Nothing makes me happier than when someone challenges the misguided beliefs of millions, except, of course, when the challenger represents one my favorite sports teams. Allow me to explain...
In 2004, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling had experimental surgery on his ankle during the playoffs. Instead of giving his ankle ample time to heal, he rushed back to the mound so as to not miss his start against the hated Yankees. Schilling pitched well (as usual), but the "stuff of legend" was made by some wily cameramen. During the game, a camera noticed some red splotches on Schillings sock, right around that same surgically repaired ankle. Everyone assumed that the ankle was bleeding while Schilling was pitching, and that he is not mortal, for surely mortals cannot pitch with a bloody ankle.
Schilling won the game, the Sox won the series, and eventually the World Series. This performance was lauded (means praised), and the bloody sock was sent to the Hall of Fame and placed on display (ewww). Tales of Schilling's gutsy performance were canonized by baseball pundits, and have gone unchallenged.
Enter Gary Thorne. Thorne is the freshman play-by-play man for the Orioles this season, and possesses both a good announcer voice and a firm grasp of the minute details that occur within a game. This past Wednesday during a broadcast of the Orioles/Red Sox contest, Thorne started a rather nice conspiracy, saying that Schilling's ankle was not bleeding, the sock was painted red (ironic), and the stories were just the stuff of lore like Babe Ruth calling his shot. Most Oriole fans probably shrugged their shoulders and said "Yeah, maybe". Boston, on the other hand, was just about ready to declare war on the City of Baltimore, and the media was serving as the back up.
Unbeknownst to Thorne at the time, the statement he made was in fact sacrilege of the highest degree, a blasphemy worse than that of which the Romans convicted Jesus Christ. Thorne offered the other side to the coin (raising a skeptical eye is good), and good lord is he going to pay, maybe Don Imus style. This story has been the top headline on both Si.com and ESPN.com for at least 4 hours. It has been on Baseball Tonight, Sportscenter, and I think CSPAN. The Food Network has gone off the air in respect to those affected by this tragedy, and the President has declared a state of emergency. I, for once, got my wish, as the national media has descended upon Baltimore to cover this story of high treason (careful what you wish for).
I am somewhat offended, not by the comment by any means (I'm a believer in Thorne... more on that), but by the response this has garnered. On ESPN's "Outside the Lines with Bob Ley", Ley was quoted as saying that the comment was of, and I quote, "monumental proportions". That sounds vaguely familiar, as if I had heard it before somewhere recently. Oh, that's right, those were the EXACT WORDS used by Virginia Tech President Charles Steger to describe the shooting massacre that took place on campus. According to Bob Ley, Gary Thorne questioning Schilling's ankle is the same as 32 people losing their lives in an environment of academia. Bob Ley should suddenly be the one on trial, not Gary Thorne. The problem is, we live in an ass backwards society, so lets crucify Gary Thorne first, and let Bob Ley slide. Just know that Ley's comment was tasteless, classless, and disrespectful, and represents a sad day in editing when trash like that can make it to the air waves. In my mind, Bob Ley is no better (possibly worse) than Don Imus, and deserves the spot in the unemployment line directly behind Imus. With that, I announce that I will never, ever, watch Outside the Lines again.
Back to the story. Red Sox nation, the media, and the Hall of Fame have all come out in support of Schilling, all saying there is no possible way Thorne's comments are true. But lets check some sources, shall we? Thorne says he was told that the blood was fake from Schilling's catcher that night, Doug Mirabelli. When the comment was brought to his attention, Mirabelli called Thorne's comment a "straight lie", with the same vigor as President Bill Clinton denying the Monica Lewinski scandal and Rafael Palmeiro denying steroid use. It was hard to tell from the article, but I got the impression that Mirabelli was pointing his finger at the interviewer when he said "straight lie" (by the way, aren't lies, by definition inherently crooked? Wouldn't a straight lie be a truth?).
What people are forgetting here is that Thorne didn't question Schilling's performance that night. He did not say "Curt Schilling used a stand in that night, and did not pitch against the Yankees, but still took credit for it". The only thing he questioned was the substance that was on the sock. The Hall of Fame has come out in support of Schilling, saying the stain has since turned brown (ewww), which is the natural tendency of blood. I propose this question: how do we know the blood wasn't applied after the game? How do we know that Curt Schilling didn't paint the sock for the game, then apply blood later, knowing it would one day come under scrutiny? Red Sox manager Terry Francona has also come out in support of Schilling, saying that the pitcher's performance was just short of heroic (again, our priorities as a society are way out of order when a pitcher in a GAME is heroic, but cops, firefighters, and teachers still live paycheck to paycheck). The Red Sox nation (of which the national media is a card carrying member) has definitely come out to support Schilling in his moment of need, but what does the pitcher have to say for himself?
Schilling, naturally and as expected, has denied Thorne's claim, saying he has the scar to prove it. He went as far to say that Gary Thorne is a "bad man". Apparently, Schilling knows things about Thorne that the rest of us do not. In Schilling's mind, "Bad Man" Thorne made the challenging comment whilst lighting his crack pipe, selling military secrets to Al Quaida, kicking a puppy, ripping off senior citizens, stealing candy from a baby, and parking in a handicap space. These comments do not make Thorne a bad man, because he didn't call Schilling a "nappy headed ho" or anything derogatory. He simply questioned the sock that Schilling wore that night. What I would like to know is if Schilling is so vehement that the sock was bloodied during the game, why can't he let Thorne's comment roll right off his back? Why does he have to create such public backlash over the issue, and take such a defensive stance? The same goes for Mirabelli as well. If they are so sure that they are right, why bother fighting?
While most of the Western Hemisphere has Schilling's back, who is carrying Thorne's banner? Well, there's me (though I be but small, I am mighty), and hopefully my readers (I know where you live), and that's about it. Not even the network that broadcast the game has Thorne's back. MASN (my favorite network ever) re aired the game today, and left Thorne's comment out of the broadcast as if it never even happened. The network has left Thorne hanging out to dry, which really should be MASN's motto. "MASN: Hanging people out to dry on two networks for over 2 months!"
In all seriousness, the media is blowing this entirely out of proportion. Thorne simply offered a second explanation of what actually happened that night, and he has gotten nothing but the third degree since. The man is entitled to his opinion, and people like it better when there are two sides to an issue. Yes, it's a controversial stance, and yes, it creates a conspiracy, but who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory? Maybe Schilling brainwashed Mirabelli into retracting the comment, and paid off the media to keep it hush-hush. Who knows? All I know is that putting Gary Thorne on trial for making this comment is not worth the trouble. He didn't question Schilling's performance that night, and in the end, the performance was all that mattered.
Hours after I made this post, Gary Thorne retracted his statements, saying he talked to Doug Mirabelli and they cleared the whole thing up. The real reason is that he's spineless, was afraid to stand up for himself, and was terrified of the media.