Such cases have been well documented: In 1985, Don Denkinger handed the World Series Championship directly to the Royals. Some twenty years later, Hall of Famer George Brett revealed to the world his celebratory penchant for soiling himself.
And now, in 2009, Royals ace Zack Greinke hopes to snatch the Cy Young Award from big name, big money pitchers from big markets.
When Greinke wins on Tuesday it will be an historic event. For the first time ever in the history of the franchise, the Royals will be relevant for something other than a bunch of s***.
And that, dear readers, is called crawling out of the gutter… where they will quickly return to on Wednesday.
Hate me ‘cuz I prey on the weak, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
(Image courtesy of Getty Images)
Last year was the year of Josh Hamilton. By the time the All-Star game rolled around, you couldn’t turn on ESPN or hit the internet without running face-first into one of the ubiquitous pieces on Hamilton and his recovery from depression and drug addiction. In fact, I think that my colleague, Mr. Lung, may have actually written the best piece I read on the subject.
However, it seems that our esteemed sportswriters may have missed Jeff’s column because the same thing is happening again. This year’s poster-boy is Zack Greinke and even places like Deadspin have begun to focus on his issues along with those of guys like Dontrelle Willis and define them accordingly.
Now, I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, it is important to destigmatize issues like depression and drug abuse by talking about them. And when athletes come forward and admit even off-handedly that they, too, face these kinds of demons, it’s good for our awareness of the issue. But, when their whole story then becomes boiled down to a point where we see them only as the guy who fought depression or the guy who overcame his drug dependency, we eliminate all the gains and just create a new stigma. They are no longer people. Instead, they become the disease they defeated.
This issue is all the more important because it affects more than just athletes. Thousands of our friends and family members are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan having seen and experienced things that are truly beyond human comprehension. But when the inevitable depression and its symptoms like PTSD and drug abuse start to rear their heads, the stigma keeps them from being able to seek help. This isn’t a new problem. The same thing happened to veterans of Vietnam, the two world wars and as far back as Ajax in Greek mythology.
I admit that I don’t have an answer to this stigmatization problem. If Sophocles couldn’t answer it and the best minds in psychology today can’t figure it out, it’s probably a little out of my range as well. But, it might be nice if from time to time we stopped referring to Greinke’s “amazing comeback” or Hamilton’s “heart-rending journey” and just appreciated them for who they are. A couple of guys who have overcome the same kind of problems that a lot of us face day in and day out and also happen to be able to do amazing things with a baseball.
As the hysteria over swine flu (H1N1 as those in the biz call it) recedes but before it evaporates entirely, I’d like to point something out. The Kansas City Royals are the flu’s baseball equivalent.
For the past couple years the Royals have started off red hot. Like the heat that was generated by all the pundits jabbering away about the possible pandemic. It’s kind of the same thing. People think that this is finally the one, finally the year when it happens. And both have all the markings and possibilities of pulling through.
For instance, they say great pitching wins championships and no one is pitching better than Zack Greinke right now. The Royals have great young talent just like the swine flu has a great new genetic makeup. And as if there weren’t already enough eerie similarities, the Royals haven’t really had any success since the mid-80’s while the swine flu last came a knockin’ in the mid-70’s.
But the sad part (or happy, depending on which one you’re talking about) is that soon enough, just like the flu, the Royals are going to be shown up for the hyperbolic hoax that they are. It’s not their fault. Small market teams, like poor little Piglet in the picture below, really just can’t compete in the current market.
If you ask me, Pooh is pretty much dead on. And soon enough, someone is going to follow his suggestion and put the poor Royals out of their misery. However, there is a bright side and I think that’s where we should focus. Bacon anyone?