R.A. Dickey is totally not pond scum
When Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey announced his intention to climb Mount Kilimanjaro this January, he made headlines across the country, because the team’s front office—apparently grateful for the distraction from their Madoff-adjacent financial troubles—sent him a letter requesting that he forgo the trip out of concern for his safety. Sportswriters and bloggers from here to Tanzania pounced on the story, debating whether a franchise had the right to govern the off-season activities of its players.
We’ll return to that matter in a moment, but let’s first consider the much cooler story that’s gotten all but lost in the controversy: Dickey’s making his climb to call attention to, and raise funds to combat, the scourge of sex trafficking in India. Forced prostitution is an enormous problem in India, where statistics are difficult to procure but one expert estimates that “in Mumbai alone, the trafficking of minor girls is a billion-dollar-a-year industry.”
Dickey’s making his climb in cooperation with an organization called Bombay Teen Challenge, which was founded in 1990 to fight sex slavery, to offer relief and resources to its victims, to assist babies and children born out of prostitution or rape (including many infected with HIV), and to address the addiction and dependency issues that often accompany life in the sex trade. Watch this brief and touching video about Dickey’s commitment to the cause:
You can support Dickey’s climb by making a contribution at this site (donations are processed through Network for Good, which is just as secure as, and far less nefarious than, Paypal). His goal—which is roughly 60% realized at this writing—is to raise the $100,000 that Bombay Teen Challenge needs to purchase a health clinic in Kamathipura, the red-light district of Mumbai.
Still not convinced of R.A. Dickey’s awesomeness? Consider this: The former English major was inspired to climb Kilimanjaro after reading Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and he’s named one of his favorite bats “Hrunting,” after the sword Beowulf used to attempt to slay Grendel’s mother. (Dickey apparently forgot that Hrunting, in the original epic, wasn’t up to the challenge; that probably explains the .136 batting average.)
Now, what of the Mets’ objections? Well, they’re not wrong to be concerned—mountain-climbing is a potentially dangerous venture under any circumstances—but since Kilimanjaro is considered one of the easiest and safest of the world’s major peaks to summit, they owe a debt of gratitude to Papa Hemingway for not titling his book The Snows of Annapurna. Dickey’s a professional athlete who’s been training for the altitude challenges of Kilimanjaro, and who presumably has the sense to turn back if at any point his climb becomes perilous.
In any case, as long as the Mets’ roster includes players who hunt and ride motorcycles in their spare time, it seems a bit disingenuous for the team to reserve its nervous hand-wringing for Dickey. On his behalf, I’m proud to break my lifelong vow of never, ever rooting for the Mets, and I’m glad to contribute to his climb for a terrific cause.