Where were Chris Davis and Ray Rice for teachable moments?

Privileged men should learn, but they keeping making 'mistakes'

  • Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is congratulated after scoring against the Boston Red Sox.
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is congratulated… (David Butler II / USA Today…)
September 13, 2014|Dan Rodricks

After reading Chris Davis' apologetic statement on his suspension from the Orioles for taking a drug he wasn't allowed to take under the rules of Major League Baseball, I had to look up the word "mistake." A "mistake" is what Davis said he made. His manager, an Orioles broadcaster and a teammate used the word as well.

"I made a mistake by taking Adderall," Davis said.

"We all make mistakes," said Buck Showalter.

"The big boy made a mistake," said Joe Angel, one of the voices of the Orioles on radio.

"Everybody makes mistakes and you've just got to be careful when you make your mistakes," said Nick Markakis, Baltimore's steady right fielder.

I agree that everybody makes mistakes, but I didn't think mistakes could be timed or planned. I thought mistakes just happened, that there was an accidental nature to mistakes.

From Dictionary.com: "An error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge."

From the Oxford Dictionary: "Something, especially a word, figure, or fact, that is not correct; an inaccuracy."

Once upon a time, Davis had permission to use Adderall, but the permission expired. He tested positively for using the amphetamine without permission. The second positive test led to his 25-game suspension.

So that suggests calculation on Davis' part — a decision to take the risk of being caught.

Maybe that falls under the "poor reasoning" part of the definition.

But I don't think Davis gets away with that.

A mistake is using cilantro instead of parsley in spaghetti sauce. A mistake is leaving forceps inside a patient after surgery.

A mistake is not what Davis made.

Maybe "youthful error" is what's suggested — a bad choice by a mind in protracted adolescence.

But the big boy is 28 years old. He knows the rules. Most of his peers play by them. Davis broke them. He lost the high privilege of being part of an admired team just as it reaches baseball glory in a city that's hungry for it.

SMH means Shaking My Head in Tweetspeak.

It has been a rough week for Baltimoreans who follow the Orioles and the Ravens and who, despite having been jaded by years of scandal and "mistakes" by sports figures, still like our heroes as big as we can get them.

There's no comparison between Davis' attempt to slide by baseball's drug policy and Ray Rice's brutal assault of his future wife in New Jersey last winter, except for this — both men have been highly visible, immensely popular figures in Baltimore: Davis in baseball, Rice in football.

They both came across as likable, stable fellows.

We considered Rice courageous, energetic and positive. Off the field, his willingness to warn Maryland teenagers about the damage caused by bullying was admirable, particularly after the suicide of a Howard County girl who had been harassed online.

Of course, all of that seems tragically ironic now, which in part explains why Rice's fall has left a lot of Baltimoreans confused, conflicted or more cynical.

The tone-deaf handling of his case by men who run the National Football League and the Ravens — some of whom used the word "mistake" a lot in explaining Rice and themselves — adds another layer to our jaded state.

Rice had etched an especially strong impression on kids, and that's probably where his fall hurts the most. Adults are used to tragic irony and the failings of heroes; kids deserve at least a few years before all that reality sets in.

As for Davis, few players have risen from modest slugger to mythical hero as quickly as he did. He seemed to be the perfect guy to play the role of new-age slugger following baseball's juicing scandals.

Davis hit 53 home runs in 2013, powered by "Hulk juice," a yucky-healthy smoothie of fruit, vegan protein powder, almond milk and kale. It's the stuff of triathletes and crunchy workout fanatics who strive for optimum health with exercise and health-conscious diets.

There was something else about Davis, a kind of mystical aura. I have in mind two exploits: His role in the Orioles' surreal victory in Boston in May 2012 and his clutch hitting of 2014.

The famous game at Fenway lasted 17 innings. Both teams exhausted their pitching staffs. Davis, the O's designated hitter, had been hitless in eight times at bat yet ended up as the game's winning pitcher.

This season, Davis had a lousy batting average yet hit an impressive number of home runs (26) and drove in 72 runners with timely hitting.

"You know what? We don't need him," an Oriole fan announced at Camden Yards on Friday.

And maybe he's right. Maybe the Orioles can prevail without Crush, and that will be a great story.

Still, even in a cynical age, we all liked believing certain things about him — that he came by his accomplishments honestly, naturally.

In American sports, politics and corporate life, we keep having "teachable moments," but some guys never learn. They keep making "mistakes."



Dan Rodricks' column appears each Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He is the host of "Midday" on WYPR-FM.

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