Manny Ramirez and Kiefer Sutherland are American heroes. The Dominican-born Ramirez is one of twenty-five major leaguers ever to hit over 500 home runs, and he has the most grand slams of any active player. And although he’s Canadian, Sutherland has become the definitive action hero of the terrorist era, taking names and torturing with glee every week on 24. But my how quickly plates can shift when you’re at the top of your game. Yesterday, Ramirez got slapped with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and Sutherland was charged with assault for a headbutt incident at SoHo hotspot subMercer early Tuesday morning. So between these two glory boys, who falls hardest?
I have to admit, when reports first surfaced that Kiefer Sutherland head-butted Proenza Schouler better-half Jack McCollough at an after party for the Costume Institute Gala, I was thrilled. Not only was it a hilarious and fairly innocent instance of celebrity-on-celebrity violence, but as a die-hard 24 fan, it was nice to see Sutherland living up the impossible standards he’s set for himself as Jack Bauer. I know McCollough is hardly a supervillain of say, the Marwan variety (in fact he’s probably the opposite), and despite all the Kiefer-was-defending-Brooke-Shields’-honor hullabaloo, I doubt the designer even came close to deserving the kind of Bauer power inflicted upon his nose. But again, it’s hard to hate Kiefer for his actions. When tales emerge of him dancing around the Rose Bar wearing a giant feather boa, how could you help but smile on the inside? He does have a history of thuggy frat boy antics, but you don’t hate him the way you would say, a thuggy frat boy. Case in point.
If I were Kiefer, I wouldn’t worry too much about public perception — and he probably doesn’t. “Loveable Badboy” is a role he wears well, and Jack McCollough had the lamentable luck of standing on the tracks just as the Sutherland Express was barreling through. Oh well. What should concern him is the law, and the five-year probation from a prior DUI that he for sure violated. Season 8 of 24 is set to begin shooting on May 27, but if the law runs its course, then Sutherland could find himself behind bars, jeopardizing the entire season. A spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office said that if they can establish that Sutherland violated probation, then it will be up to a judge to determine the necessary punishment. Worst Case Scenario: Kiefer goes away for ten months, some 24 staffers lose their gigs, and Anil Kapoor goes back to India.
Unfortunately for Manny Ramirez, the same cannot be said — in baseball, public perception is everything. Unlike Kiefer Sutherland, Ramirez doesn’t have an alter ego to hide behind. Jack Bauer is immortal, no matter how many times Sutherland takes his buzz behind the wheel. But in one day, with one revelation, the memories of Manny’s two world championships in Boston evaporate. Die hard Red Sox fan and ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote a heartbreaking requiem for the man who helped save his life. But not only has Manny poisoned the memories of Red Sox nation, but what about the L.A. Dodgers and their faithful? Manny will now lose $7.7 million of the two-year, $45 million contract he signed with them in March. L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke’s incensed radio tirade against the superstar shows just how detrimental Ramirez’s actions will be to the city of Los Angeles. They went as far as creating a section of seats at Dodger Stadium called Mannywood, which will now presumably be renamed. Manny merch is being pulled from concession stands. And perhaps most importantly, the first-place Dodgers, despite their insistence that they can win without Manny, suddenly have an ozone-sized hole to fill in their lineup.
Manny Ramirez has always been a polarizing figure in baseball, a player whose swing is so sweet it often overpowers his sourness as a person. What some people call laid-back and unusual, others call spoiled and unprofessional. For instance, Ramirez has been known to take phone calls in the middle of games. But his winning personality often shone through–a likeable guy that’s hard to like. The
excuse statement he released addressing the situation–that he was prescribed the banned substance from a doctor that has no affiliation with professional baseball–is pretty unbelievable. And until he gets in front of a camera and issues a public apology to his fans, his image will stay mired in disrepair. Worst Case Scenario: The Dodgers let their season slip away amidst the madness, Manny Ramirez gets the dreaded asterix next to his name, and little Bobby Jimenez from Huntington Beach has to throw his brand new Manny jersey in the garbage, because even the Salvation Army doesn’t like cheaters.