Edgar Martinez takes batting practice. On occasion, he takes infield practice. But if the venerated Mariners slugger takes Viagra, he won't be telling anyone. Thus ruled Mariners management last week, when team president Chuck Armstrong said the club had rejected a lucrative offer to make Martinez the next spokesperson for Bob Dole's little blue buddy. The announcement, carefully released in the midst of a rare winning streak at Safeco Field, was buried in sports pages locally and across the nation. The message, however, was crystal clear: Boners rank up there with the word "suck" as taboo.
Let's consider the facts. The 39-year-old Martinez may indeed suffer from erectile dysfunction, a syndrome that afflicts more than 50 percent of middle-aged men nationwide, but Edgar hasn't gone public with details of his genitalia, and I'm not sure we really need to know. Still, for a club that attempts to justify its inability to sign big-name stars by having to adhere to a fixed budget, turning down an endorsement deal for reportedly $2 million and advertisements in 40 markets nationwide just doesn't make sense.
Armstrong and the rest of his corporate pals would have you believe the decision simply was an issue of taste. In The Seattle Times on the day of the announcement, Armstrong was quoted as saying the club did not think endorsing Viagra was "suitable for a park where children and youngsters are a large part of our fan base." Later that week, team spokesperson Rebecca Hale told a pack of salacious reporters, "We don't want to get into [the issue of erectile assistance]," then referred them to Safeco's infamous code of conduct. Even Martinez himself chimed in to toe the party line: "Some people feel comfortable with it," he said about touting Viagra. "Some don't."
In reality, the Mariners' decision to blueball Viagra is nothing more than another hypocritical ejaculation of puritanical pride. This is the management group that receives millions from Fox Sports to advertise The Best Damn Sports Show, Period on the center field scoreboard, the same hacks who undoubtedly leaped for joy when the Puyallup Indians decided to buy the Emerald Queen casino billboard back by the bullpens. If "suck" is inappropriate in a family-friendly environment, why isn't "damn?" If using a drug to correct a biological deficiency is so wrong, shouldn't gambling be deemed a vice as well? At the risk of sounding risqu鬠the hypocrisies just keep coming.
First Armstrong and good ol' Howard Lincoln tried to limit free speech. Now they are trying to make us feel guilty for even thinking about erections. What's next—replacing the ball girls with 80-year-old grandmothers to censor impure thoughts? I've heard baseball stadiums referred to as cathedrals, but this priestly attitude is ridiculous. It's baseball, boys, not boarding school. Get off the soapbox, get on the phone, and get us a reliable fourth starter for the stretch run. With or without Viagra, we'll need more than Edgar's big bat to win the West.