As of December 15, 2019, there have been 325 homicides for the year in Baltimore, Maryland. In the 349 days of the year, there have been an average of 0.93 homicides per day. If the trend continues, Baltimore will come very close to breaking the all-time record for homicides in one year that it set in 2015 and 2017 with 342 homicides. This is the continuation of an epidemic of homicides that started in 2015 and has continued unabated ever since.
You can read more about it in my doctoral dissertation.
This week, the Baltimore Ravens clinched a berth in the playoffs of the National Football League. The team has been playing well, and many have them as favorites not only to make the championship but also to win it. They have a star quarterback and a good defensive corps. They probably will go all the way.
Often, on my drive to work, I’ll tune in and listen to the local Baltimore news just to see what’s going on. I’ve been surprised that almost everyone from the top to the bottom of the political structure kind of mentions the homicide epidemic and accompanying violence, but they seemingly go nuts when talking about their football team. They say that the team’s success brings “hope” to Baltimore, and they encourage the downtrodden citizens of the Charmed City to pay attention to the games and celebrate.
I don’t blame them, though. For almost as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve cheered on the Mexican Men’s National Soccer team even as horrible things were going on around me. Even once I came to the United States, I’d ignore the political situations around the teams that I cheered for and just watched the games. I’d make a big deal of the smallest drama from athletes who, frankly, have zero direct effect on my everyday life.
Heck, I’d find “hope” and “inspiration” from athletes who would hurt themselves and make a comeback, or have a bad game and keep it together enough to win. I thought long and hard what it meant when Adam Jones — then an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles said, “Success makes you more confident, but I try to keep an even keel. One day at a time.” Don’t get too caught up in the moment and stop thinking because you’re celebrating, I think.
We humans need entertainment. We can’t be too focused on all the crazy things going on around us for too long because it will eat us alive. We need to be distracted from the horrors and the pains of life. We go to football games, the theater, the movies, a concert… Or we go watch wrestling that isn’t wrestling:
But is there a limit to all this? Is there a point at which we are too entertained and not involved enough in real life? I certainly think so. I see it all the time in children and young people who are hyperconnected to their phones but not each other, or the older people who think that the current political goings on in Washington are more of a reality television show than events impacting real lives.
So where do we draw the line? How do I teach my child to look for entertainment that allows her to get away while teaching her to keep her eye on the realities of life? When is too much fanboy-ism too much?
I guess it varies from person to person and depends on maturity. I’ve found myself being more cynical of organizations like the NFL, MLB, NBA and the many soccer federations around the world. Yeah, I watch the games, and I love seeing the sport being performed by some incredibly talented athletes. But I don’t hold those athletes to much of a higher standard anymore. Their scandals are not scandalous to me anymore. They’re regular people, not gods; so they’re going to do some very stupid things.
At the same time, some of them will do great things, things that need to be emulated by as many of us as possible. For example, Dwayne Wade talking about his child and his acceptance of the gender identity of his child is something that every parent should listen to:
Sadly, it is very rare to see this in athletes. Most of them are too young and self-absorbed to really try to bring good into the world through their actions off the field. Many do try. They do involve themselves in public relations stunts that lure more fans to their events, to their websites to buy jerseys and hats and all other sorts of memorabilia.
Rarely do you see any of them in the most violent neighborhoods, talking the gangs out their wars. But, again, I don’t blame them. I’d do what they do if it guaranteed me tens of millions of dollars a year to play a fun game that I’ve enjoyed since a young age and promised me fame. Fame and fortune is what it’s all about.
It is now December 20, 2019, as I finish this blog post, five days since I started it. The homicide count in Baltimore now stands at 333, eight more than five days ago. In eleven days, 2019 will end, and it will likely be the most deadly year for the city, ever… But, hey, go Ravens.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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