(Forgive me if there is a post somewhere about this, I did not see one when I started this. Forgive me for any spelling or grammatical errors, I'm not a writer nor do I play one on T.V. Finally, forgive me for the length but I believe it is justified. If you want the TLDR version = "Congrats to Papi")
Red Sox fans need a reason to smile. Something. Anything. If only for a couple seconds, we need something positive to come out about this team. We hear on a (seemingly) daily basis stories and/or rumors (true or not) about negative acivities and words coming from the Red Sox (players, owners, etc). We hear these from newspaper columnists, radio show hosts, tv show hosts, the guy who pumps your gas, and everyone in between.
So, when I heard yesterday that David Ortiz had won the 2011 Roberto Clemente Award it made me smile. It doesn't cure the heartbreak from the epic collapse we all witnessed. It doesn't make us forget the hysteria from Beergate/Chickengate because we still hear about it from any source of discussion on the Red Sox. It doesn't alter the fact that our front office management and on the field management/coaching is still in a (relative)state of flux, and we don't know whose bullpen management we'll be criticizing next year. It may not even make us forget Big Papi's comments about the level of drama in Boston and relatively small amount of praise for the Yankees organization. I was one of the first to say I was disappointed in his comments but a big part of that disappointment was because what he said has some truth to it.(at least in regards to a high level of drama here)
HOWEVER. It did make me remember that in the end we have some genuinely good people on this ballclub and people who care enough to help the less fortunate. David Ortiz has for a while used his time, his influence and his wealth to help those less fortunate. He does not limit it to one cause, or one charity. He doesn't limit it to the Boston area and he doesn't limit it to this country, even. And he does it, presumably, with the contagious smile he has sported during his time here.
Roberto Clemente himself lost his life nearly 40 years ago in a terrible plane crash, as most people know, on New Year's Eve, 1972. Perhaps a lesser known piece of the story was that on New Year's Eve he was not headed to Las Vegas to gamble, or to Miami to soak up some sun to pass time on his offseason. When players and fans alike were stocking up on beer and booze and getting ready to bring in a new year, Clemente boarded a plane that was headed to Nicaragua to help those less fortunate than himself.
He was delivering supplies to victims of a massive earthquake that happened only a week before. When the earthquaked happened, Roberto went to work immediately to help organize flights to bring supplies to the victims. When he found out the first three flights of supplies went to a corrupt government and not to those who needed it, he jumped on the fourth flight to ensure that it got to where it was supposed to go. Tragically, it was the last act of charity that he was able to attempt. The plane wasn't in the best of shape, and the weight of the load was too much and it crashed soon after takeoff with Clemente's body never to be seen again.
In the blink of an eye, Major League baseball lost a great ballplayer but more importanly the world lost a great human being. To have Red Sox players even associated with the memory of Roberto for two years in a row (Wakefield last year and Papi this year), is an incredible story. It is a story that will unfortunately fly under the radar this year. It will be secondary to stories of Bud Light, Popeye's chicken and clubhouse cliques.
David Ortiz may not be back next year. I would be happy to see him back for a chance at leading the charge for redemption, but I would understand if the team goes another direction. It is incredibly unfortunate that what could be his final (Red Sox) moment on the field will be as a part of the most epic collapse in history. Especially given our memories of him being an integral part of the comeback to break the curse and so many other clutch moments that many of us will tell our children and grandchildren about. However, at least one of (what could be) his last off the field moments will be to remind us that there IS more to life than baseball and to remind us just how great a person we have had the pleasure of rooting for.
I will end this lengthy, drawn out post with a comment that isn't meant to be insulting but instead give us perspective. If you can read the story of him winning this award and not crack a smile for even a moment, than perhaps you take this sport too seriously.