The Real Meaning of Manny Being Manny

The only surprising aspect of the news yesterday that former baseball slugger-savant Manny Ramirez had been arrested for allegedly slugging his wife—the one alleging being said wife—is that any baseball fans were surprised. If anything was written in the Book of Fate, it was that this man, so completely lacking in respect for basic ethical values, was destined for trouble with the law.

While he was playing, of course, Manny’s uncivilized and cheerful contempt for basic rules and principles of right and wrong were tolerated by his employers, amused sportswriters and evoked cheers from fans. He was a great, great hitter, you see: who cares if he was habitually rude, unprofessional, slovenly, careless, disloyal, disrespectful and above all, selfish to his core? Look! He’s having fun! Isn’t that charming? Stop harping on little details, like hustling, sportsmanship, or being honest. Let Manny be Manny!

“Stars” who know the world’s rules of conduct won’t be applied to them often appear to be having fun—why wouldn’t they? As long as they are on top of the world, a critical mass of the public will not only forgive their unethical ways but get vicarious pleasure from it. The Kardashians are popular. Bill Clinton, in the middle of an adultery/perjury/ obstruction of justice scandal, was popular. Jesse James was popular. Al Capone was popular.

And Manny was popular. So popular that after he moved to Los Angeles—-because he had betrayed his previous team, which was paying him $20 million a year, by refusing to play during a pennant race, sabotaging his team mates when he did play, and knocking down an elderly club employee when he didn’t ask “How high?” when Manny said, “Jump!”—the Dodgers painted a section of their left field fence with the name “Mannywood,” and made a fortune selling Manny jerseys. LA rewarded Manny’s miserable conduct, following a pattern that had been established when Ramirez was a teen.

Meanwhile, Manny happily ignored his manager’s rule about hair length,  undermining authority as always and making it clear that rules were for everyone else, not him. The next season, among the the rules he didn’t follow was the one about not using banned performance-enhancing drugs; that got him suspended. Manny’s blase  response? “It’s not like I killed someone.”  One season later, he was balking at playing in LA too, which shipped him to a desperate White Sox team needing his bat more than they feared his behavioral rot. Manny couldn’t be bothered to make an effort. This season he got caught cheating again, and rather than serve his suspension, quit the team that signed him. It didn’t occur to him to say anything to his “colleagues” until days later, but then sociopaths don’t really have colleagues. All they have is marks, patsies, victims, and enablers.

During his career, Manny Ramirez showed that he possessed almost no ethical values at all, and was told by everyone around him that it didn’t matter, as long as he knocked in runs. Manny liked that, especially since it paid well. The problem is that a member of society who doesn’t respect society’s core standards of good conduct and who is devoid of ethical sensibilities eventually will break some rules that society won’t shrug off— laws.  Some people who are unethical never break laws, because they are smart enough to do rotten things legally. Manny, however, is not smart. He is, by all indications, an idiot—an idiot with no respect for anyone.

With no powerful enablers to protect him, he is finally in trouble with the law, and I doubt that it will be the last time. He’s not so charming now, is he Manny fans?

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