tried…. can\’t….

please let it be noted that i tried to hold my tongue on this one. i really did. i\’m working on not getting moved to anger by idiots– it\’s necessary when one commutes 70 minutes each day– but sometimes i just need to respond. this is one of those times.

dr. todd boyd is a professor of cinematic arts at the university of southern california. i don\’t know exactly what cinematic arts are, but i\’m guessing there aren\’t a lot of engineering students clogging up his classroom. his (likely auto)bio touts him as being \”internationally regarded for his work on race, cinema, hip hop culture, and sports.\” i cannot judge the rest of those qualities, but i will tell you know that dr. boyd knows little about sports. dr. boyd is also a racist. i know that\’s a pretty strong word to use about someone you\’ve never met; however, he said the same thing about me. fairsies squaresies, right?

dr. boyd recently penned this piece for Page 2– in it, he asserts that anyone who isn\’t cheering for barry bonds to break the all-time home run record must– by definition– be a racist. faulty conclusions come from faulty logic, and i\’d like to take a look at where he goes so, so wrong.

Considering the iconic status that Ruth held in the game\’s history, the fact that baseball had been integrated a mere 37 years before and the lingering feelings of racial animosity that still existed in the decade immediately following the civil rights movement in America, many were not too happy with the fact that Aaron, a black man, would be displacing their beloved Babe at the top of the home run chart.

ignoring the fact that a college professor should be more careful about run-on sentences, i agree with his premise. i cannot imagine how difficult things were for hank aaron back when he was making his chase. additionally, i know that racism, in both overt and subtle forms, exists in society today, so it must exist in major league baseball as well. the world is full of stupid people.

Many things have changed since that April night in Atlanta, not the least of which is the fact that Barry Bonds is admittedly a far less sympathetic figure than the man he is chasing on the all-time home run list.

r…ight. although didn\’t you just say that most people didn\’t want aaron to get the home run record back in 1974? doesn\’t that mean that neither were sympathetic figures? granted, aaron has become one over the past 30 years, but i\’m not sure i understand his point here.

This being the case, in spite of all the speculation to the contrary, it has never been proven that Bonds is guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.

that is true. there is that little BALCO testimony issue that seems to indicate bonds\’ walking and talking like a duck might actually be due to his being a duck, but it has never been proven.

There has long been a notion among certain members of the African-American community that once a successful black person manages to make it to the top of his respective field, there is a vested interest among other people outside of the community to see this person fall. Barry Bonds is only the most recent example of such a notion. The vehemence with which these outside forces seem aligned in their interest to go after Bonds has helped to fuel such thinking.

i believe pete rose, lance armstrong, bill clinton, pamela anderson, dan brown, and scores of other white people who have achieved some modicum of success would argue that this phenomenon isn\’t tied to race. unfortunately, it\’s human nature: it makes us feel better to think that those who do better than us must have some sort of unfair advantage. it certainly can\’t be because they work harder or are smarter.

One of the reasons that Bonds has never been accorded the benefit of the doubt is because of his personality and his public persona. Whereas Aaron was always a humble gentleman who had grown up in the segregated South, Bonds is a second-generation baseball prodigy who has often come across to many as entitled, selfish and disrespectful — a poster child for the stereotype of today\’s overpaid, self-indulgent black athlete.

again, with the black thing. barry bonds is a dick. jeff kent is a dick. todd bertuzzi is a dick. rafael palmeiro is a dick. bill romanowski is a dick. curt schilling is a dick. jeremy shockey is a dick. john mcenroe is a dick. being an overpaid, self-indulgent athlete isn\’t restricted just to blacks; it\’s everywhere. granted, bonds would probably take less heat if he had the personality of, say, kevin garnett or torii hunter. but, again, i don\’t think this is something that african americans can claim exclusive right to.

With Ruth serving as the perpetual face of the American pastime, any attempt at displacing him, and talking openly about wanting to do it, was not going to take place without a fight. Notice, I said Babe Ruth and not Hank Aaron. Though Aaron holds the record, Babe Ruth still represents the heart and soul of baseball, without a doubt.

here dr. boyd shows us that his grasp on the sport of baseball is tenuous, at best. ask 100 people what player represents the heart and soul of baseball, and you\’ll hear ruth less than ten times. (and the times you do hear it will be when you ask that question in a nursing home.) you will hear pujols, jeter, ripken, rose, mantle, maris, dimaggio, and williams more than you hear ruth. were there some people who got upset when a black man said that he wanted to break past the totals of a white man? sure. but it was a significant (for lack of a better word) minority.

There has been a lot of discussion about what to do regarding Barry Bonds\’ statistics and his place in the game. Some have suggested that Bonds\’ accomplishments are tainted because of his alleged steroid use, and for this reason his stats should be prefaced by an asterisk. Others no doubt believe that his numbers should be thrown out all together. These same people argue that Bonds\’ numbers should not be considered alongside the statistics of those from previous generations who earned their numbers without the alleged aid of performance-enhancing drugs.

here again, the doctor is correct. however, if he were as internationally regarded for his work on sports as he claims to be, he would acknowledge that the same discussions are occurring surrounding mark mcgwire, and big mac is decidely white. (almost pasty, to be honest.) bonds is obviously receiving more publicity now as he nears aaron, but when\’s the last time you heard anyone say something positive about mcgwire\’s accomplishments?

Yet if Bonds\’ numbers are \”tainted,\” consider this: Every home run that Babe Ruth ever hit was hit before blacks were allowed to play in the majors. Ruth played at a time when baseball was racially segregated, and he never had to play against the top black players of that time.

an interesting argument, but one that i think is neither here nor there. (although i\’d argue that, if the babe had many at bats against latroy hawkins, he easily would have exceeded 900 career homers.)

On this point, the emotions of right now have clouded our rationality.

hey, pot. have you met kettle?

So unless Major League Baseball is going to vigorously go after each and every player ever suspected of using steroids, though they\’ve not failed a drug test, and unless MLB will admit its own obvious culpability in this process, it should just drop the whole thing, test thoroughly going forward, and let history decide what to do about the statistics accumulated during this contested era.

but– again, if he were paying attention, that\’s exactly what baseball is doing. find me one person who believes that mcgwire\’s \’98 season was legit. or sosa\’s. or palmeiro\’s 569 career homeruns. or brady anderson\’s 50 HR in 1996. juan gonzalez. dante bichette. albert belle. larry walker. no one who has their fingers even close to the pulse of baseball now puts much weight into the ridiculous power numbers generated in the mid- to late-90s. since testing is impossible, you have to assume that everyone was doing it. unfair, but what other way can you deal with this in a sport so driven by its statistics?

do you think, dr. boyd, that my ire towards barry bonds has *anything* to do with him being a black man? i don\’t like him for the following reasons:

+ he\’s a surly and petulant wealthy athlete. i\’d feel the same way if he were a different race.
+ he\’s about to break a pretty important record, and the evidence makes it look like he didn\’t get there all on his own
+ he– among others– represents how baseball is collapsing inward on itself. in order to gain back fans lost during the \’94 labor dispute, MLB kindly looked the other way while players took illegal substances to boost power, thereby boosting attendance, thereby boosting bottom lines. you could even argue that barry is more of a victim here than the cause.

my problem with you, dr. boyd, is this: because certain white people are racists, and because i\’m white, by definition i am a racist. i\’m sure it\’s easier to think of the world that way; shades of gray are more difficult to opine about. but until you acknowledge that it\’s possible for me to dislike bonds for the simple reason that he\’s an ass, regardless of color, you\’re just as much of a racist as the white folks you decry in your piece. and that\’s not helping anyone.







5 responses to “tried…. can\’t….”

  1. monkey Avatar

    Great article, Wade. It’s nice to see a point-by-point refuting of weak arguments.

    A side note, but: where’s the sense in comparing stats from the 00s to stats from the 70s to stats from the 40s?

  2. wadE Avatar

    Wow… really good article Wade. A few thoughts of my own:
    1) the only thing I disagree with you on is the Babe Ruth still is at the center of baseball, I don’t know if I’d say heart and soul exactly, but Ruth is the all-time face of baseball. Even after Roger Maris broke the single season mark, even after Hank Aaron beat the career mark; Ruth is the man that all home run hitters are measured against. But that’s a minor point in the scheme of things
    2) Page 2 sucks ass these days… it’s turned into the sports equivalent of Fox News… ok, that’s harsh, but what I’m saying is that it’s a constant barrage of people who write to be controversial; who write to make messes, not help clean them up. Once Ralph Wiley and Hunter S. Thompson were gone, there’s really no good writer left. Even the sports guy was never a good “writer” just very entertaining on pop culture.
    3) Monkey: the “sense” in comparing stats from today to the 70s to the 40s? That is the heart and soul of baseball right there.

  3. monkey Avatar

    wadE: ah, so that’s why it bores me silly?

  4. alex Avatar

    I would say that there’s sense in comparing stats because by and large the game of baseball is still the same. It’s still 60’6″ from the pitcher to home plate. Most ball parks are still roughly the same size (a bit smaller these days, but still). And the fact that most of the metrics still stand… (a .300 average is good, 30+ home runs in a year is good, etc.) …makes it possible to compare stats. And while I have no doubt that players were going to get bigger and faster due to weight training, the question is to what extent does steroids enhance that? Is it going to be statistically significant to their baseball stats, or is it more significant to their health – keeping their bodies in playing shape longer (which would of course help their career stats)? I don’t know the answer to that…

  5. wadE Avatar

    Baseball is an aquired taste for sure. Part of it comes from playing the game yourself (both in organized games and sandlot/stickball formats), and warm summer nights at the ballpark (MLB, Independant Leagues, College, High School, etc.). It’s a feeling…a state of mind. Boring? At times, most definitely. But a game should be a social occasion.
    Al: 60’6″, check. Mound height…lowered in 1969. But I thought batting average would have changed more over the years… but it seems to be on a repeating curve.

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