This blog post will require you to employ critical thought, and avoid gut reaction. It will require you to step outside your own existence and into that of somebody else. It will require you to set aside the emotions you want to feel, and instead consider the reason you want to feel them. If any of this does not interest you, I would encourage you to stop reading. There are plenty of other areas of this web site that will appeal to you. If, however, you are interested in peeking beneath the surface of an uncomfortable situation, I would encourage you to continue. It might not alter your feelings. But at least it will not make you hate me.
About once a season, a controversy like this arises. A member of the Phillies, or a member of their extended family, will say something that rankles the fan base, and that something will get picked up by a media outlet, and that media outlet's something will get picked up by other media outlets, and before you know it, gangs of neighborhood watchmen will be organizing on the corners of Rhawnhurst and Springfield and Bensalem and preparing to march with shovels and torches toward Citizens Bank Park. They are my least favorite stories, the ones about somebody saying something that upsets someone else. The esteemed philosopher Fred Durst once labeled it, "the he-said, she-said bulls---," and that's pretty much how I see it.
Back in 2008, Jimmy Rollins labelled Phillies fans "front-runners" in a national television interview, and a great deal of outrage was then expressed by those fans, including the 25,046 who had bothered to show up for a Sept. 10 game against the Rockies, including the thousands who had spent much of that season booing 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard, including some who would go on to yell about signing Cole Hamels to an extension after 2008, and then yell about trading him after 2009, and then yell about signing him to an extension after 2010, and then boo him after his first start of 2011.
Was it wise for Rollins to say what he said? Probably not, unless his end-game was to take the bulls-eye off the back of his struggling teammate, which, knowing Rollins, just might have been the case. But was Rollins right? Absolutely. The majority of fans in every professional city are front-runners. That's the glory of being a fan. You get to think with your heart and react accordingly without having to take pesky little things like the big picture into consideration. You don't shell out your hard-earned cash because you want to sit in a luxury suite and sip your bottle of Evian and perform a rational analysis of everything that happens in front of you. You buy your tickets and your jerseys and your T-Shirts and your beer so that for three to four hours of your life you can sit in a stadium seat or a leather recliner and forget about reason and just react.
It's a beautiful thing. For you. But there are human beings on the other side of those reactions, and as much as you want to believe in the mollifying qualities of millions of dollars, those human beings have wants and needs and desires that are very similar to yours. You think Cole Hamels should not have a care in the world because he makes more money than you? Well the single mother on welfare working two minimum-wage jobs might feel the same way about you.
Most professional athletes have been conditioned to accept the realities of their standing in society. The adulation, the loathing, the cheers, the boos, the stares and whispers while walking through the mall: They chose this life. They can easily walk away from it. For the majority of people, the immense benefits of life as a professional athletes would outweigh the various inconveniences, most of which are minor when compared to other occupations.
The same cannot necessarily be said of life as a professional athlete's family member. Which brings us to the case of Sarah Madson, and a blog that very few people had heard about before today. A woman named Laura Goldman, who runs a blog called Naked Philadelphian, talked to the wife of Phillies set-up man Ryan Madson at a charity event and quoted her as saying, "I hate the fans. It is bad enough that they bother us during the season, but they will not leave us alone in December when we go out to eat. We stayed here during the off season last year, but we will be going to California this year. There must be something particularly bad about Phillies fans because all the players leave in the off season.”
According to Goldman's blog, Sarah Madson, five months pregnant with the couple's fourth child, also complained about female fans of her husband, saying, “Can you believe that they have the gall to give my husband their number in front of me?”
There is some strong language in there: "Hate," "bad," "bother," "gall" -- nobody wants to be associated with any of those words. And I'm sure there is at least one columnist in the metro-Philadelphia region who is preparing to put on his Lorax shoes and and shake his fist in indignation and speak for the fans, for the fans have no tongues.
But before you react, I ask that you focus on four different words, words that if repeated enough would make this planet a hell of a lot more inhabitable. Those words are not "Make love not war" or "Don't tread on me" or "Make it a double."
Those words are, How would you feel?
It is not an easy life being a player's wife. There is a reason why one New York Times article floated the estimate that 60 to 80 percent of NFL marriages end in divorce. An athlete playing in Philadelphia might be subjected to boos, but rarely is he subjected to biting personal criticism. You might have booed Jimmy Rollins after he labeled you a front-runner in 2008, but if you ran into him at a bar and he offered to buy you a drink, you sure as hell would have clinked glasses with him and patted him on the back. Family members, though, are anonymous. That person two rows in front of you who can hear you and your friend trade cheap insults about Joe Blanton? It might be his wife. Or sister. Or his mother. Or his aunt. Or his high-school teacher. That guy at the coffee shop reading the newspaper column about how Cole Hamels lacks the intestinal fortitude to become an elite-level pitcher? It might be his brother. Or father. Or best friend. Or college coach.
That dinner conversation you just interrupted to ask for an autograph? It might have involved a family member's health, or a child's behavior, or a job's future.
Forget whether Sarah Madson actually said what she is quoted as saying or in what context she meant it (A Madson representative told the Daily News' Dan Gross that the couple "enjoy playing in Philadelphia and have a great fondness for the city and the fans"). Forget the fact that this is one of those "stories" that should die by daybreak. It offers us, the viewing public, a chance to step inside a perspective that few of us ever have reason to consider.
How would you feel if you were five months pregnant with your fourth child and your husband was preparing to embark on a six-month odyssey in which he spends one week on the road for every week he spends at home? How would you feel if, on the rare occasion that he and you and your three children are able to head out for a family dinner on home turf, you are constantly interrupted by strangers? How would you feel if you watched women in tight Phillies T-Shirts sliding phone numbers to your husband?
You probably would accept it. You probably would even enjoy it at times. But on some days, you sure as hell would hate it. And on one of those days, you might find yourself admitting it.