by user Darrel
It seems as though Kirby Puckett was everyone's favorite baseball player. Someone once quipped that St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves fans probably didn't like him much, but as a 3-year-old Braves fan in 1991 I was absolutely captivated by the portly superstar. I guess I was always a fan of greatness, which explains why I still love Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Peyton Manning despite the fact they all irk me when they open their mouth. In much the same way, I still love Kirby and mourn the passing of a child-hood hero despite all of his flaws.
Kirby's retirement left me feeling much the same way. Glaucoma ripped the most important thing out of Kirby's life and Kirby the Player died that day. Seeing Kirby give a press conference in sunglasses and the bandage on his eye was surreal. Is this really happening? Unfortunately, it was. Baseball and Minnesota suffered a major loss that day, as Kirby was a great baseball player and by all accounts an extraordinary teammate.
The 2001 Sports Illustrated article "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett," by Frank Deford chronicled Kirby's affairs, as well as allegations of domestic abuse and sexual harassment. Kirby allegedly threatened to kill his wife, Tonya, pointed a gun at her, strangled her with a telephone cord, and once used a power saw to cut through a door after Tonya had locked herself in a room. The Kirby we'd known was at best lost for ever, and at worst was simply a fraud. That day, Kirby the Myth died.
After the death of the Player and the Myth, the Man died on March 6th, 2006. As often is the case, the death of someone brings out all of the fans and supporters. Kirby's been called a great man by many, as teammates talk about his clubhouse presence and his World Series performances. Bud Selig even called Kirby "a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."
Don't insult my intelligence. Spare me the canonization of Kirby Puckett. While Kirby was an amazing player and extraordinary teammate, he was in no way a great man. No "Hall of Famer in every sense of the word" urinates in public or strangles his wife with a telephone cord. I don't pretend to know everything about the situations Kirby found himself in after he retired, but most people casually sweep everything they don't like under the rug. If you prefer to focus on his time as a player when speaking about him, go right ahead. However, don't flat-out lie and pretend as though Kirby's a saint.
Nobody's a saint, and athletes live under constant pressure. We expect our players to be heroes and role models and when that expectation isn't fulfilled, we lash out. In some cases, such as Kirby, we lie to ourselves and say the player we saw on the field, the one with the ever-present smile, is like that in real life. He's a great man, a saint.
Kirby was and amazing player. In the clubhouse, no one was better. He brought happiness to many people. That should be reason enough to mourn him. Just don't try to convince everyone else he was a saint.
Wed 03/08/06, 3:20 pm EST