Friday, May 20, 2005

Low Hanging Fruit


Soapbox time. I usually try to refrain from commenting negatively on posts at other blogs primarily because like me, these are people with a point-of-view and they have every right to type down their thoughts on some subject that might interest them. That said, I have no trouble busting up professional sportswriters (see here and here, for example) because (a) they're paid to know what they're talking about (although they often don't), and (b) sometimes they write with an agenda and I don't mind pointing out as much.

In fact, I'd say that roughly 50-60 percent of the sites I visit regularly on the internets is of the "let's see what ridiculousness they'll say next" variety. Which is the same reason I watched the first season of Joe Millionaire. It gives you something to talk about primarily because it's so absurdly inane. Which leads me to this...

Yesterday I came across my new Joe Millionaire. Rick Duncan has a blog called Pesky's Pole and his latest post compares David Ortiz to John Rocker. Here's how he starts off:
I am slowly but surely making my way through Tony Massarotti and John Harper's great book about the 2004 Sox-Yanks Rivalry, A Tale of Two Cities, and I came across a story about David Ortiz that screamed to me of John Rocker and his politically incorrect views about foreigners, homosexuals, and welfare moms.

Ortiz seems like a great guy, a kind and jolly giant of a man. But listen to this excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities (p.89) about his "undying sense of humor":
Once, when Grady Little was manager, Ortiz stuck his head into the manager's office during the manager's daily pregame briefing with reporters and offered his playful assessment of what was to take place on the field that night.

"We're going to kick their ass, drink their beer and rape their bitches."

The room exploded with laughter.
Wow! The other team's women are "bitches" and the Sox are going to rape them? And the room exploded with laughter? I guess you had to be there.

What Ortiz said, even if in jest, was at least as bad (and probably much worse) than anything Rocker said. And Rocker was suspended and driven out of baseball for his words!
I had to read this twice because I thought it was a joke. Apparently it wasn't.

First things first, for me this has nothing to do with Papi being a Red Sox player. Duncan could've accused A-Rod of being like Rocker and I would be 100% behind A-Rod. Second, if Duncan can't tell the difference between Papi sticking his head in the coaches office and making a joke about the opposing team and Rocker making racist, and homophobic comments, he should probably put up a disclaimer somewhere near the top of his website stating as much.

And in case you've forgotten exactly what Rocker said, here's a refresher:
"...[Rocker] said he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a subway train "next to some queer with AIDS." He also mocked foreigners and described an unnamed Latin teammate as a "fat monkey.""
Oh, after re-reading this I forgot that Rocker was also a xenophobe.

Was Ortiz's comment in bad taste? Without a doubt. Should he have not made those comments in front of reporters. Probably not. But here's the thing: Papi was joking. From reading the excerpt it sounds like he was laughing when he said it, and he did it to get a rise out of his manager or give the reporters a good laugh. John Rocker made these comments during an interview and while I wasn't actually there, you get the impression from reading the story, that he wasn't joking.

In all seriousness, how can "What Ortiz said, even in jest," be "at least as bad (and probably much worse) than anything Rocker said?" This not only isn't in the same ballpark, it's not even the same sport. If we're going to call out every athlete who uses locker room humor, er, in the locker room, where in trouble.

And as long as we're persecuting people who make untoward comments toward some minority group, we might as well slap the Scarlet Letter on Shea Hillebrand too (I'm guessing the Scarlet Letter should be a big "F"). Remember, he's a homophobe because he called Theo Epstein a "fag" when the Red Sox GM traded him to Arizona a few years back. Personally, I don't think Hillebrand was using a derogatory term used to describe homosexuals in reference to Epstein's sexual preferences (actually, Hillebrand said later that he wasn't talking about Epstein, but one of the radio show hosts ... just mentioning this for the sake of accuracy). Instead, I think he was probably upset, and in the heat of the moment used a poor choice of words.

Look, all three players were to differing degrees wrong. But you have to be able to discriminate between jokes (Ortiz), emotions (Hillebrand), and (what seemed to be) anger (Rocker). Duncan goes on to write:

But isn't [suspending Rocker and not Ortiz] a double standard? When Rocker does it, the MSM goes ballistic and won't let go of the story until he is driven from baseball. When Papi says something arguably much more offensive (joking about RAPE!), a room full of journalists explodes with laughter.

What's up with that?

... How are Papi and his words different from Rocker and his? Is it because Papi was only joking? Is it because Rocker is white and Papi is black? Is it because one statement got blown out of proportion by a media storm, and the other has flown under the radar?

... By the way, I think that this also shows the negative influence of hip hop on baseball. I mean, who else talks about "raping bitches" in David Ortiz's world? This didn't happen when organ music was the soundtrack of baseball!

Again, I was waiting for the punch line because I was sure this was a belated April Fool's Day post. Unfortunately, Duncan was quite serious. I do agree that Rocker shouldn't have been suspended for being an ignorant redneck, but Duncan is preoccupied with wondering why Ortiz didn't get the same treatment as Rocker. I said it above, but I'll repeat it: Ortiz was making a tasteless joke, but he was, uh, joking when he said it. He wasn't being malicious, just unwise when he decided to say what he said in front of reporters. Rocker, from every indication (included the myriad hand gestures and comments he made during appearances in Shea Stadium while still with the Braves) was an unrepentant prick. And if anyone thinks the media treated these two episodes differently because Rocker was white and Papi was black, tell me when the Shuttle gets back from Bizarro world, because I don't see that happening on this planet.

In reference to the last paragraph, where Duncan so blithely implicates the perils of rap music as being partially responsible for Papi's wanton disregard for women, I have to disagree. Vehemently. In fact, for him to say "who else talks about 'raping bitches' in David Ortiz's world" is arguably more offensive than Papi's original remarks. What the hell does rap music have to do with any of this? Did rap music make Rocker call out homosexuals, blacks and foreigners? Maybe rap music is also responsible for Rocker last month lamenting that all the torture he still experiences because of his comments six years ago is much worse than anything Hank Aaron or Jackie Robinson ever had to deal with over such a long period:
John Rocker, who said he was frustrated about being targeted over politically incorrect comments about gays and immigrants in New York six years ago, has weighed in with new comments that might have staying power of their own.

He suggested than he had taken more verbal abuse than any other baseball player, including Jackie Robinson and Henry Aaron.

'Ive taken a lot of crap from a lot of people,' the left handed relief pitcher for the Long Island Ducks told ESPN. 'Probably more than anyone in the history of the sport.'

'I know Hank and Jackie took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: How much am I supposed to take?'

That might remain an open question now that he has put himself in the company of two black baseball legends whose lives were threatened because of their race.

David Pinto of Baseball Musings also weighed in with some thoughts (all of which are much more level-headed and eloquent than anything I could write -- and the comments are good too), and Duncan responds to some of David's points. In reading his response it sounds like Duncan still doesn't get it. I'm assured of that fact after I read his response to one commenter in particular:
"...I actually find Rick Duncan's comment about the 'negative influence of hip hop on baseball' pretty damn offensive.

Who else talks about "raping bitches?" You're kidding me, right? I guess in Duncan's world, something THAT crude and tasteless only happens in the urban black culture and is only conveyed through hip hop music. This never happened in the 40's and 50's, right?

And anyway, who is Duncan to assume what culture or persons Ortiz was influenced by? Is that something that can just be assumed because the color of Ortiz's skin is black, and, hey, all black people are influenced by hip hop?

Just an ignorant, ignorant statement."
Posted by: Daniel at May 19, 2005 03:07 PM
Hey that sounds familiar. This led to Duncan responding thusly:
Daniel might be right. I think I recall a Brahms concerto with lyrics about "raping bitches" so maybe David was influenced by classical. Or perhaps Gospel?
Posted by: Rick Duncan at May 19, 2005 04:50 PM
That pretty much solidifies for me the fact that Duncan has no clue. And despite the fact that he's not your garden variety ignorant, backwoods redneck (he's actually a law professor), he still seems to think that all blacks -- African American or otherwise -- listen to rap music and are consequently influenced by their lyrics. Unbelievable.