When Curt Schilling’s video game company collapsed earlier this year, the state of Rhode Island and Schilling himself were both on the hook for millions of dollars in loan guarantees. As the Globe reported last week, the sock that the former Red Sox pitcher famously bloodied during the 2004 World Series was among the memorabilia he put up as collateral. Yet it would be grimly appropriate if Schilling has to give up the sock. For the sock, and the sports mythology it symbolized, clearly helped get Schilling and Rhode Island into their current plight.
For some reason, even politicians who present themselves as no-nonsense, data-driven leaders take leave of their skepticism when pro athletes come knocking. Any number of big-league host cities have agreed to publicly financed stadiums and other subsidy deals that the numbers alone wouldn’t seem to justify. In Rhode Island’s case, Schilling’s celebrity jarred loose a $75 million loan guarantee that former Governor Donald Carcieri, a successful businessman in his own right, surely would never have offered to any other similarly untested firm.
The loss of the sock would be a sad moment in local sports history and an unfortunate blow for Schilling — but would also teach a necessary lesson to future public officials who might be bedazzled by major-league athletics.