Fallen Heroes: A-Rod, Tom Brady, Pacquiao, Special Sauce

Pacquiao cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

People are suing Manny Pacquiao for supposedly not revealing he had a torn rotator cuff before he went into the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. He wasn’t fit to fight, they say. People were cheated out of $300 million (or more, once the final Pay-Per-View numbers roll in—Pacquiao, in losing, got 40 percent of it). It doesn’t seem to matter to anybody that Pacquiao did tell the boxing authorities before the fight that he had an injured shoulder. They had a doctor examine him. They let him fight. Afterward, an examination revealed that Pacquiao had torn his rotator cuff so badly it would, after the surgery, keep him out of action for 10 months. All Pacquiao said after the fight was that he did his best and if he could have gotten Mayweather to stand still more, he might have been able to hit him more. It was not clear whether his shoulder was just wrenched going in and he injured it during the fight or he was just lying. One possibility is he’s taught himself to ignore pain, so he just doesn’t know.

Also in the news this week, a thick report ordered up by the NFL has concluded that there is a guy on the payroll of the New England Patriots who called himself “The Deflator” while texting the Patriots’ locker room assistant. The Deflator says he doesn’t like Tom Brady (the other guy agrees with him,) that he, the deflator, needs a pair of size 11 double-width sneakers before he will do the job and if they aren’t promised to him, Brady will have a football hard as a rock that day. This was the bitter cold Sunday of the game to determine the National Football League championship—the winner would go to the Super Bowl—in which the Patriots demolished the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts, way behind at halftime, said that they’d been told the footballs Brady was using against them were illegally underinflated so they would be easier to handle. The refs checked. The Colts were right. Who coulda done that? The footballs were re-inflated for the second half, but it made no difference. The Colts had been spooked and the game was out of reach.

The report’s conclusion was that “more likely than not, Tom Brady knew about the deflating of footballs.”

People will stand up for Brady, though, as they would stand up for any sports hero until they can see the truth with their own eyes. Call it the “Say it ain’t so, Joe” syndrome. Back in 1919, Chicago White Sox baseball player “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, along with some of his teammates, threw the World Series so the other team won, and when a kid asked if it was really true that he threw the World Series, Jackson allegedly lowered his head and told the kid that, yes, unfortunately, it was. And that was the end of Joe Jackson and the others and their careers. They are not in Cooperstown today, but are relegated to the third ring of Hell somewhere. As they should be.

And remember Mark McGwire? No? He was a big, free-swinging, muscle-bound hulk of a baseball player who, in 1998, broke Roger Maris’s home run record wide open by hitting 70 home runs in one season. (Babe Ruth had hit 60 half a century before. Roger Maris broke it with 61, just sneaking by in 1961.) Nobody remembers McGwire, though, because after retirement he admitted, in public—and now he was just a flabby older guy—that he was taking performance-enhancing drugs when he broke the record. Another ballplayer, opening his mouth, in the third ring of Hell today.

On the other hand, returning from the third ring of Hell this past week was Alex Rodriguez, another disgraced baseball player who DID reveal his cell phone records, so anyone could hear him talking in his own words, to his drug supplier. What a disaster. Yes, he did it. He took performance-enhancing drugs. And everything he said before the public learned of his cell phone records, his lawsuits, denials and appeals to the fans was a lie.

But now there is the matter of his $6 million bonus. The Yankees, after his one-year suspension, took him back, listened to his heartfelt apology to the players and fans, said all was forgiven, and made him their designated hitter so he could bring his career total for home runs up to 660, at which time he was to be eligible to receive a $6 million bonus.

So here it is, he’s been forgiven, given the opportunity, did the deed up in Boston by lacing one over the Green Monster, which is the leftfield wall, having his crowds of fans go wild, and now they say they won’t pay him the $6 million bonus. He was on the sauce when he hit many of his earlier home runs. So they don’t count, it seems.

They shouldn’t give A-Rod the $6 million for hitting 660 home runs. But they should instead give him the $6 million for doing something that was perhaps even more remarkable. He defeated the third ring of Hell rule. He’s 39 years old, way over the hill. He’s had one year of not playing baseball, and he comes back, supposedly all elderly and out of condition, and now without the sauce he hits the home runs. This was certainly a surprise to me. I thought, when spring training came, that he’d fall flat on his face. But here he is and he did it. He should get $6 million for being the comeback kid.

Another thing is that, now with everybody off steroids, the game has declined into the third ring of Hell in boredom. A big hitter gets up, and he strikes out. Another big hitter gets up and he strikes out. The number of runs scored has declined. The number of home runs hit has declined. Baseball officials are coming up with all sorts of cheerful new ideas about how to make baseball fun again. They want to shorten the time between pitches. They want to shorten the time for warm-ups when a new pitcher comes in. They want to shorten the time for when the batter steps out of the batter’s box. But they won’t bring back the sauce. And that, in the end, might cost them.

I’d like to end this account by talking a little bit about Popeye. He was a sailor man who worked down on the docks. His girlfriend, Olive Oyl, would get attacked by bad guys, he’d run to her aid and get knocked out, beat up and kicked out of the bar. Then he’d go home, eat some spinach and now, with big muscles, especially on his forearms, he’d stride back into the bar, find these bad guys still messing with Olive Oyl—they’d had no spinach—and he’d hit them so hard they’d fly off to Timbuktu.

And Olive Oyl, clapping her hands in front of her beautiful chest, would say, “Oh, Popeye, you’re my hero.” And he was.

Two days ago, the Commissioner of the NFL announced his decision about Tom Brady, the New England Patriots and the great deflation. Tom Brady will be suspended for four games without pay (almost $2 million), the Patriots will lose their first round draft choice for 2016, their fourth round draft pick for 2017 and be fined $1 million. All this for “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL”

They are not, however, bringing back the Sauce.

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