines in the sand, or taboos.  If a generally accepted rule of society can be slightly bent, then curved or angled it shall become.   If a rule is unwritten, then it might as well just not exist (got that, Dallas Braden?).   Boyd’s piece seemed to take on a much stronger tone.  To summarize, his article includes the following:

  1. An unsubstantiated claim that Albert has requested a 10 year deal for approximately $300M
  2. An unsubstantiated claim that the team is looking to offer a 7 year deal for about $196M
  3. An opinion that Pujols needs to put his pride aside, and accept less money for the “good of the game” and because he’s already wealthy
  4. Addresses the poverty level in St. Louis, yet fails to note that the Cardinals still draw over three million fans per season – yet it’s Pujols’ fault that folks choose to spend their hard-earned money going to games
  5. Attempts to put Albert’s salary “demands” in the context of average salaries for other professions (salary data unsourced)

All those things are fine and well, after all much has been (and will continue to be) written about Pujols and his contract situation, so all of this is just another opinion and further rumor chasing – both of which Boyd are free to entertain.  But finally, Boyd couldn’t leave well enough alone:

I’d like to see him, or any other professional athlete for that matter, muster up the courage which the real heroes have to summon on a daily basis. I have a hard time imagining any of these so-called “warriors” having the fortitude to run into a burning building for a mere $50,000 a year. I doubt that half of these overpaid and over-appreciated athletes possess neither the patience nor the compassion to handle a group of four-year-olds with kindness on a daily basis. Last time I checked, some of these guys can’t even take care of their wife and kids.

Really.  Really?  First, as fans, what we ask of him and pretty much all the other professional athletes out there is to keep doing what they are doing.   They obviously have the skill sets required for the jobs they do.  The same might be said for many other people in other professions.   That’s why someone once invented the phrase, “Don’t quit your day job.”   The last time we checked, “real heroes” come in all shapes and sizes, and they aren’t limited to specific professions.   Some firefighters are certainly heroes, and they should be commended for what they do.  Same goes for people in the military, medical professions, and the educational system.   Many of those people certainly are heroes to one or more people.  That doesn’t mean that they all are, though.  Some are alcoholics, racists, and physically or emotionally abusive.  That’s not a knock on the collective bunch of them.  That’s reality.   They aren’t any different than other groups of people.

That’s why the “real heroes” talk gets overblown and hyperbolic.   The guy who operates the garbage truck that picks up Dennis’ trash every Tuesday may be a hero to someone.   He’s probably not going to be on tv and celebrated for what he does anytime soon, but maybe he should be.  He shows up for work and does his thing every single week for 50 weeks a year without fail.   Dennis knows enough about him to know for a fact that he has a family that consists of a wife and 3 kids.   If you asked them, they might consider him a hero, because he goes out and does his job in spite of the weather just to provide for them.

As for how some of those “overpaid and over-appreciated” athletes handle themselves behind closed doors, some things we’ll never know.  Heroism isn’t limited to when the lights are the brightest and when the camera is focused on them.   Sometimes it’s being the one who says “I got it.” when a diaper needs to be changed at 2am.   Maybe it’s not “heroic” in the classical sense, so maybe I’m talking about “practical heroism”.  It could be argued that practical heroes are “real heroes” just the same.  Then again, we live in a world where a “mere $50,000” isn’t exactly pocket change, either.

With that said, there ARE some things we know about these athletes, and about Albert Pujols in particular.  We know about his Pujols Family Foundation, a group whose vision statement reads as such:

To promote awareness, provide hope and meet tangible needs for families and children who live with Down syndrome. To provide extraordinary experiences for children with disabilities and/or life threatening illnesses. To improve the standard of living and quality of life for impoverished children in the Dominican Republic through education, medical relief and tangible goods.

Seems that might qualify Pujols to “handle a group of four-year old kids with kindness,” no?

Further in the statement of the Foundation:

Family: “We did not choose Down syndrome. Down syndrome chose us.” As you may know, Albert and Deidre Pujols have a beautiful daughter with Down syndrome. Since this is so close to their hearts, this Foundation is dedicated to the love, care and development of people with Down syndrome and their families. Our goal is to promote awareness, provide hope and create supportive and memorable events for the families and children who live with Down syndrome.

Hrmm, sounds like he’s “taking care of wife and kids”?  Furthermore, from On The Field With… Albert Pujols by Matt Christopher:

The second thing Deidre told Albert was that she had an infant daughter named Isabella.  Isabella had been born with Down syndrome, a form of mental retardation, and would therefore face many challenges as she grew up.

Many men in their late teens would have turned away from Deidre’s religious convictions.  Not Albert.  He had been raised in a household with strong religious beliefs, so when Deidre asked him to attend church with her, he went willingly.  He soon discovered that going to church with Deidre didn’t feel strange.  In fact, it felt very, very right.

As for Isabella, Albert felt nothing but overwhelming compassion for the tiny girl.  “From the first moment they saw each other,” Deidre recalled, “Albert and Isabella have had a special connection.”

Sure seems like Albert is a hero to Isabella, and likely to Deidre Pujols as well.

The point is this:  Albert Pujols may be the greediest person on the planet.  He may be only in it for the money, and with that as his goal, depart St. Louis just as quickly as the ink dries on a check to play elsewhere.  There’s no problem with that postulate as the basis for Boyd’s article.  But don’t make personal attacks on the guy for the purpose of trying to further your flimsy argument that he shouldn’t try to seek out as much as he can earn, just like anyone else.  Would you turn down a raise, Mr. Boyd?  Particularly if you were clearly the best at what you do amongst those who perform the same job?

Things could get worse before they get better in these negotiations – the process is likely to be contentious (even more so than it may already be) at times.  It’s not fair, regardless of the eventual outcome, to attack Pujols’ character over a contract to play baseball.

Stay above the belt, St. Louis.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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Tom January 29, 2011

Very solid read Dennis – I wish more of these writers would stick to the real issues and refrain from their sensationalism and story telling – it’s really sad that one of the very top players of our time can be blasted in an article like this. Pujols is also a model citizen as you so nicely laid out for us. Go Pujols!! The BEST of our time in the great game of BASEBALL!

Dennis January 29, 2011

Thanks, Tom. Nick gets credit for this one as well. We actually co-authored this one by emailing back and forth draft ideas.

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