Stick to Sports: Chipper Jones and the Conspiracy Theories of Athletes

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Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones has never been my favorite athlete, largely because his Atlanta Braves ran roughshod on my Philadelphia Phillies for the better part of an entire decade. It also did not help that Chipper was a player you could be envious of, but even if you had him on your team, you kinda wish he played for someone else. I did respect Chipper for helping the Braves win the NL East on an annual basis, and for having that dominance result in a single World Series ring, earned in his rookie year. He is a lock to enter the Baseball Hall Of Fame, and is also a lock to be ridiculed for believing in a simultaneously fantastic and reprehensible conspiracy.

The other day, Chipper took to Twitter to give you the news “they” did not want to tell you, largely because Snopes debunked it last fall. Jones’ tweet, which has since been deleted and apologized for, praises the Federal Board of Investigation for “admitting” through its classification of violent deaths in Newtown, CT, that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School never happened. To have a small if vocal minority believe that a vast conspiracy to further the agenda of gun control could stage a tragedy on the level of Sandy Hook, but not that a single mentally disturbed young man with access to semi-automatic weaponry could not do the same thing in real life, is kinda screwed up.

In reality, the deaths at Sandy Hook were listed under violent deaths handled by the Connecticut State Police, instead of by the Newtown police. These statistical quirks happen, like how Camden, NJ was no longer listed as the most violent city in America on one list last year because a county police department replaced the city police department. That being said, the crimes still really happened, and the victims were still killed in vain.

Conspiracy theories do have their place, but mostly as something to think about and contemplate, rather than blindly accept. I don’t doubt the New England Patriots tried to gain an unfair advantage by deflating some of their footballs. I’m also pretty sure the National Basketball Association favors the Los Angeles Lakers over other teams. But I no longer think the Lakers and New England Patriots control the NBA and the NFL from a secret underground salt mine beneath Kansas City, Missouri.

Last week Pete Carroll took responsibility for the most mind-boggling call in Super Bowl history, when he let Russell Wilson pass rather than let Marshawn Lynch punch it into the end zone. Regarding his views regarding the events of 9/11, maybe Carroll should’ve passed on that occasion.

Sometimes more than one player on a team believes in something a little screwy. The 1984 San Diego Padres had three players—Eric Show, Dave Dravecky and Mark Thurmond show their support for the John Birch Society at a local fair. That entire team was a weird collection of tragic and semi-tragic figures, but stumping for an organization that once worried about Dwight Eisenhower being a Communist is something else entirely.

Rock N’ Jock legend Jenny McCarthy is the most prominent figure in the anti-vaxxer movement. Did I absolutely know Jenny McCarthy was a Rock N’ Jock legend before writing those words down? No, but there are some things that you sense and assume are correct. If they actually are true, then so much the better.

Even my childhood heroes are not immune to ignorance, although we can only hope they are vaccinated for everything else. I almost have to forgive my 1993 Phillies, and their Macho Row of controversial thinkers. Curt Schilling wants to believe in creationism? Fine. Darren Daulton thought the Mayans would be right about 2012? Sure. Lenny Dykstra had delusions of being a competent businessman? Well, that was a load of bull. I’m just glad I was born after Steve Carlton’s prime, or I would have been a lot more shocked about the 1994 Philadelphia Magazine piece which portrays him as a survivalist and a conspiracy nut.

The controversy over Chipper Jones seems to have ended, as people only have so much time to deal with the ignorant. Other athletes, celebrities and regular folks like us will find some other actual event that at a certain angle and with your eyes closed, looks suspicious, and hang on to that for dear life. Conspiracy theories often undermine the very truth the people who believe in them are seeking, and trivialize those lives lost in the events mentioned. The term “stick to sports” is often used to patronize athletes who truly believe that they can make a difference, but when it comes to extrapolating the truth into something disproven by science and fact, maybe they should. At least until the Lakers get the top pick in the NBA Draft this June.

Tom Keiser lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, but his heart lies inside of Philadelphia.

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