In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart

“There’s no anger or animosity from us, your first reaction is for the person,” Avila said. “Millions of people have problems with alcohol and drugs. It’s something that can be overcome, but you need a lot of help.”
—The Detroit News, February 18

Miguel Cabrera.

Of all the strange ways life foreshadows itself, there’s this: the number on the back of his jersey is nearly the same —just add a decimal point—as the blood alcohol content he registered in 2009, after a domestic dispute with his wife led to police intervention.

And then there’s the far-off warning bells that rang last spring, when a healthy, happy, Cabrera explained to the assembled press that while he had stopped drinking, he didn’t have a drinking problem and was not an alcoholic.

Maybe it was harder to believe there was still something he was wrestling with: He looked finer at the plate, swifter with the glove, than he had his entire career. He mentored his teammates about his approach at the plate, and how it could improve their discipline.

No one seemed to notice that despite all appearances, Cabrera was still struggling. It can’t be much of a surprise that a man whose talent often makes his professional peers look collegiate wouldn’t struggle in the same, vaguely mortal ways as the rest of us.

As though he were Thor, as though the rest of us couldn’t ascertain his problems because, well, how would we even approach recognizing the shortcomings of a titan, an immortal, an Asgaardian?

I see my family when I look at the Tigers. My older brother, who gave me my gift of loving sports like a man, is a ringer for Joel Zumaya. My younger brother, the Army specialist with the massive muscles and childlike smile and babyfaced grit, is all Cabrera, save the Captain America tattoo gracing one biceps—Captain America, the Avenger.

But it didn’t occur to me until the details of the police report were published just how much Cabrera has in common with another epic, mythical, flawed, kind, titanic, and yes, troubled man I have loved: my Abuelito.

It was the Scotch that triggered it. Abuelito used to drink Dewar’s and soda, or sometimes J&B, my mom told me. I remember the stories of Abuelito taking my father and three uncles to the Loma, his old haunt, and getting them so drunk on tequila shots that they were like a vaudevillian crew when they burst thru the door of Abuelito & Abuelita’s house on Fairmont: One could speak, but not walk or hear. Another retained perfect motor skills, but was deaf and dumb. And so on.

He was, for much of his life, the kind of man who was somehow exceptional and knew it—tested it by enlisting in the Army with the intention of seeing combat in Korea; tested the binds and the love of the family he forged by taking a mistress for years; tested his wife by keeping her like a songbird on a grocery budget and home with five children while he drank fine scotch at the Loma.

It wasn’t until he almost lost it all that my Abuelito finally dropped his immortal pretensions and became the grandfather who would pass afternoons watching Cubs games on WGN with us, or tune in the Tigers game at the Labor Day picnic at Independence Oaks.

What is it about the men I love, about their inability to stop until the bonds, the people they’re testing—like tapping a wine glass with a doctor’s hammer—crumble?

I’d hoped Cabrera’s break, so to speak, was behind him. The new baby last season, the incredible (MVP-worthy) year, the leadership. Sigh.

But like all the men I’ve loved and still love, there are these moments, these backward steps, when the easiest choice is to just give up.

Ugh, Cabrera, grinning in that mugshot, gleeful and oblivious to the consequence—or convinced, like Thor, you’re somehow of another plane and simply above it—Momma didn’t raise a quitter.

Just don’t make a quitter out of me.

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8 Responses to “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart”
  1. Jeanette says:

    We tend to forget our heroes are human also, and their problems are the same as ours, just to different degrees.
    As with our heroes, we look past the faults and embrace the good. I pray Miguel can over come. For himself and his family, as other heroes have done.

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  1. […] Miguel Cabrera is a gifted ballplayer with a swing that is nothing less than a thing of beauty. He’s a leader and mentor to his teammates, and he’s a man who has a problem. Read Angela Vasquez-Giroux’s “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart” […]

  2. […] Miguel Cabrera is a gifted ballplayer with a swing that is nothing less than a thing of beauty. He’s a leader and mentor to his teammates, and he’s a man who has a problem. Read Angela Vasquez-Giroux’s “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart” […]

  3. […] Miguel Cabrera is a gifted ballplayer with a swing that is nothing less than a thing of beauty. He’s a leader and mentor to his teammates, and he’s a man who has a problem. Read Angela Vasquez-Giroux’s “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart” […]

  4. […] Miguel Cabrera is a gifted ballplayer with a swing that is nothing less than a thing of beauty. He’s a leader and mentor to his teammates, and he’s a man who has a problem. Read Angela Vasquez-Giroux’s “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart” […]

  5. […] Miguel Cabrera is a gifted ballplayer with a swing that is nothing less than a thing of beauty. He’s a leader and mentor to his teammates, and he’s a man who has a problem. Read Angela Vasquez-Giroux’s “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart” […]

  6. […] last week. I saw it at work and teared up. I also got a little weepy when my little-big brother, who I told you looks like Miggy, called me this […]

  7. […] course, at times he is a tragic hero (see: “In which Miguel Cabrera breaks my motherfucking heart”). But he’s human. And sweet sassy molassy, I just love […]



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