Fireworks and Philosophy

Independence Day was always a day I looked forward to as a kid. There is nothing cooler than legalized explosives to set a boy’s heart a flutter. Where we grew up there were statutes that regulated when fireworks could be sold and what types of fireworks were allowed. For the most part I complied with the law. The key term in that sentence was “for the most part”. It was just too tempting to go over the state line or onto the Indian Reservation and get those fireworks that were just slightly beyond the laws of our state. And by slightly I mean you could get stuff that would blow your hands off if you weren’t careful. While that dumb and dangerous attitude was exhilarating, I was always left feeling slightly guilty because I had broken the law. Today as I watched my kids leaving on a road trip across the border to get “a couple of special fireworks” I wondered if they too would feel the pangs of guilt that I did. It’s funny how our conscience can sometimes get in the way of pushing the ethical envelope. I wondered if there was a corollary in baseball.

A lot has been written and talked about in baseball regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs. Just this week the story was driven back into the limelight when Detroit Tigers infielder Neifi Perez was suspended for 25 games as a result of testing positive for banned stimulants. Much like my fireworks experiences I am sure Neifi thought he knew his own limits and they did not necessarily align with what Major League Baseball had defined as appropriate behavior. Getting caught has implications beyond just a couple of bottle rockets and a lighter. Personal safety should have been taken into consideration too so that everyone knew the implications should there be an accident. Even then that does not mean that behavior may be changed. Before my kids left to get their fireworks I laid out the implications from a safety and from a rules conformance perspective what might happen if they are caught with illegal fireworks. Each child nodded in agreement understanding what was at stake yet each of them climbed into the car and drove off to a fireworks dealer to see what they might be missing. Likewise I am sure that Neifi Perez had the rules explained to him and I am sure he nodded in agreement of what the implications may be should he choose to disregard this baseball rule. If my kids are caught with these illegal fireworks they can expect their contraband to be seized and they could be issued a fine or ticket. They each need to ask themselves if they are willing to live with those consequences. If the answer to that is yes then they must be willing to accept the risk. They will have made a conscious decision. Hopefully though running contrary to acceptable behavior in the eyes of society will make them think twice before beginning down that path. I have the same hopes for those baseball players who take a similar step down the path of illegal substances. Not only is it bad for the bodies, it is worse for their ethics and losing the sense of right versus wrong is much more tragic than a 25 game suspension.

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