What Not to Say When Discussing Aroldis Chapman

In fairness, I really should have expanded the title to read “What not to say when you’re interested in having an intelligent discussion/debate about your team’s acquisition of an athlete with a checkered past, particularly when that past involves allegations of domestic violence.” As you might imagine, such a headline is a bit too cumbersome for online consumption. I’m far from an expert on domestic violence, or violence of any sort, for that matter, but I’m pretty well versed in the field of intelligent discourse.

I also tend to find myself somewhat in the middle on a lot of different topics. That’s not to say I’m unwilling or unable to take a side, just that I find myself capable of empathizing with those on both ends of the spectrum of an issue. Much of this came from my upbringing and more has come from my desire to sit in quiet observation before really throwing myself into the conversation. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more of that from time to time.

With the Aroldis Chapman rumors coming to a head, I felt the need to share a few thoughts, living as we do in an era in which we all seem to take differing opinions as personal affronts.

You’ll be fine with it when he helps the Cubs win a World Series

Who are you to tell someone how they feel about anything, let alone something that hasn’t even happened yet? To assume you understand the way someone else’s mind works is to effectively cut off any hope for further conversation. Not only is the other party going to wall you off, but, like, you wouldn’t even need to have the convo if you already know what that person’s thinking.

We all make mistakes

This is true and anyone who denies it is a liar. However, not all mistakes are of the same severity and not all have been made by people on a national stage. There’s also the fact that calling what Chapman allegedly did a mistake is to fundamentally misunderstand what mistakes are. And, like it or not, the spotlight afforded professional sports and athletes means that the shadows they cast are that much bigger and darker. It’s one thing to discuss your personal experiences and to use those to explain why you feel the way you do about the topic at hand, but it’s a lazy cop-out to throw out a blanket statement and offer hollow absolution.

The charges were dropped

Stop it. Just…no.

Go find another team

If we all had to switch allegiances after questioning the motives and moves of the front office, there’d be no fans at all. Seriously, we’d just run the gamut of all 30 MLB teams and would either end up back at the start or without a team at all. We’re fans for various, often disparate, reasons and the investments we’ve all made — of time, money, and emotion (this more than anything) — can’t be discounted. The Cubs are more than just a diversion or hobby for a lot of us, so to insinuate that someone is less of a fan because they don’t want a certain player on their team is…well, we’ll just call it inappropriate.

If the Cubs hadn’t gotten him, some other team would have

This is a tough one because it’s entirely valid in a baseball sense and I believe this is a supporting argument for someone who is either totally fine with the move or who is rationalizing it. Thing is, we can’t really move to the baseball-only conversation unless and until we’ve moved past the personal portion of the conversation. That might not be possible in some cases, so my recommendation is to avoid stepping out on the ice until you know it can support your weight.

You’re just a/n [insert pejorative here]

I suppose it should go without saying, but this just makes you look ignorant and small and it’s pretty pathetic. Then again, I’m guessing if you’re someone who stoops to this level, you’re probably not reading this and don’t care what I’m saying even if you are reading. I’ve seen some truly awful, hurtful stuff out there and it’s just sad.

When you get down to it, most of you don’t need my advice on how to interact with other people. In fact, I am often surprised by the lack of unsavory content in our comments sections and the general absence of vitriol in my Twitter and Facebook feeds. So maybe that means this will all fall on deaf ears, which I’m actually fine with.

We’re not all going to share the same opinion on this or any other topic imbued with even the slightest nuance and I’m not suggesting we should want to. What I’d love to see, however, is a willingness to accept the idea that someone who comes at something from an opposing angle is not automatically an enemy.

I know some people are able to compartmentalize their sports, thus removing the personal lives of their favorite athletes from what they do on the field. And I don’t think that’s just in terms of their misdeeds, either. Some fans couldn’t care less about Dexter Fowler’s interactions with his adorable daughter or Kris Bryant’s engagement photos. They aren’t concerned with Gleyber Torres finding out about the trade rumor after we did and having to sit in the clubhouse checking his phone for news.

Still others find fanning to be an immersive experience and they want to consume all they can about the players and staff and the goings-on they share with the world through various forms of social media (and there’s more to it than that, of course, but I’m trying to simplify as much as I can while not giving short shrift). As such, they want nothing to do with someone who could potentially be a terrible human being. And that’s not just about the player himself, but about the team’s pursuit and tacit approval of such behavior.

Again, I’m neither condemning nor condoning the various points of view. Instead, I’m validating the fact that they exist and acknowledging that we need to understand where someone else is coming from in order to know whether and how we interact with them. It’s so easy — and even a little fun once in a while — to get argumentative online, but sometimes it’s best to follow your mother’s advice when it comes to having nothing nice to say.

I’ve already shared my thoughts on the matter here on the site, though I suppose this post calls for a bit more. At the risk of copping out, I’m somewhat torn on the matter. Given that I’ve got zero input in terms of the Cubs’ personnel decisions, I’m pretty much at the mercy of what they decide to do. I’ll never stop being a fan and I’ll never root against them in any situation, even if it does involve someone of whom I’m not particularly fond. I suppose this is what a lot of Blackhawks fans felt like when it came to this past season.

If we look at this in a baseball vacuum, I can see how adding a lock-down closer to the bullpen would be a good move. Incremental though the improvement may be, shortening games and eliminating innings — particularly in the postseason — is a good thing. Is that incremental improvement worth the cost though? That I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll know even if Chapman helps to hoist a World Series trophy at Wrigley in October.

And if the Cubs reach the ultimate prize with Chapman, questions will remain as to whether they could have done it without him. Or whether the end justified the means anyway, as some see this as selling at least a portion of the team’s soul.

I trust the front office to do what is best for the Cubs, but that doesn’t mean I’ll agree with or be happy about the decisions they make. At the same time, I do believe people can change and can move past even the most heinous crimes. Of course, such growth involves contrition and clarity, neither of which I feel we’ve gotten in Chapman’s case. Time may heal all wounds, but that doesn’t mean their won’t be a scar or that your joints won’t ache when the weather turns.

Sometimes I think it was so much easier to be a fan back before we had access to all of this information. But then I realize that that was also a time in which things like domestic violence went unreported or got swept under the rug even more so than they still do. So while being a blissful devotee of my favorite team would be nice, it would also mean remaining ignorant to lot of things. And I’d much rather keep my eyes and ears open, to take it all that I can and to assess it with sober judgment.

I’m happy to lend my ear to your thoughts and to provide some of my own to a willing party. Heck, I’d love to sit down with some folks over beers and discuss this and more in a more personal forum. As the proprietor of a moderately successful blog, however, most of my communications are confined to the interwebs. As such, I’d love to open things up to further discussion in the comments below.

I will not ban users or edit the following comment, unless you’re a complete troll, in which case I want nothing to do with you. Just remember to respect one another and yourselves and try to abide by the guidelines set forth above.

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