This year, my roommates really don’t care that much about sports. As far as I can tell, the only reason they watched Game Five of the National League Division Series with me was to watch my incredibly over-the-top reactions and yelling at every single pitch. But lo and behold, there they were, roughly one hour after reports of Ryan Braun’s positive drug test popped up on ESPN, asking me if I had heard about it, what I thought, if I could still be a Ryan Braun fan, etc.
Today, reports has surfaced that Starlin Castro may have sexually assaulted a woman at his apartment in Chicago during the fall. I will not hear about it from my roommates. SportsCenter is talking about the new head football coach at Penn State, and the “What’s Next” box shows nothing about Starlin Castro upcoming for discussion.
Where is the widespread moral outrage against the Cubs’ star? Sexual assault is one of the worst crimes a human being can commit, and yet the sports world seems perfectly content to move on as if nothing has happened.
True, Castro is innocent until proven guilty. True, there are times when we see these things blow over as the alleged victim recants the story. But from either a rash of ignorance — for some reason, this story really isn’t getting out there among the big baseball reporters (Jon Heyman is tweeting about Brandon Webb, whose major league career is probably over) — or a rash of apathy, this story just seems like any other headline for another day on the cold stove.
Obviously this was not the case with Ryan Braun. Nearly every national writer offered some opinion on the case within a few days, many of them harshly judging him for his actions. Comments sections for articles involving him are typically met with comments of “CHEATER!” early and often. Many around baseball have already renounced him; in their eyes, his career will always be tainted by PEDs. And while it’s true that he did test positive, we still don’t know what the cause of the positive test is. The most recent report said that the test was for a personal medication, something that would still draw a 50-game suspension but seems hardly worthy of our moral outrage.
The mental and emotional impacts of sexual assault — rape — can be and often are lifelong for the victim. An actual person greatly impacted by the behavior of the player, not some abstract cause like “sanctity of the game” or other such platitudes. It is a crime on a magnitude so much greater than cheating at baseball — a game, something we watch as a distraction, an escape, pure entertainment. Our moral axis when it comes to sports has been shifted and scrambled to a point where we only care about things that impact the play on the field, so shifted that we can lose sight of things that actually matter. Like other real, living and breathing human beings.