It is not the critic who counts;
I never got to meet Yu Darvish in Texas. The closest I got was sitting in the first base commissioner’s box one late August night in 2012. Yu went seven innings that night against Tampa, striking out ten in a 1-0 win that Mike Adams held and Joe Nathan saved.
Darvish’s game score that night was 75. Both statistically and anecdotally it’s the best pitching performance I’ve witnessed in person.
During his time in Texas, Yu treated us to a bevy of greatness. A near perfect game, no hit bids, and a venerable buffet of other non-titled pitching gems. Despite that short stint, it’s an easy argument that Yu is second only to Nolan Ryan on the list of greatest pitchers who donned a Rangers uniform.
Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
Yet whether it’s Arlington or Los Angeles the same narrative trails like a vengeful spectre, hellbent on extracting its retribution; casting its haunting guise over the Japanese-Iranian star like an ominous yet invisible mist.
No more did that curse afflict than Game 7. As Springer’s home run soared into the stands on a collision course with baffled blue clad fans, a man stood on the mound. As the same rate as the ball left the yard, so too did the spirit of the 31 year old Sendai native. His manager, also half Japanese just like Darvish, make the dutiful walk to the center of the arena. He took the ball, relieving Yu of his responsibilities.
A smattering of boos cascaded onto the head of Darvish as he walked to the dugout.
His spectre not far behind.
Or whether the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The takes and tweets flowed. Some from local writers present and not, telling their readers the same hackneyed narrative they’ve used for a half decade plus. Yu’s not an ace, here’s why (insert stats with no context and a curated time period here).
Some from the baseball community at large, armchair psychoanalyzing from afar; he doesn’t want it enough, he doesn’t have enough #grit, he doesn’t have IT, it goes on and on.
Some from fans tweeting harm into a void from their couches, willfully ignorant that the person they’re slamming is more a person like them and less a commodity as they treat them.
“No one in LA will ever ask for Yu Darvish’s autograph ever again. Ruined a season for a team he’s been a part of for a couple months.”
“Not sure there's a single player who has single handedly wrecked a world series for his team more than Yu Darvish. Bad & killed bullpen 2x”
“Biggest game of your life.
F**k you Darvish.”
“Yu Darvish is dead to me. Was never excited about him. He single handedly ruined a season that he was never fully a part of.”
“F**k Yu Darvish”
The last group is most bothersome. Sure writers and such being intellectually dishonest for the sake of retweets and clicks is disappointing, but not surprising. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. In our current age, ignorance based outrage is like pivoting to video: a way to acquire quick attention, but only stupid people think it’s a viable long term model.
But the fans’ unsympathetic vitriol is the scariest. The folks above, just like me, haven’t met Darvish. They’ve never shared a word, a handshake, or anything but space on the same giant rock hurtling towards its inevitable conclusion. They don’t know him, just like I don’t know him.
Yet while I feel pain for him, they feel only pain for themselves.
While I feel remorse for a man at the top of his sport unable to achieve the goals he desires, they spit venom because of a one sided supposed social contract where they feel entitled to success based on his performance. When that success doesn’t arrive, their victimhood excuses all outbursts.
Above all else, when I feel empathy for a man who wants nothing more than to deliver what he knows he can and can’t (likely for reasons the league he plays in won’t admit exist even though they clearly do), the jackals emerge hungry for entrails, devoid of basic human emotion. No memory of their own failures, just viciousness aimed at the failure of a fellow human.
I understand sports frustration. I get wanting something so bad and then not having it happen. I’ll never understand the voracious, anonymous attacks. All it does is show off to whatever tiny world that sees it your own pain, your own darkness, your own lack of genuine empathy.
It doesn’t do anything for the man walking off the mound, drowning in his own misery without needing your second helping. It doesn’t dispel what ails him. It just adds more ugliness when there’s plenty already.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
It was a painful scene to watch Yu walk off the mound into another instance of self-inflicted gloom. No matter the outcome of the game, it’ll still be Yu tagged with a scarlet memory. No amount of champagne will be able to wash away the odorous stench people have and will place upon him for his lackluster performance.
We’ll say that’s just how it is in sports. That his millions of dollars and fame should comfort and console or more accurately protect and shield. Even though we know those things are tissue paper against the nefarious gargoyles lurking in the reclusive corners of the mind.
Just ask any rich and/or famous person, or remember the ones you can’t if you need countless examples.
Above all the noise of hatred and venom, let these words be a beacon of reason cutting through the nastiness. You don’t have to cut down that man for his failures.
You don’t have to let yourself be consumed in darkness because of something you can’t control.
I guarantee you the guy that controls it wants it more than you. It’s his livelihood at stake. He’s doing the work in the spotlight, while the rest of us lurk in relative obscurity.
Yes, I hurt for Darvish when he soils the bed on the biggest of stages. I feel angry when people write his legacy based on their standards and preconceived notions, not facts or reality. I wish people would look upon him not with the image of a rich athlete they can pelt, but a fellow person they should embrace.
As Yu walked out of the arena for the last time in Dodger blue, only to later watch those in orange celebrate success in part(nowhere near in full) of his own failures it reminds us of humanity’s eternal struggle. The struggle we all face, not just person against person but person against themselves.
That lasting image of Darvish walking off the mound, his spectre both invisible yet unable to be ignored, will stick with me for a while. We all face those challenges, just in different shapes. At some point in our lives, we are all Yu Darvish.
His failure on the highest level should be our reminder to be better because of that.
Instead, it becomes an image that drives the wedge between us further.
Whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.
Want to give Samuel your take on hot takes? Hit him up on Twitter @thesamuelhale.