One of the biggest changes in my philosophy about writing and reporting over the last decade involves athletes and their off-the-field views. I don't write about sports, I write about people is what I used to tell myself. Well, now I write about sports. There are some exceptions. If an athlete says or does something off of the field that adds something substantive to the public discourse, then I am all ears. For the most part, though, the attraction of sports is the way in which various talents and personalities manifest themselves in the heat of competition. These guys are not paid to think. In fact, thinking is often counterproductive, particularly in baseball. It is a singular sport, and I've found that the people who are most successful at it are often those whose mindset is simularly singular. They are focused on themselves, on their swing, on the pitcher, on the ball. Everything else -- the fans, the venue, the media, society at large -- is just white noise. It is not a sport that lends itself to introspection.
So rather than offer a critical dissection of the interview that Jonathan Papelbon gave to the Boston media yesterday with regard to the marathon bombing, I think I'm just going to relay the quotes and let them stand as another example of why we should not expect a lot of players to step outside of their comfort zone and think critically about serious issues.
Papelbon was asked about the safety at sporting events in the wake of the marathon attack and pointed to the Phillies' home opening tradition of having the players introduced as they enter the field from the stands.
"The Phillies did this thing the other day where we came down through the bleachers for one opening game, and I don't feel comfortable doing that," Papelbon said. "I really, truly don't. Today's day and age has gotten so crazy, everything. You know, all this stuff going on. Shoot, man, Obama wants to take our guns from us and everything, you've got this kind of stuff going on. It's a little bit insane for me. I really don't know how to take it."
The man clearly did not major in classical philosophy when he was at Mississippi State, so we probably should not be surprised if there is anything two-dimensional or self-centered about his processing of the events of the last 48 hours. He gets paid money (a lot) to pitch (one inning). This is an example of why we are better off letting him concentrate on that.