Saturday, December 24, 2005

Damon and Pity Us

Now she found herself in the fast lane livin’ day to day
Turned her back on her best friends, yeah
And let her family slip away
Just like a lost soul
Caught up in the hollywood scene
All the parties and the limousines
Such a good actress hiding all her pain
Trading her memories for fortune and fame
Just a step away from the edge of a fall
Caught between heaven and hell
Where’s the girl I knew a year ago
--Fallen Angel, from Poison

I don't have a problem with Damon taking the most money, whether it's from the hated Yankees, the Red Sox, the Orioles, or the Hanshin Tigers. What irritates me, and probably much of Red Sox Nation is Damon dissembling the love of money under the cloak of lack of respect or commitment from the Red Sox.

Johnny Damon becomes one of the highest paid baseball players on the planet. Perhaps he grew up dirt poor, or had to drive a cab in the summer as a teenager, or sweat under the hot sun doing construction. In other words, he had to work for a living like the rest of us. So he took a better job for more dough. Where's the beef?

As usual, players lack either the dignity or the candor to disclose the bald-faced truth, nothing substitutes for a fat paycheck. Like Pedro Martinez, Damon departs for more cash with less dignity.

Trashing the organization on the way out the door becomes the standard, not the exception. Damon revealed himself to be something less than a paragon of virtue, and while we celebrate him as a ballplayer, we can hardly recommend him as a sportsman. If the organization needs to be vilified, leave that to us.

Professional athletes don't have to be role models. They don't have to take the hometown discount, but maybe occasionally, rarely, they could reveal the unfettered truth, "I took the highest offer," or "the money mattered most" rather than the drivel we always hear about respect, communication, or the dog ate my homework excuses.

Sure Sox fans can contrive excuses "marry a high maintenance woman and you'll end up selling your soul to the devil," "management fell asleep at the switch," or "being a Red Sox fan has always resembled Greek tragedy." Even free agency has its costs, as sports reveals not only characters but character. We can debate Johnny Damon's worth to either the pecuniary pinstripers or the Red Sox ad nauseam, but we hold certain truths to be self-evident, it was all about the money.

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