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McGair: Ortiz crossed the line with his choice of language

April 23, 2013

In the eyes of sports writer Brendan McGair, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took a beautiful moment and soiled it with his vulgarity. AP PHOTO

A little of this, a little of that …

David Ortiz is a well-compensated baseball player. He’s also an adult.
When the time came to address the Fenway Park masses last Saturday, the Red Sox star should have exhibited better judgment. Enough bombs went off in the city of Boston last week. Yet there was Big Papi, dropping an expletive-laced one that ended up casting a pall over a touching pre-game ceremony.
Ortiz must have believed his heart was in the right place upon bellowing, “this is our (bad word) city.” The shower of cheers that followed his poor choice of words suggests that plenty of folks were okay with how the Red Sox’ designated spokesman interprets “speaking from the heart.”
Instead of “Preach on, Big Papi,” the reaction should have begun with, “Really, what were you thinking?”
Simply stated, Ortiz failed to capture the gravitas and poignancy of the moment, the polar opposite of the heartfelt appreciation that Paul Pierce conveyed when the Celtics’ captain did justice to his title upon addressing the Madison Square Garden audience prior to last Saturday’s Boston-New York NBA playoff opener.
If being poignant was the goal, he should have borrowed from the script he read during his rehab stint with the PawSox last week. That David Ortiz was mindful and respectful, stringing together sentences that helped serve as a ray of hope during trying times.
“This is a nation that is good at sticking up together, staying together when things like that happen. All of us are behind it,” Ortiz expressed one day at McCoy Stadium.
That David Ortiz was “MIA” upon being handed the microphone. Instead, we got someone who thought it was perfectly acceptable to boldly proclaim what was on his mind. Undoubtedly, there are plenty of folks who feel the way Big Papi does. The only difference is that they’re not conveying their thoughts before a rather substantial forum –lest we forget that NESN’s cameras were rolling at the same exact moment.
An entire city and its surrounding suburbs had been put through a sad and unfortunate wringer. Last Saturday’s Red Sox-Royals game was viewed as a prime opportunity to return to some degree of normalcy, a game played between the white lines serving as an outlet of enjoyment.
Instead, the focus wasn’t on Daniel Nava’s clutch home run that propelled the Sox to a come-from-behind triumph. Unfortunately, the spotlight was reserved for Ortiz and his potty mouth. Instead of capping off the segment of the afternoon that was specifically set aside to remember the victims and saying thanks to the law enforcement officials instrumental in the suspects' apprehension, Ortiz served up the equivalent of a game-ending double play.
The only difference was that this one could have been avoided all together.
***
The Federal Communications Commission may have endorsed Ortiz’ inappropriate language, yet what about the folks that sign the big slugger’s checks? Given the Red Sox go to great lengths to ensure that Fenway is indeed friendly and wholesome, John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino can’t be pleased that one of the franchise’s figureheads chose to mix in a little Chris Rock with his very public remarks.
***
Keep in mind that this is the same David Ortiz that two off-seasons ago spoke openly about the possibility of signing with the Yankees. Funny, I don’t remember his supposed tried-and-true “Boston is my home” roots shining through at that particular juncture like they did Saturday.
Ortiz owns the distinction as the longest-tenured Boston baseball player, not to mention he’s a reminder of two World Series championships. Such clout may make him a New England sports icon in the eyes of some, but that doesn’t mean their loyalty to the city and team is so unbridled that they feel a sense of permanent attachment. If professional athletics has taught me anything, you’re only as loyal as your next contract.

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