Aesthetes and intellectuals are fond of scoffing at the notion of sports as “a metaphor for life,” and of course, to be rigorous, they are right…and wrong. Rather than the old coach asserting that sports represent life in general, he might have said that in sports you will see everything in life writ large. There are the good citizens like Cal Ripken and Dale Murphy, there are the intellectuals like Phil Jackson and Ichiro Suzuki, and there are the tough guys who always find a way to win like Jack Lambert and Chase Utley. And then there is Jose Canseco…and his notion of law.
“It said in the paper” June 19th that the former steroid-enhanced slugger is planning to file a class action suit against both Major League Baseball and his former union. This suit would be based on the notion that Canseco has lost wages and that his character has been defamed. The defamation piece is fascinating beyond the root of the word – fame. It would appear that his argument here is that defamation is defamation whoever is responsible, and that he who would be more famous than he already is need not worry about heading home runs over walls like an overdressed soccer player – on camera. Once achieved, fame apparently is permanently deserved in a positive light. That one wore a metal glove in the field and that he arguably cheated at his game by drug use are, ipso facto, irrelevant…or at least in relation to one’s fame.
Canseco also may be considering an expanded list of defendants for this case. He asserted to the AP, “Because I used steroids, and I came out with a book, I was kicked out of the game, but I have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.” Hmm…although certainly blessed by MLB, the Hall of Fame is a private organization that inducts players based on voting by writers who work for various newspapers and other news outlets. I see the defendants list growing by leaps and bounds here.
Now, this is an interesting situation no matter the angle one views it from. Canseco obviously feels that his 500+ home runs are an automatic ticket into Cooperstown, so much so that he’ll argue this in court, but more interestingly, it calls to mind Scott Fitzgerald’s alleged (and possibly self-defensive) pronouncement that there are no second acts in American life. Whatever Fitzgerald might have meant there – as clearly many lives have multiple acts – it is true that a shameless narcissist in America is given every opportunity to act out a second act that is hideously inferior to the first – even if the first act was fraudulent to begin with. To put it another way, one of the most disappointing offshoots of American individualism is the branch that might be labeled “the unalienable right to make an ass of one self.” No one, seemingly, questions the notions of former mayors hosting TV programs that allow guests to punch spouses’ lovers, or of serious building developers buying beauty pageants. With unbridled “individualism” comes embarrassment never called by its proper name.
Canseco is a paradoxical example of this. On one hand, he garnered points in his Unclothed Emperor column for writing Juiced – although perhaps too easily, for no one who attends to baseball seriously would find anything surprising about that book’s “revelations.” On the other hand, however, the public has stood by deaf and dumb, after shelling out money for tickets in some cases, as this 6’4”, 240-pound athlete has been stripped naked himself in the exhibition boxing ring, first by a (smaller) former defensive back turned sportscaster, and rather recently by (a much smaller) former member of The Partridge Family.
There is apparently no truth to the rumor that Canseco’s corner men for his fight with Danny Bonaduce wore t-shirts reading “I’m with Stupid.” They simply passed them out to the crowd.
Source: Castillo, Jorge. “Jose, can you sue….” The Philadelphia Inquirer 19 June 2009: D5.