Though I will make the disclaimer that I know nothing about baseball, I secretly believe that my JV softball captainship gives me the authority to say anything I want about the sport with confidence. Lucky for you, this post doesn't really have anything to do with baseball.
On the morning rush hour train last week I saw a fight between a fired-up fat woman in her forties and an embarrassingly handsome teenager. I find all raised voices on the subway alarming since I heard Tim Kudo's story about hell breaking loose when a fellow commuter started smoking crack in the train car, but this clash soon revealed itself as a mild debate about Manny's recent 50-game suspension.
The older woman doesn't trust Manny: "Why would he take so long to defend himself, otherwise? And what excuse could he possibly have for taking a medication designed for WOMEN?" While her debating partner countered, "Yo, you don't KNOW that Ms.P. He waited cause he was embarrassed to admit it. He's had it rough and now we're up in his business!”
Instinctually I thought it was ridiculous that these people were arguing so passionately about the intentions of someone (I assume) they've never met. And not to get all emotionally detached, but does it really matter if he's lying or not? Sure we want him to be a good role model, but we don't know him. We don't know what he's thinking or what actually motivates his decisions in life.
Then 7 stops into the train debate it occurred to me that maybe we talk about celebrities like we know them because we really do know them. Not the version of them that their friends or families know, but a public version that we spackle with assumptions. What makes them any less real than any other acquaintance that we barely know but still gossip about with our friends?
Celebrities are the common reference points that we have as a culture. If we're not talking about how stupid Manny is for taking steroids, we're talking about how awesome he is for his .348 batting average and limitless quirks. Or we're talking about how Lohan looks better fat. Or skinny. Or gay.
In a big picture way, it really doesn't matter what these people do as long as they’re doing something memorable or noteworthy that adds to our collective consciousness. They turn us from a random mass of strangers to a unified people with a common language and shared experiences. Like Paul Simon's Graceland, or LOST (LOST!!), Manny's poor decisions spin the golden thread that ties us all together. Without him our subways would be silent. So, I dont really care if he's guilty or not. Maybe Manny's strongest contribution to our “national pastime” is just giving us something to talk to each other about.