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A Manny in full

Entertainment | A former Boston Red Sox great trades disgrace for God’s grace
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 12/06/19, 05:30 pm

Manny Ramirez left Boston in 2008 in a tide of bitterness, but the former major league baseball star has since returned on a wave of forgiveness. The 2004 World Series MVP said he’s not the same man who fought with teammates, pushed a 64-year-old administrative staff member to the ground, and feigned a knee injury to get out of playing in his final year with the Red Sox—and he gives all the credit to Jesus Christ.

“I remember when I retired, to be honest I didn’t know what to do with my time,” Ramirez told Boston Globe sports writer Dan Shaughnessy last month. “You think you can do whatever you want, but there are consequences. You get knocked down and you say, ‘What’s going on here?’ But then I started going to church.”

Ramirez was back in Beantown in November for a gala hosted by The Sports Museum to honor Boston’s athletic heroes. Shaughnessy, a local sports icon in his own right, asked Ramirez if he was sorry for his past behavior, and Ramirez apologized for all of it.

“To be honest, I was not in a good place at that time,” he said. “I wanted a change. I thought going someplace else was going to make a difference. But now, man, I know it wasn’t the place. It was me. It was my mind. It was my heart. I wasn’t thinking right.’’

When the Red Sox picked up Ramirez from the Cleveland Indians in 2001, the team gave him one of baseball’s most lucrative contracts at the time: $200 million over 10 years. Ramirez consistently ranked among the American League’s top hitters, and the outfielder helped deliver the World Series title in 2004 that famously broke the Curse of the Bambino and an 86-year championship drought for the franchise. But four years later, after he indulged in a spate of public tantrums, the team happily traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the middle of the season. After that, Ramirez began a painful-to-watch decline.

In 2011, while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs—for a second time, the first was in 2009—and was facing a 100-game suspension. Ramirez quit. That same year, he was briefly jailed on suspicion of hitting his wife, Juliana. That’s when he said he turned to God, and the Ramirezes began going to church. He told Shaughnessy he is a Reformed Baptist and he practices preaching and teaching the Bible to people in hospitals.

Shaughnessy reported that his interview was the first time Ramirez had “acknowledged any of this stuff.” That makes it sound like baseball’s former bad boy is just the latest in a long line of surprise celebrity converts, including Justin Bieber and Kanye West. But Ramirez talked of his faith with reporters in 2014 when he came back to Boston for the 10th anniversary of the 2004 World Series title.

“To be honest, I’ve been in church now for almost four years, me and my wife,” Ramirez said at the time. “I really realize that I behaved bad. I apologize for that, but I’m a new man. That’s what Jesus said, and that’s what I believe.”

According to Shaughnessy, Ramirez has attended seminary for the past five years. He and Juliana are still married. His oldest son, Manny Ramirez Jr., who was born in 1995 from a prior relationship, tweets out Bible verses and stories about his dad’s accomplishments. Manny Jr. was on the baseball team at the University of San Francisco and played professionally in 2018 for an independent league team in New Britain, Conn.

In April 2020, the Red Sox will induct the elder Ramirez into the team’s hall of fame. The city seems to have given him the forgiveness he asked for. But with the blemish of performance-enhancing drugs on his record, his chances of making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., are much slimmer.

Though Ramirez would like for baseball writers to vote him in, he told Shaughnessy he’s OK if they don’t.

“I’m going into another Hall of Fame,” Ramirez said. “If you read the Bible, the Bible says that your name is going to be written in the Book of Life. So it’s going to be more impressive than this. Remember, when you die, you can’t take this with you.’’

YouTube/Peloton YouTube/Peloton A screen grab from the “Peloton Wife” commercial

Bah hum-bike

A new Peloton ad for the Christmas gift-giving season has unified the internet—but in the worst way possible for the exercise equipment company. Critics have called the 30-second spot sexist for its portrayal of an already-slender woman’s yearlong journey on a Peloton stationary bike her husband gave her last year.

After yelping for joy at the sight of her $2,245 present, the wife—who always has her phone at the ready to video her exercise regimen—later gingerly mounts the bike with a mixed and almost fearful expression on her face. “I’m a little bit nervous. But excited,” she says to her phone.

The commercial ends with the couple sitting on the couch watching the wife’s year-end Peloton transformation video. “Peloton Wife” stares at her husband, her eyes seeming to ask for his approval.

A Washington Post critique likened the woman to a hostage, satirically inferring that her toil on the bike represented her imprisonment to her husband’s obsession with body image.

“Someone please help the woman from Peloton’s awful new ad,” pleaded a USA Today writer.

The video had more than 4.1 million views on YouTube by Friday morning, but an overwhelming amount of dislikes (15,000) to likes (8,000). Comedian Eva Victor created an obscenity-littered parody of the commercial that attracted more than 3 million views on Twitter.

Along with a torrent of criticism, Peloton also endured a 13 percent plummet in stock value. But the company still doesn’t seem to get it.

“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” Peloton said in a statement. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by—and grateful for—the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.” —Loren Skinker

Associated Press/Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision Associated Press/Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision James Patterson

Bonus for the bookish

Bestselling author James Patterson is handing out Christmas bonuses of $500 each to 500 independent bookstore employees across the United States. The recipients were chosen from a pool of more than 2,500 nominees for the Holiday Bookseller Bonus Program that Patterson and the American Booksellers Association sponsor.

Patterson attained near omnipresence on American bookshelves in the 1990s and early 2000s with his popular novel series about fictional detective Alex Cross. He now writes novels for all ages and has become something of a literacy evangelist.

“I’ve said this many times before, but I can’t say it enough: booksellers save lives,” Patterson said in a statement about the holiday bonus program. “Children’s booksellers especially—they guide children to books they’ll genuinely enjoy and in turn create a new generation of readers.” —L.L.

Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • AlanE
    Posted: Sat, 12/07/2019 09:54 pm

    Wow, the Bah-hum bike section seems a little over the top, parroting much of what secular media has said about the same advertising spot. Effectively, this piece and the secular media rehashing of the same topic suggest that there is no moral way to market exercise equipment to females. Maybe we should stop acting as if concern over body image issues should stop all conversations touching on the topic. I'm generally not one to rush to the defense of advertising, but the criticism is overdone. It's marketing, folks. There are plenty of worse things being marketed out there that I don't see anyone writing about.

    And, by the way, good for Manny Ramirez. May he continue to grow in faith.

  • Narissara
    Posted: Sun, 12/08/2019 10:30 am

    I'm inclined to agree.  Good grief, do we need to have a prequel commercial to show the husband making his decision to buy?  The critics universally assume it's because he's tired of looking at her.  But maybe she saw it first, he told it was above his price point (or maybe their mutually-agreed upon price point, how about that?) — and then decided to surprise her.  The point is, it's a story.  Everyone's seeing it through the lens of their assumptions.  Let's not be too quick to make the same assumptions as the rest of the world, especially about something as trivial as this.  

  • JerryM
    Posted: Sun, 12/08/2019 04:11 pm

    "But the company still doesn’t seem to get it." 
    But Lynde needs to add that the company, to its credit, "gets" it does not have to be held hostage to the social media mob.

    Good to hear of James Patterson's work.  Has World reviewed 'The Enchanted Hour' by Megan Cox Gordon?

     

  • not silent
    Posted: Sun, 12/08/2019 05:16 pm

    It looks to me like the Peloton ad has caused controversy because people reacted to it differently based on their life experience.  First of all, I get what Peloton was trying to do; and I have no problem with their INTENT. I also get that it can be tiresome having people complain about everything all the time. 

    On the other hand, while I wasn't personally hurt by the ad, I can tell from the screen shots why it triggered others.  Some commenters here and on other forums have pointed out that the wife "may" have asked for the Peloton ahead of time, and I think that was probably the intent for the ad; but the ad doesn't SHOW this.  Therefore, BOTH sides are basically making assumptions based on how the ad made them feel. 

    People who have never been bullied about their weight and/or have never struggled with eating disorders would probably jsut see this as a kind gesture from a loving husband; but people who HAVE been bullied about their weight-particularly if it was done by an abusive spouse or boyfriend-might see a woman who appears nervous and desperate to please, and this might bring up their own negative experiences and lead to their making an erroneous assumption about what was being shown.

    I can see both sides, and I think it would help if BOTH sides were willing to acknowledge that someone else may have had a different reaction; and to be okay with it.  (You can ACKNOWLEDGE someone else's feelings without having to agree with them.) I also think Peloton could acknowledge that people had a negative response to the ad but continue to point out that their intent was good. (Perhaps they could even have a "prequel ad" showing how the wife loved fitness and longed for a Peloton-not as a requirement but simply out of good will.)  Those who were triggered could figure out WHY the ad upset them so much and if they need to talk to someone about their issues AND acknowledge that Peloton meant no offense. 

    Win-win.  

  • Narissara
    Posted: Mon, 12/09/2019 10:34 am

    not silent, the controversy here isn't about a perceived insensitivity toward people who struggle with weight and/or eating disorders, although I could see how the ad might hit a nerve there.  I think you're comments are mostly in response to my previous one, and I do get what you're saying.  There isn't a TV viewer to be found who hasn't been offended at some point or another by some ad, very often based on their own life experience.  Some of us are probably offended on a regular basis.  But it shouldn't be the norm to take to tirades on social media. 

    This controversy was stirred up for the sake of engaging in identity politics. Wherever there's a victim, there's an oppressor that needs taken down.  Here it's the white American male, and my remark about this being trivial was out of frustration with World for jumping on the bandwagon instead of seeing it for what it is.  I've noticed for the past year or more a slow but steady drift from World's mission to "provide clarity to the news that matters most" and find myself asking whether it's worth continuing my subscription.  After reading your comments, I realize their pieces also have a way of reinforcing the idea that life experiences should drive our reactions to culture.  We're not going to get away from being offended, or offending, because we're sinners living in a sinful world, and we all tend to be touchy about one thing or another.  The issue should be, is it offensive to God?  Other than an absorption with self, which is at the heart of marketing to begin with, I would say, no.  

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 12/09/2019 10:54 pm

    For Narissara: I know it looked like my comment was aimed at you, but I didn't actually mean it that way.  I also get how this whole thing fits in with "identity politics" and I understand the frustration about that.  However, it makes me really sad how EVERYTHING is being made into a potlitical issue.  I'm not blaming YOU for it.  I'm really not sure WHO to blame.  But, it makes it so hard to have any kind of reasonable conversation.  

    It's true that there are people who are looking for reasons to attack anyone and everyone for-well, they will always find SOMETHING!  It is ALSO true that there are people who have been hurt and are in pain and are easily triggered by a lot of things. Yes, there is a political component; but, underneath the politics are real people who are angry and suffering.  It's like there's a pendulum, and it keeps swinging faster and higher in each direction.  

    Bear with me, as I try to explain: When I was young, showing anger, sadness, or depression was "weak."  We sucked it up, we "walked it off," we kept a stiff upper lip, and we pretended everything was fine, dang it all!  (Apologies for my language...) No one CARED if I was triggered-they made fun of me or ignored me until I learned to shut all my feelings down.  In a way, that was good-because it enabled me to function and achieve and taught me to have compassion for others who were struggling.  But it was also bad because suppressing all those feelings led to numbing behaviors like alcoholism and eating disorders.  First I had to acknowledge my negative feelings; then I had to learn healthy ways to deal with them and how to set healthy boundaries.  Through God's help, I also learned about true forgiveness-acknowledging all of the wrong that was done and choosing to let it go.   

    Society has been changing, gradually at first and then more and more rapidly.  Some of the changes were good, but the pendulum kept swinging and now even the good ones seem to have gone too far.  Acting like everyone should suck it up may have helped productivity, but it did so at the cost of emotional development.  In the process of "correcting" our mistakes, current culture has taken things way too far in the OTHER direction so that it's hurting the people it claims to be helping.  It was good for kids to learn compassion for people and groups that have been bullied or oppressed, but now they seem to be learning that EVERYONE is a victim and that it is essential to seek out the ones who are causing this victimization and PUNISH them.  While it is definitely not healthy to force kids to suppress all their feelings, it's ALSO not healthy (or realisitic) to promote the idea that the world should or will accomodate EVERYONE's personal triggers.  Part of recovering from trauma-and even just becoming an adult-involves taking responsibity for your own feelings, figuring out how to set boundaries to protect yourself, and learning to forgive and let things go. By teaching kids to do the exact opposite, culture is keeping them immature.  (This makes it easy for advertisers and politicians to manipulate them, but it is a huge disservice and it leads to anger and pain.)

     That was probably FAR more than anyone wanted to hear, and I'm afraid I strayed from the subject. I just hate that we are being forced to take sides in an ever-widening split between conservative and liberal, young and old, rich and poor, believer and non-believer, etc.  I'm not saying all ideas are equally valid, but I'm trying to find a way for those with different views to communicate instead of attacking each other.

  • not silent
    Posted: Mon, 12/09/2019 11:10 pm

    Sorry, one more thing... I get the frustration with all the tirades, and it is true that there are some who are attacking what they would call "the patriarchy."  But there's a difference between manufactured outrage and REAL pain.  While I was not actually triggered by the ad, as a recovering anorexic, I REALLY get how it could be triggering to some. 

    We can be upset about manufactured rage against white males in general while still acknowledging that REAL pain has been caused by SOME white males who abused wives or girlfriends.  We don't have to feel sympathy, but I think it's biblical to try to feel it for people who are actually in pain. (i.e., 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in ANY trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." [NIV, emphasis mine]) 

  • AlanE
    Posted: Tue, 12/10/2019 11:44 pm

    not silent, it's difficult for me to see how any advertisement is not potentially triggering in some respect. To pick a few easy ones: advertise alcohol and risk triggering all sorts of folks who've been harmed, either directly or indirectly, by alcohol; advertise an expensive vehicle and risk triggering the person who missed out on a raise because his/her boss "needed" a fancier vehicle; advertise a church and risk triggering the person who heard his/her activity was sinful in a sermon preached at that church. I understand your plea for compassion. And we need to be compassionate as a people and as individuals. But, I don't think it works to say that any advertising that could be triggering needs to be stopped. All we end up with then is certain favored classes of triggering exercising veto power over advertising--which, come to think of it, is kind of exactly what we have.

    Every day I go to the public schools in our land and I see kids being taught to be sensitive to slates of issues. I sometimes see people being taught to take offense where they never would have thought to take offense before. If there's a freight train to be slowed down in this country, it's the freight train that takes offense where no offense was intended or given. Cultural appropriation is a great example. I can recall when it was perceived as an honor to have something from your culture adopted by a person of a different culture. Wow, has that one ever been turned on its head! There are exceptions, though--like Maxine Waters' hairstyle, nobody seems to get too offended over that one (which is as it should be).

  • Narissara
    Posted: Wed, 12/11/2019 10:42 am

    not silent, AlanE expresses well what I struggled all day yesterday to find words for. I would add, it's one thing to hold an individual accountable for the pain he/she has intentionally inflicted on another.  What we should not do is to hold up a handful of bad actors as poster children for an entire class of people.  Come to think of it, it's the flip side of the coin of holding up "admirable" individuals as examples for the rest of us to follow, and we know God calls that idolatry.  

    And we should comfort those who are hurting.  But it's a tool of Satan to provoke someone to take offense where none would have otherwise been taken, under the guise of "advocating" for them.  I realize that's going to sound harsh to someone like you who seems very tenderhearted, but not everyone acts with good intentions in so doing and would be all too happy to appropriate the cause for their own selfish ends.  Sometimes we as Christians just need to rest in the assurance of God's sovereignty and let Him deal with it. 

  • not silent
    Posted: Wed, 12/11/2019 08:47 pm

    Thanks to Narissara and AlanE for your comments.  I'm obviously not communicating my point very well, and I apologize for that.  Alan, you are right. I'm sure that many, if not most, ads are triggering to someone.  But I think you misunderstood me if you thought I was calling for stopping all ads that are triggering.  I'm all for free speech and the free exchange of ideas in the public square.   

    For Narissara, I get what you are saying.  There are definitely some people who are trying to provoke others to take offense; and I agree that that is harmful. In fact, I find it cruel and reprehensible that media and politicians have deliberately tapped into the pain and trauma of victims and have stirred them up and used them as political weapons. While they may claim to be helping victims, they are really just using them-and it's abusing them all over again.  You are exactly right: it is definitely a tool of Satan.       

    As a recovering anorexic and someone with PTSD, however, I guarantee you that there were people who were genuinely upset by the ad.  Yes, some of the outrage is no doubt manufactured; but not ALL of it.  When I go to the movies, I'm sure most of the adults there KNOW they are watching actors; but it's real enough to cause them to laugh, to cry, to cheer, to get scared, or whatever while they are watching it.  Not only that, the whole purpose of an ad is to provoke feelings (i.e., to get people to go out and buy a product).  This ad was no doubt intended to provoke positive feelings; they may have had no idea it would provoke negative ones in some people.

    Okay, yes, it's really silly to say the ACTORS need help or to hold the guy responsible for presumed abuse!  But the fact that some reactions were over-the-top doesn't mean all negative reactions were ridiculous or provoked by social media.  People don't always have to fit into one of two very extreme positions. Just because I acknowledge that some people were hurt by the ad does not automatically mean I think all ads should be stopped or that I want the ACTORS held accountable for something they did as a "gig" or that I am into manufacturing pain.  I guess I just want you to listen to what I'm actually saying instead of assuming things like this about me.

    Yes, there are people who are using pain and trauma to make political statements; and, yes, they are trying to provoke manufactured outrage.  But there is also very real pain.  Please understand that I'm not suggesting that anyone stop doing ads. But I do think they might want to pay attention if a lot of people had a negative reaction to a particular ad and change it.  If nothing else, it's just good business.     

  • Narissara
    Posted: Thu, 12/12/2019 09:15 am

    Thanks, not silent, I appreciate your thoughts.  I think there's been some miscommunication due to the use of the expression, "bad actors."  I didn't mean it literally, but in this context, it's confusng.  

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