Love in the time of Jose Reyes

Last night I posted a tweet that was called out by Phil Hecken for being in poor taste. It was and I apologized to him for my ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ comment. It wasn’t designed to be funny, it served no purpose other than to highlight a fact that he already knows: Jose Reyes accepted a suspension handed down by Major League Baseball after a domestic violence incident between him and his wife.

What followed my tweet was a great example of what the internet does well. Two strangers and I started conversing with Phil about the Reyes situation. We discussed whether the punishment fit the crime, whether professional sports should offer contracts to known offenders, and how badly we felt for his wife whose private life has been put on broadcast. Differences were exposed and respected. Conversation was intelligent, civil, and lively.

Keith Law stated that the Mets are sending the wrong message by adding Reyes to the organization. While I believe that the team does have good intentions, that’s not enough for me. I would allow Reyes back, but I would not allow him to play Major League Baseball with any club. He can play at the AAA level with half of his salary going to charities and groups that support those on the receiving end of domestic violence.

Another thing I would do is give Reyes some homework. At regular intervals he would be required to turn in a book report based on a list of books I would give him to read. I would probably start with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as it addresses the core problem we’re dealing with here. His character is in question. It’s a privilege to play Major League Baseball and he hasn’t demonstrated that level of accountability.

Perhaps you’ve been wondering if there’s anything you can do to combat this social disease. The good news is that we as fans can take action. We have voices and we can use them. The current system rewards skills and performance. The return of Reyes to Citifield is nothing more than a product of a monumentally flawed system, one that rewards players based on statistical analysis, postseason appearances, and championship rings.

Transforming the system requires baseball to value character over everything else. What this means in real life is that if your team performs like the ’62 Mets, but they have an unimpeachable moral fiber and conduct themselves as model citizens even when nobody is looking, that team is more successful than the team that wins the World Series with a group of men whose reputations are less than stellar.

It means believing that Jose Reyes deserves our compassion instead of our jeers and derision and acting on that instead of sending out frustrated tweets and Facebook posts. The minor leagues are a place to work on things; control, command, an out pitch, whatever it is players are working hard to improve whether they’re trying to get to a level they haven’t experienced, or to return to a previous level. As such they are an ideal environment for someone whose character needs rehabilitation.

Another thing this requires is that we pull out our own mirrors and hold ourselves accountable for our own actions. We shouldn’t expect something out of others that we aren’t expecting out of ourselves. When our favorite team loses we can be supportive instead of casting blame which is the hallmark of a progressive and respectful fan. We can engage in discourse that furthers the human race, listen to others, and seek to understand before we feel understood.

Just as my friend Phil did, we can call out the behavior of others when it is out of line. We can read up on domestic violence to educate ourselves and others, we can let Major League Baseball know that we’re unhappy with players who aren’t held to basic civil standards and we can continue to support those unsung heroes whose value systems we respect. We can offer encouragement to those who are discouraged and reward those who are virtuous and honorable.

Perhaps you are properly outraged with the behavior of Jose Reyes. My guess is those who are calling for the swift hammer of justice to swing down upon him can’t imagine yourself in his shoes. I can since I’ve been there myself. I’ve used fists, feet, and force on others who were weak and defenseless, there’s no excuse for my behavior or his. I was raised in a home where my father hit me with a fly swatter when I stood in front of the TV. This past weekend I visited him at his group home. At sixty-six he’s an old man, frail, confused, and vulnerable.

I punched my mother when I was twenty-one and we were fighting at the end of the hall. She swung first and I thought that meant I could hit her back instead of choosing to be the larger person. Here’s a key takeaway that I read in a book called ADD and Romance. Arguments are typically about significance instead of what you think they might be about. People who feel insignificant handle that in different ways, one of those ways may be physical, emotional, or mental abuse.

Several years ago I went to couples therapy with my then my spouse. Anyone who is unfamiliar with the Karpman triangle should feel free to Google it and familiarize themselves with it as it can shed some light on my particular situation. He was abusive and so was I, rather than loving and nurturing our partner we undermined each other, creating a hellish and hostile environment for our growing children. Rather than lay the law down and condemn him which is what I was hoping our therapist would do, she told me that my anger was killing me.

Another book I’m perpetually recommending is The Question Behind The Question by John G. Miller. I follow him on Twitter and wish I was better at subscribing to his blame free philosophy. Each and every one of us can strive to enrich and strengthen our character. Deeds not words are going to show the world who we really are. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve hurt my spouse, siblings and children during moments of rage. I’ve come a long way since then and I know it won’t happen again.

As Richard Branson says, nobody is beyond redemption except for dead people. Jose Reyes has done something despicable. But he is still capable of transforming his life and attitude. He has to want this badly enough to put in the effort, it’s incredibly hard to turn your life around, but speaking from experience, I know it can be done. You can help by reading some of the books mentioned here, you can volunteer or donate to a shelter for battered women, you can probably think of many ways to contribute when you put your mind to it.

Love in the time of Jose Reyes is achievable when we remember that love is a sacrificial verb. In this instance I’m speaking about love for our fellow man who has gone astray. Without the support, encouragement, literal and figurative handholding I received from my friends, therapists, psychiatrists, and family members, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Back then I was a bigger mess than Jose Reyes; toxic, damaged, ugly, and unloving. Many like me have come back from worse, we had to choose that long and winding narrower path.

While there are still days when I struggle, I’m an entirely different person than the bitter, angry, victim I was. The Mets have an opportunity to show us as fans that they value character and integrity over wins, to rehabilitate Reyes will cost them considerable time and effort, it remains the right thing to do. They have a choice to make, as do you. Love in the time of Jose Reyes, who are you going to be and what are you going to do when you’re done reading this?




Bo Knows

Bo knows. Decades have passed since this slogan was plastered across the chests of my high school classmates, but I remember it well since it represented a status I coveted. Students who played sports were members of an elite group that seemed to receive preferential treatment from peers and professors alike.

During college two classmates of mine were killed in accidents. One construction related, the other, a friend of mine, was killed in a car accident when her vehicle hit a patch of ice and spun into oncoming traffic. A dream about her during my thirties convinced me that her story needed sharing. Fiction, like sports, has filled voids in my life.

Bo Jackson will not be admitted to the Hall of Fame. An argument against his inclusion is he falls short of the ten year longevity requirement. I would like to see an exception made for him. Bo Jackson is a historical figure who accomplished something special. Is this exception worthy of Hall of Fame admission?

I believe that Bo Jackson has earned enshrinement in the Hall of Fame since he was a cultural icon who helped define an era. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the team to beat back then, but he lacked the multi-sport Bo Jackson achievements. It’s my opinion that Bo represents a greatness that stats fail to measure.

When I started writing my friend’s story I partnered her with a man whose shortstop career is loosely based on the Bo Jackson model. A murder attempt by his uncle left him with a titanium plate in his forehead, a shattered cheekbone, a broken wrist, and a lifetime of the types of seizures that can accompany a traumatic brain injury.

The male classmate of mine who was killed now has scholarship money in his name. It goes to multi-sport athletes that need the extra financial support some require to attend a private school. My girlfriend was a cheerleader, she wasn’t the star of the squad, her grades were good, but they weren’t exceptional. I still miss her.

There isn’t anything I can do to guarantee Bo Jackson a spot in the Hall of Fame, I’d like to believe that being him is enough of a reward since how you feel about yourself tends to be more important than what others think and award you. Last night’s conversation about his Hall of Fame case triggered a trip down memory lane.

Without Bo Jackson I wouldn’t have had a role model for my character and the melodrama that surrounds him. Consider this my tribute to a man whose relatively weak stats and lack of service time aren’t enough to diminish a lively debate about whether or not he belongs in the Hall of Fame. What that means to him, only Bo knows.