Everyone grows up sometime. It happened to me just last week. I was sitting at my cousin’s kitchen counter reading The New York Times when it happened. I came across an article about a pitcher named Felix Hernandez who was scheduled to make his first Major League start for the Seattle Mariners at 19 years old, the same age as me.
Before that moment, I have to admit I still believed in some corner of my heart that I had a chance to make it to the Big Leagues. I could always pass off Major Leaguers’ superiority to me because they were older than me. Let’s be clear here: I haven’t played organized baseball since my freshman year of high school when I went 2-for-32 over the course of the season and managed to commit five errors during a single doubleheader. But I still never completely ruled out leading the Chicago Cubs to their first National League Pennant since 1945. Remember, this is coming from someone who has seen Henry Rowengardner in “Rookie Of The Year” go from hapless Little Leaguer to national hero in less than two hours countless times.
Now I am void of hope. But Felix Hernandez isn’t even the most of my troubles.
Take the Walt Disney Company. When I was a child (from Jan. 11, 1986 to Aug. 4, 2005), Disney seemed like the purest piece of Americana you could imagine. In the last few years, though, its reputation has been marred by television pundits standing in front of monitors that read something witty such as “Trouble in the Mouse House?”
The corporate offices have been riddled with scandal, and four people have died at Walt Disney World this year alone. Each death has shocked me to the core. But what has shocked me more is the television media’s insistence on beating these relatively insignificant stories well after they’re dead. The four deaths were unrelated, but still television news has tried its hardest to link them with special reports on safety in the Magic Kingdom. This is a vast left-wing conspiracy seeking to corrupt children (and me) if I’ve ever seen one.
It doesn’t end there. Have you watched ESPN lately? It seems like the network can’t even do a show about baseball without using the word steroids. SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott could be narrating a documentary on Babe Ruth’s penchant for boozing and he’d say, “Plus, he did it all without steroids, unlike everyone you grew up watching if you’re under 30.”
It’s important to keep steroids out of the game, but I’d be just as happy not knowing about the scandal. Over the last couple years, most of my childhood heroes have fallen. Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire — all have been slayed by unidentified sources and baseball commissioner Bud Selig. Even Congress has leaped into the game with last spring’s hearings on the subject. You know you have a conspiracy on your hands when powerful men push aside newsworthy things — Abu Ghraib, anyone? — in favor of questioning professional athletes about whether they popped pills to bulge their biceps.
A few years ago, my grandmother told me a story about a friend of a friend whose daughter was kidnapped at Disney World and was only found because a security guard recognized her shoes protruding from a blanket in an underground tunnel. The story turned out to be an urban myth — a complete lie. It looks like even Grandma’s in on the plot to ruin my childhood.
I’m right with you, Peter Pan — growing up is tough. What’s going to happen next? Are we going to find out that “Jurassic Park” is scientifically impossible or that Walt Disney isn’t cryogenically frozen somewhere beneath the deserts of Arizona? It’s getting more and more dangerous to pick up a newspaper every morning.
The only thing left to do is to try to ignore it all. I’m not sure how long I can hold out. Adulthood is closing in from all sides. Soon I’ll have a mortgage, monthly car payments and no Entrée-Plus points. And who will I have to blame that on? My only option will probably be to peg it on Felix Hernandez. After all, he did steal my Major League roster spot.
Stampfl is a Daily fall/winter administration beat reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.