We still don’t have a motive as to why some prick would walk up behind David Ortiz in a crowded place and put a bullet in his back. We don’t have any information about how many other people were involved or who was behind this. We don’t know the exact extent of Ortiz’ wounds, besides some conflicting reports about which of his internal organs were damaged in the attack and the fact that he’s in stable condition.
All we do have this morning is a reminder that the man who took a coward’s chickenshit bullet in his back yesterday is probably the most popular figure in the history of Boston. I don’t say that lightly. I’m certainly not saying it just because he’s lying in a hospital bed right now. David Ortiz is, in all likelihood, the most universally beloved famous person ever in his adopted city.
Prove me wrong. As far as any political figure, you can cross them all off the list. It’s the nature of politics. For every fan you win over, you make an enemy. Even the Kennedys, who were worshipped by people like my mom, were a lot more popular after they died then when they were running around making shady deals, drowning women and having orgies in the White House swimming pool.
As far as celebrities, I can’t think of one who comes anywhere close to Big Papi’s popularity. Most people who don’t live in Massachusetts would probably assume we all worship Mark Wahlberg, but nope. He admits he once beat the brakes off a guy for the crime of being Asian, left the Super Bowl with the Patriots losing by 25 points and starred in “The Happening.”
As a matter of fact, the only people who belong in this discussion are athletes. And unfortunately for a lot of great ones, they’re defined by the fact they never one a championship. A continuous line of pre-Ortiz Red Sox, stretching backwards from Nomar to Clemens to Rice to Yaz to Ted Williams, all got blamed to some extent for the fact they couldn’t deliver a World Series. Ortiz not only won three, he was a central figure in each, and the only one of whom you can say without him, they wouldn’t have won any of them.
The only Boston athletes you can compare Ortiz to in terms of popularity are Bobby Orr, Larry Bird and Tom Brady. And I say that not even those three have the universal, cross-culture appeal that Papi has. It’s virtually impossible to find someone with a negative word to say about Orr, but he played half a century ago in what was a niche sport. Bird was a godlike figure among basketball fans, but didn’t inspire the love from people like your grandmother or little sister the way Ortiz does. I mean, you couldn’t exactly picture him surrounded by adoring kids at Dana Farber. But by the same token, you can’t picture Dana Farber without Ortiz. And Brady, believe it or not, has detractors. Even inside of Rte 495, who are turned off by what they perceive are his pretty boy/Cheatriot/health food weirdo/system QB ways. They are objectively wrong, but they exist.
David Ortiz’ appeal is universal. Only the most obvious, transparent contrarian types don’t love the man and what he did for this city. On the field and off. Which makes the fact that he’s a gun shot victim in his own homeland where he’s a secular saint to his people all the more surreal. And all we can do right now is acknowledge how much he’s appreciated in his adopted homeland. And be glad this is a tribute, not an obituary.