The Curse of the Mannino

In December 1919, after a series of on- and off-the-field incidents that had to make you wonder what the reform-school orphan was taking, the Boston Red Sox professional baseball club sold pitcher/outfielder George Herman Ruth to the New York Yankees. As every citizen of Red Sox Nation knows, Babe Ruth led the then-moribund Yankees to fame and fortune, while the Red Sox pinballed from “hard luck” to disaster. Thanks to the notorious “Curse of the Bambino“, the Red Sox wouldn’t win a [gasp, choke, wheeze] “World” Series until 2004 – 85 years after Ruth was dealt to New York (and 86 years after their previous Series win).

In July 2008, after a series of on- and off-the-field incidents that had to make you wonder what the Dominican superstar was taking (vide infra), the Red Sox traded outfielder Manuel Aristides Ramírez Onelcida to the Los Angeles Dodgers. As every citizen of Red Sox Nation knows, Manny Ramírez is part of a newly-minted baseball juggernaut in Los Angeles, while the Red Sox struggle to score runs, and appear to be headed for a new Slough of Despond, a new Curse – The Curse of the Mannino.

But this new Curse threatens to take away, not only the future, but also the past. The past that, so the city of Boston used to think, had finally exorcised the Bambino’s curse. The past that includes two World Series wins – wins that were, it now appears, made possible only by illegal injection.

In a poignant – and prescient – article back in May 2009, sports columnist Bill Simmons (of ESPN) imagined the agonies of having to explain to his son how it was OK for the Red Sox to win the 2004 Series when at least two of the team’s headline stars (Ramírez, David Ortiz, Pedro Martínez) were cheating. In May, Simmons was speculating, based on the 50-game suspension for substance abuse that Ramírez was then serving. Today (30 July 2009), what Simmons entitled “his worst nightmare” seems to be coming true.

Or maybe it’s his second worst nightmare.

After all, the son, instead of peppering his father with barbed questions, could have shrugged his shoulders and said, “So what?”

That’s what a lot of folk who write in to the sports websites have been saying about this revelation, indeed the whole “steroids in sports” topic. At least, those folk whose comments the sports websites will let you see. “So what? Who cares what these guys are shooting, so long as we get to see the home runs on SportsCenter. Bring on the homers!”

A horrible attitude, you say? Careful that what you say matches what you do.

Do you go to professional baseball games? Do you watch them on television, follow their websites online, sign up for Red Sox Nation? You’re saying “So what?” to the steroid issue. Along with the millions of people who have been hearing all about it and have still been packing the stands and driving the TV ratings up. Unless you live in New York, where the damned gall of the stadium owners finally got to be too much for even you to swallow.

Do you wring your hands with the preacher at church about the plight of sweatshop workers, and shop at Wal-Mart and Target anyway? You’re saying “So what?” to those $1 a day sneaker makers.

The professionals in business are professionals for a reason. They know how to make money. They know that a million pious words are instantly negated by one swipe of the magic plastic. They will sell you that balloon mortgage because they know they can.

And it’s not their fault. Because, not only can they, they have to. Or the people who own stock in their company will sniff an infinitesimal drop in the company’s profits (read their dividends), and drop those stocks like primed grenades. Bring on those homers, baseball guys, or we’re watching football gridiron. Or American Idol.

There is, has been, and will be a lot of pious folk blaming The Big Cheeses for steroids in baseball, the economic downturn, all that stuff. It’s not their fault.

It’s ours.

And, your friendly neighborhood Amoeba suggests, it will continue to be our fault. Unless and until the day comes that sports owners field teams in which the players are clean of drug cheaters, rapists, racketeers, etc. etc. Because crime doesn’t sell.

Until the day comes that supermarket checkout stands stock Scientific American because that magazine sells, and Cosmopolitan doesn’t.

Until the day comes that television news programs actually report the news, because in-depth reporting of the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict sells, and fourth-hand rumors of possible child molestation by a priest who was 90 years old in 1956 do not.

As it is, we now have the world that we have made for ourselves. A world of baseball players who have learned that the ka-CHINGs of the cash registers easily drown out the screams of agony from parents whose children have died from steroid abuse. That it is how it is, is no one’s fault but our own.

And we can all go to hell in it together.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.


  1. No, N, I hadn’t, and now I wish I hadn’t.

    Sounds to me like it was fine and dandy for Michael Phelps to score off everybody so long as he had the superest suit in town, but now that his sponsor’s lost the lead in technology, it’s definitely not OK and his people are suiting … er, suing.

  2. What, what, Dawg? You dare to question Saint Epstein? Abash thyself, sirrah, lest the Theocracy exile you to the Nationals.

    (It is amazing how We the People of the Land of the Free are just fine with a tyrannous dictatorship, so long as it wins. The Germans in 1939 felt the same way.)

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