Kirby Puckett was just acquitted of all charges against him in his sexual assault case. Allegedly, he had grabbed a woman in a crowded restaurant and pulled her into a bathroom and grabbed her breast. And this was only the most recent in a series of disasters that appalled Twins fans and lovers of big fat baseball players everywhere.

Before that, there was an ugly break-up with his wife, which followed his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. She accused him of abusing and cheating on her. Sports Illustrated, in their March issue, ran a cover story on Kirby and his fall.

But from where, exactly, did Kirby Puckett fall? It seems like simple human nature to romanticize our heroes; we all do it from childhood on. Being a Minnesotan myself, I have fond memories of Kirby chugging around the bases triumphantly in two World Series. He was so damn big and goofy-looking hauling that ass around the bases; you really couldn’t help but like him.

Of course, raccoons are chubby and fuzzy and look kind of cute, too. But they sure as hell aren’t friendly. And, according to Kirby’s ex-wife Tonya, neither is Kirby. The expectation that he would be confounds me. After all, he did at one time get paid $30 million to be a big ball of competitive testosterone. But that’s just not quite as cute-sounding as “Kirby Puckett.”

One can’t forget, after all this, that Kirby has also helped to raise millions of dollars for various Twin Cities charities, though according to SI his wife did most of the work and he just smiled, waved and then bitched about it. But the money still got there, in large part due to the publicity that follows Kirby everywhere he goes.

Hell, I got to shake the guy’s hand once after a game when I was a kid. I won’t forget that moment of kindness. People do good things and they do bad things. This includes celebrities and sports stars. When a celebrity fucks up, vultures like Frank Deford, the writer who did the story for SI, pick them apart and write great human interest articles about the outrageous disappointment that will affect betrayed fans for years to come. Deford’s claim to fame is now at the expense of Puckett’s trashed image. And all because some guy plays a game so much better than he does.