It's a difficult enough task to make sure the people you keep close to you won't betray your trust. Friends and loved ones can have sides to them you never knew existed. But as fans, there is comparably no scrutiny as to the players we cheer for and come to develop an affinity for. You can read stories or have the occasional first-hand experience, but for the most part we are rooting for complete strangers based on the team that employs them or because we like the way they play the game.
Very often those strangers that we cheered for can turn out to be truly awful people, as was confirmed when former Yankees starter and two-time World Series champion Chad Curtis was convicted on six counts of criminal sexual misconduct last Friday. Curtis took advantage of his position as a high school substitute and weight trainer to sexually assault three underage students. It's the sort of crime where using the term "sickening" to describe it would not be any sort of hyperbole.
So most importantly, justice has been served and Chad Curtis will never be allowed to hold the sort of position where he works closely with kids again after he serves his jail sentence. The world is a slightly better place than it was before last Friday. But while the important matters have been handled, there are the comparably incredibly insignificant effects Curtis' actions have on us as Yankees fans.
Make no mistake, Curtis was not a vital cog on the 1998-1999 Yankees championship squads, but he was the starting left fielder in 1998 and in 1999 he hit a walkoff home run in Game 3 of the World Series against the Braves, a game that is featured in "The New York Yankees Fall Classic Collector's Edition 1996-2001", which I have watched many, many times. So he was a prominently featured member on both of those teams.
The question becomes: how do the actions of one man impact what were joyous memories for Yankees fans? Did Jim Leyritz's actions in 2007, while determined non-criminal, impact your enjoyment of his heroics for the 1996 team from then on?
The question that is most frequently raised when it comes to the PED scandal from a historical perspective is how to parse through the cheaters and the impact they had on results of the games with ill-gotten performance gains. But this is so much worse, at least to me. Not even from a morality perspective, but just from the physical revulsion one type of character gives me as opposed to the other. Watching footage of Roger Clemens pitching a gem against the Mariners in the 2000 ALCS while loaded with all manner of chemicals doesn't disgust me, but watching a future sex offender start in the outfield of one of the greatest teams of all time is tough to re-watch, much less enjoy.
There really is no easy answer. We each have to deal with these mixed emotions in the way we see fit. The events are still recorded history, and any future misdeeds and misgivings of the participants do nothing to change that. But the perceptions we hold of those moments in time are always vulnerable, and they can be changed so very easily. It's the gamble we take by making emotional investments in the actions of people we will never know, playing a game that, in the grand scheme of things, does not matter. They will let you down with great frequency, and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it.
I love baseball, and I'm sure you do too, and Chad Curtis and human filth of his ilk having played the game will not stop me from continuing to do so, even if some of the sheen from my fondest memories is tarnished by their actions in the present. It's just the harsh reality of it all and I've come to accept it.
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