The reason I am just some jagoff blogger with a WordPress rather than, I dunno, someone who would want to pursue a life as a professional journalist is mostly simple: money. There isn’t a lot of it out there to pay people to write. I understood this when I was 19, and going to college to study EPJ (Electronic and Print Journalism), the same as I understand it right now.
While that is a fairly large concession to make, inasmuch as some admission that I didn’t believe enough in myself to continue pursuing such a dream — I’m realistic, after all — there were other factors. For one, writing about sports (which is most or all of the value I would be able to offer) only requires about an 8th-grade level. People who generally read about sports ain’t exactly looking for deep thought.
Secondly, with very few exceptions almost everything is access journalism. If you want to continue receiving interviews with the General Manager, or Manager, or star athletes, there is an understanding that you will not soberly criticize them in the paper (or online), even if it’s honest and warranted.
These are sacrifices I wouldn’t be able to make, because it’s impossible to be objective when you have relationships with the people you are paid to cover. This is the problem with American media in general, particularly with regard to the relationships news anchors have with politicians and corporate lobbyists, so it comes as no real shock that it’s the same with sports.
All that said: I buried the lead.
Recently ESPN came out with an article with an interesting headline. It went like this:
Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich asks to be excused from playing. Fairly innocuous, no? Still, I clicked on it, anyway. I can’t help myself. Why would an ace excuse himself from playing during the most important part of the college baseball season?
Then the article started.
Oregon State’s top pitcher, who had been identified as a registered sex offender by The Oregonian, released a statement Friday saying he has asked to be excused from playing.
Heimlich was in uniform and was cheered by fans when he was introduced along with the rest of Oregon State’s players before the game.
“He’s a team guy and in his statement he said that he didn’t want to be a distraction,” [Heimlich’s manager] said. “I can just tell you that he is a fine young man, and every second that he’s been on this campus, on and off the field, he’s been a first-class individual, one that his family should be proud of, your community should be proud of, our team is proud of. I believe in Luke.”
So this is great. Heimlich, who is rated as the #43 overall prospect by Baseball America, and who was ranked number 76 overall by ESPN’s Keith Law — before being removed after the molestation charge came to light — is supported by both his manager and the crowd. A registered sex offender, who took a plea deal for touching a 6 year-old family member, repeatedly, over a two-year span, is already working on a redemption story.
According to Heimlich:
“I understand that many people now see me differently, but I hope that I can eventually be judged for the person I am today. I’m so proud of our team’s accomplishment and don’t want to be a distraction. Therefore, I’ve respectfully requested to be excused from playing at this time.”
I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but sometimes I wish there was a special place reserved for those people who molest children. Some things are simply irredeemable, and this is perhaps the most egregious offense. I make a lot of noise about domestic violence, and how billionaire owners turn a blind to it so long as the player can generate value on the field. But, really, it pales in comparison to the permanent damage inflicted on innocent children.
This is why people who mess around with kids are always the first to go in prison settings. Even behind bars, where there are murderers and rapists and all other manner of criminals, it’s those who cross the line with the most powerless who are at the bottom of the barrel. They are the ones who receive box cutters beneath their doors, usually attached to ultimatums that read some form of: if you don’t do it yourself, we’ll get you when you’re on the outside.
Stories like this are why I could never be a real journalist. There should be no other way to mention Heimlich’s name — not as “ace,” not as “star pitcher” — that doesn’t attach him to being a registered sex offender, preferably written in bold letters, or italics, or all caps, or all of the above.
I’m not saying I wish any ill-will on Heimlich from here on out, and I’m not trying to suggest playing baseball is some sort of privilege that needs purist safeguarding from people like me.
I’m saying being part of society in any capacity should be considered a privilege for this scumbag.
And yet, thanks to capitalism there will very likely be an owner who gives the go-ahead to his GM to draft this guy. Men lie; women lie; but numbers don’t lie. Heimlich is a 3rd-round talent, a starting pitcher, and he’s fucking left-handed for christ’s sake. Now that his draft stock has taken a significant hit, I’m sure there are still many teams willing to take a shot at him in the 10th or 15th round, and at a reduced price than if he was taken in the 3rd round, for instance.
This is basic math, but it is far from moral. Forgive me for punishing a crime that an MLB team has not yet committed, but it’s going to say something about them — and that something is not good. Not good at all. Casual fans should not be forced into a position where they are rooting for wins more than the athletes who are producing those wins; it’s supposed to go in the opposite direction.
I’m not holier than thou and I’ve never claimed to be (despite how some of my closest allies might argue), but the values I want from my sports heroes do not include (1) hitting women or (2) inappropriately touching children. Apologies for having a standard, but those are deal-breakers.
Seriously, drug problems, DUI’s, accepting money from boosters, getting into fights during games… these are all things I can forgive. They don’t automatically make someone a bad person.
Touching kids automatically makes you a bad person. Choking your wife and throwing her through a glass door, or beating up your girlfriend over your pile of guns, or beating up your pregnant girlfriend until she loses the baby… that automatically makes you a bad person. I won’t root for you.
Unfortunately, news outlets like ESPN give cover to the Ray Rice-types, and the Ray Lewis-types, and they will absolutely start writing the redemption stories for this Heimlich guy if he ever does anything at the major league level. It’s unfortunate, and to the maximum degree, that it benefits both the team — for having more palatable players — and the news organizations — for attracting clicks and views — to see this criminal succeed.
The losers, as in most or all situations, are the everyday folks who don’t know any better. They pay to go to the ballpark, and spend real money to support the same teams who support the wife beaters and sexual offenders, and it is their children who are brought up like this is all totally normal.