Keidel: Jungle For Jim Leyritz
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By Jason Keidel
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You know someone – be it a neighbor or a neighboring cubicle – whose walls are lathered with photos and posters, a temple of idolatry. It could be a woman who wants to be with a man or a man who wants to be like a man. A pro athlete is often the target this affection because they often have the qualities of a movie star and don’t need special effects to prove that they can kick ass.
While the aggregate drum of the 24/7 news cycle hammers us with scores and stats, graphics and crawlers, the fine print reveals tales of tragedy. And so it is that they are more like us than the television tells you. Ask Lawrence Taylor, Doc and Darryl, Denny McLain, and Pete Rose.
Or Jim Leyritz.
We don’t know exactly what Leyritz did that night in 2007. We do know he drank, got into a car, and then killed a woman with that car. No matter the verdict from his trial, Jim Leyritz has that burden on his formerly formidable shoulders. We now have his mug shot next to his baseball card and, for baseball fans, a sad memory to replace a grand memory. Fourteen years ago, Leyritz hit one of the most memorable home runs in Yankees history, wrecking the career of Mark Wohlers and igniting the dynasty from 1996-2000.
And to see him now, his face framed by that chilling photo taken by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. You wonder what he’s feeling there under the frigid stare…
We’re well aware of the might of athletes but we ignore the plight of athletes. They may be built like gods but aren’t built for stardom. Who is? Do you want to be so famous that you can’t shop for groceries without a swarm of paparazzi? Do you want UFC fighters flanking you for security?
“A lot of people think that because you play professional sports, everything is fine and your life is great,” Denver Broncos tight end Daniel Graham told SI.com. “But we’re humans just like anybody else. We have issues just like anybody else does. And you can’t take life for granted.”
Graham’s teammate, Kenny McKinley, committed suicide in September. He was 23.
It’s probably easier for pro athletes to suffer every defect in the catalogue because they can afford them. Women aren’t chasing you and me down the street. Hustlers aren’t asking to invest our measly checks. Groupies aren’t stuffing your pockets with narcotics. And when the star player feels depressed, well, he’s not supposed to. He’s rich and famous. Trainers are trained to set a bone but not a brain.
We superimpose heroic qualities because they can run, jump, and throw, ignoring the illegitimate children, debt, domestic violence, head trauma, and internal drama of leaving the stage. Being shoved from the spotlight may produce the greatest withdrawal of all. Ray Leonard and Brett Favre didn’t make myriad comebacks for money. They simply didn’t know what else to do with their lives. Andy Pettitte essentially said the same thing. All he knows is taking the ball every fifth day.
“If only I had A-Rod’s life…”
Does Alex Rodriguez look happy to you?
Many of you will take next week off for Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s trite to summon new attitudes and gratitude because the calendar tells us to, but there is reason to give thanks. At the risk of arrest by the PC Police, we live in a wondrous land, perhaps the lone place on the planet where our future is as vast as our imagination.
So grab your wife and give her the hug of her life. Things could be much worse. If you don’t think so, ask Jim Leyritz. Or just look at him.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
- Jurors Deliberating Leyritz DUI Death Case (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Closing Arguments In Jim Leyritz’s DUI Manslaughter Case (newyork.cbslocal.com)