“Soy fanatico de beisbol.”
I am a fan of baseball.
“Soy fanatico de los Mets.’’
I am a fan of the Mets.
“No soy fanatico de la violencia domestica.’’
I am not a fan of domestic violence.
Those are the three sentences uttered by Jeurys Famila in a PSA filmed less than a month ago, and delivered as they were, in a darkened locker room with Familia staring down the camera as if it were an opposing batter, they seemed to send a powerful message.
But in light of Tuesday’s news, that the Mets closer had become the latest professional athlete to be arrested on a charge of physically abusing a family member, Familia’s words now ring hollow, and the ad has the look of something done after the fact, performed to satisfy the community-service requirement of a plea-bargain.
As in most domestic violence cases, we don’t know what really happened inside that Fort Lee, N.J. apartment where Familia lives with his wife, Bianca, and their one-year-old son, and it is possible that we never will.
We don’t even know who the alleged victim of the assault was, the police report accusing Familia of causing “bodily injury to another’’ person, whose name was redacted from the report.
And of course, all of us are entitled to the presumption of innocence pending our day in court, even those who would lay violent hands upon a loved one.
But the description of a bruise on the alleged victim’s right cheekbone raises disturbing prospects, and the sight of yet another strong young man being accused of roughing up prompts the recurring question: Why?
Why do so many of our athletes, conditioned to respond physically but not with criminal violence to challenges they face on the playing field, resort to assault when faced with challenges in their private lives?
That is one for the psychologists to answer, and one that our professional sports leagues should be looking into on a full-time basis, even as they look inward to assess their own culpability into what has the appearance of an epidemic.
Likewise, our sports teams should be assessing their own culpability in enabling domestic abusers in the eternal and often amoral pursuit of victories.
Just two days ago, I was writing about Josh Brown and how wrong-headed and even cynical it was of the New York Giants to sign him in April when the club no doubt knew of the incident at the Pro Bowl just three months earlier in which Brown’s wife and children had to be escorted from the headquarters hotel by NFL security for their own safety.
I wondered if John Mara, who made the call to reward Brown with two more years and $4 million dollars, would have felt the largesse toward his kicker if Brown had been married to one of Mara’s four daughters.The answer, obviously, is no.
Mara failed that test of integrity and with it, further soiled the Giants false image as one of the higher life forms among professional sports teams.
Now, it will be the Mets turn to prove that what Jeurys Familia said in that PSA was more than just lip service.
Back in June, GM Sandy Alderson talked the talk when the Mets acquired Jose Reyes, who had served a 52-game suspension for domestic violence. “Both Jose and the organization will be held to a standard going forward that recognizes the seriousness of domestic abuse and a commitment to stand against it.”
If Familia is found guilty of the charges, or pleads out, let’s see if Alderson walks the walk. Because if the allegations are true, the Mets will be on trial, too.
Already, there had been plenty of talk that it was time for the Mets to cut ties with Familia in light of his failure in their one-game playoff loss to the San Francisco Giants last month.
And far too often, we have seen teams that are outraged over failures on the field become overly solicitous about failures off the field, if they believe the player can help them win.
The ultimate irony, perhaps, would be for the Mets to cut Familia loose and replace him with Aroldis Chapman, who will be a free agent as soon as the World Series ends Wednesday night in Cleveland.
Chapman, of course, was charged with domestic violence, a charge that was subsequently dropped due to lack of cooperation by the alleged victim, and with firing eight shots in his garage in an ensuing fit of rage.
That incident last October seemed to work out well for everyone concerned; the Yankees bought low on Chapman – four forgettable prospects went to the Cincinnati Reds – and sold high, reacquiring the useful Adam Warren and adding to their organization Gleyber Torres, the crown jewel of the Chicago Cubs farm system.
Meanwhile, Chapman sat for the first 30 games of the season but still took home $9.5 million in salary, and is now on the verge of both a World Series ring, and a large post-season share.
Perhaps it will turn out similarly for Jeurys Familia. Perhaps he will be cleared, or the charges dropped.
But even if he is found guilty, history tells us the price he pays will not be nearly as severe as the price paid by the victim.
And he’ll probably get to film another PSA, and this time actually mean what he says.