Breaking up Is Hard for Fans to Do

Brandon Hensley

You know when something bad happens that affects you emotionally and all you want to do is get away from it? It’s that feeling of, “I wish I were a bear so I could hibernate for a season and wake up later and have it all go away”

If you’re affected by a bad relationship, it depends, but the solution could be just to stay away from that person, and don’t surround yourself with people who may bring them up in conversation. It’s hard, but it’s the way to go.

But if you’re a baseball fan in Los Angeles this month, where exactly do you go to get away from this mess?

To many fans in L.A., Manny Ramirez has turned from being a baseball messiah to a false prophet with one positive drug test. The timing was so cruel too. The Lakers had just won an exciting playoff game against the Houston Rockets, and the Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals to set a Major League Baseball record 13-0 start at home.

Then, just several hours later, as many were just getting into work the next day, news broke of Ramirez’s positive test for a women’s fertility drug called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, which he was using to decrease raised levels of synthetic testosterone in his body.

Ramirez was slapped with a 50-game suspension, including $7.5 million of his $25 million salary this year taken away. But who really suffers more: him or Dodger fans who have to watch Juan Pierre now play left field?

That’s not the best thought in the world, and after my editor rejected my original column idea and suggested I write at least some thing on the Manny situation, all I could think was, “Why? This is absolutely the last thing in the world I want to think about, and now I have to write something on it?”

I spent most of Black Thursday on the couch, covered in blankets, watching the 429 different Sportscenter specials centered on the Manny suspension. All I wanted to do was get out of the house, but I couldn’t look away from the TV.

Maybe a new story will break soon saying this was all a mistake, and that a bitter Red Sox player was the one who slipped a pill into Manny’s drink.

Didn’t happen.

“Sports is just entertainment.” How many times is that said day to day? Only about a thousand, even by people who work at ESPN, like radio host Colin Cowherd.

When the story broke on Black Thursday, on his show Cowherd, called for people to stop e-mailing him with distraught emotions, and basically belittled fans with any attachment to this story. “Love your parents, like sports,” he said.

Fair enough. Anyone who values a professional sports team and its players over friends and family would be wrong to do so, but for crying out loud, is it so wrong to be a little shaken when something like this happens?

When an athlete so many people look up to, for being both a great player and a great personality,someone who revitalized a city, gets caught doing something like this, it is devastating.

Fans may not know Ramirez personally, but it’s OK to admire and respect someone outside of your family tree. And when that person lets you down, and disappoints even himself, yeah, it’s a tough pill to swallow. We aren’t robots.

People who don’t like sports can’t understand what it’s like to watch your favorite team lose a heart-breaking game, because it feels like you lost the game too.

Or in this case, your favorite athlete getting caught violating MLB rules. We were there with him, every game, cheering every home run. The egg is on all of our faces.

But even if you subscribe to the notion that sports are just an escape from real life, well, how then do you escape from the escape? Where do we turn? For the next two months, it’s going to be everywhere, even when it’s not. Know those billboards of Ramirez’s face around town? They are all coming down. When you look up and don’t see them anymore, you’ll think about it.

For the record, I’ve never thought as sports as an escape. I didn’t watch the 2001 World Series to get my mind off of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I watched that series because it was an all-time classic. One of the greatest World Series ever played.

Because I love sports, and it moved me.

If a big earthquake were to hit L.A. in the coming weeks, I wouldn’t run to my TV and yell for Kobe Bryant to save us all and pull us out of our misery, because, well, I do that for every Laker playoff game anyway.

Ramirez is eligible to return on July 3, and by then, it’s a good bet that most fans will have forgiven him. The Dodgers will still be in contention, and having a rested, motivated, and hopefully contrite Ramirez
will put a smile back on all of our faces.

Me? Well, Ramirez may have a tainted legacy now, but he’s no Barry Bonds, and I suppose that’s all that matters to me. The first ball he hits in to the left field pavilion upon his return, I’ll probably be celebrating, relieved that all of this is behind us.

Sports isn’t fantasy. It’s part of life, and I’m tired of worrying about the bad things in life, of being affected by whatever unfortunate event happens to ruin my day this time. I can’t wait to enjoy the good things in life again, like watching Ramirez crush a ball into the stands.

When these dark days are over in a couple of months, let them be gone for good, and let’s embrace what the future holds. Until then, good luck to all of us.