Last night in my blog post, amongst all of my ramblings about the Women’s World Cup, I stuck in a tiny paragraph at the end speaking about Christian Lopez, the twenty-three year old Yankees fan who caught Derek Jeter’s home run ball that doubled as his 3,000th hit. I commended Lopez for his classy act of returning the ball instead of cashing in on a huge pay day. I was touched by this guy’s selfless act and I thought most other people would be too. Very rarely am I right.
This morning I could not believe how bad Lopez was getting ripped by sports talk radio for doing what he did. People called him an idiot. People said he got caught up in the moment. People said he made the biggest mistake of his life. Very vocal in his disdain for Lopez was Mike Greenberg, co-host of one of my favorite sports talk radio shows, “Mike and Mike in the Morning.” Greenberg saw no value at all in what Lopez did, and was almost to the point of anger at his decision. Fans who called in were even more harsh.
Are we so money hungry as a society that we can’t appreciate and accept the gracious act of this young man? This whole deal fires me up so much because what would have happened if Lopez caught the ball and then didn’t give it back? He would have been absolutely crucified. I guarantee the guy would not have been able to show his face at Yankee Stadium for the rest of his life. He would have become to the Yankees what Steve Bartman is to the Chicago Cubs. So what I am trying to point out is that Lopez was in a lose-lose situation in the eyes of the public no matter what. Give the ball back and you are stupid or keep the ball for yourself and you are a greedy, heartless fan. This is completely ridiculous because he caught Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit that happened to be a home run…it should be one of the major highlights of his life!
There is no way we should look at Lopez this way. We should have respected that he was in a great position and accepted whatever choice he made. If he did decide to keep the ball, good for him. He was at the right place at the right time. He literally had an opportunity of a lifetime knocked right at him and if he decided to cash in on it, more power to him…totally his choice. However, he chose to give the ball back, an unbelievable gesture that no one should criticize. I find it crazy how quick we are to bring someone down who had a stroke of good fortune. I find it even crazier how we are so quick to bring someone down who had a stroke of good fortune and then decided to decline the full fruits of his luck by making someone else’s day, even if it is a multimillionaire athlete who has been making 20 million dollars a year for the past decade.
You know what Christian Lopez is? He is a true fan. He understands baseball. He understands the unique connection that exists between baseball players and memorabilia. He understands what that baseball means to Derek Jeter. I guess maybe that is why so many people were so quick to criticize and judge Lopez, they just don’t understand. You see, that is the problem with fans. Many people who call themselves “fans” are not really fans. They do not understand the game but they think they do. They do not understand the inner-workings of the sport and everything that transpires to make the final product (the actual game in the stadium) possible. They are ignorant enough to put themselves on the same level as the coaches and players. Because I have a job in sports, I encounter true fans and imposter fans every day. Someday on this blog I am going to devote a 5,000 word post on what it means to be a fan, get ready cause it is coming. But all that matters for this post is that Lopez put his financial gain on permanent hold so he could honor a player on the team who he pours his heart and soul into. The imposter fans who called in today to all of those talk radio shows who walk around with a bandwagon attitude of “what have you done for me lately?” would have cashed in that ball in a heartbeat for a cool half million. Not Christian Lopez. Haters, get off the guy’s back and accept the fact that you will never be half as classy as a certain twenty-three year old who puts his team before himself. Love it.
Yes, Lopez did get rewarded for his noble gesture. He now has four premium seats in Yankee Stadium for the rest of the season. He also got some memorabilia from Derek Jeter. You know what though? He is still reportedly around $100,000 in debt from college loans. Now this is not my idea as it was discussed on many programs today but how nice would it be if Derek Jeter himself made that debt disappear? I believe Jeter will eventually do it and this whole story will go down as one of baseball’s best feel good stories. Please Derek, write a check.
I think Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit and Lopez’s gesture put a great cap on the first half of the Major League Baseball season. I have had such a great time following the MLB this season and attending games. You bet I will be glued to my TV tomorrow to watch the MLB All-Star game, by far the best all-star game out of the four major sports in the country. I am an American League fan so hopefully they will get back on track after last year and start a new winning streak. I am looking forward to seeing my Mariner representatives contribute (except for Felix who is ineligible to pitch since he threw for the Mariners on Sunday). Here’s to a great 2011 All-Star game and an even better second half of the season! Don’t Blink.