Yesterday, Brian McNamee took the stand to testify against Roger Clemens. I know this because it was reported by literally every news outlet on the series of tubes invented by Al Gore known as the Internet.
It was news, it happened, it should be reported on. I’m not going to try and downplay the magnitude of this story. Actually, no, scratch that. I’m absolutely going to try and downplay the magnitude of this story.
Yeah, Roger Clemens probably cheated on baseball (what does innocent until proven guilty mean again?) but how deep into the legal system do we need to go with this? I mean, maybe I’m looking at it with Canadian eyes and if this was a case of Sidney Crosby lying to the House of Representatives things would look different (they wouldn’t, but whatever, I’m making a point).
My problem isn’t that Clemens is on trial; my problem is that the media has looked to this as a story to end all stories. I say a story to end all stories because there’s a new one every week, it’s just the nature of the 24-hour news cycle. And that’s all well and good (kind of) but the problem starts when we look at just what that never-ending news cycle decides to focus on.
Let’s dig deep into our memories here. Like yoga therapy. Except nothing like yoga therapy because I don’t think that’s actually a thing (if it’s not, I call the patent, you all saw it here first). Anyway, let’s reach our minds all the way back to April 10, 2012. With me so far? Good. If you remember, on that fateful day that
will live in infamy was a Tuesday, Ozzie Guillen gave an interview with Time Magazine that included this little nugget.
I love Fidel Castro … I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that motherfucker is still here.
To put it lightly, the world imploded (or, at least, that’s what it seemed like at the time) and Ozzie became the focus of at least 75 percent of baseball-related stories that week. Protests sparked up outside the Miami Marlins’ “stadium,” there were calls for Ozzie to be fired and he was all but branded as a heretic and a traitor. I won’t defend the fact that saying you respect Fidel Castro while working in South Florida is probably a dumb thing to do and, frankly, there has been plenty said on this issue by smarter and more informed people than myself. My point speaks to a number from our old friend Google.
If you search “Ozzie Guillen Castro” it turns up 2,390,000 results.
Now, let’s travel to a little more recent history when Red Sox pitcher/fried chicken enthusiast Josh Beckett revealed that he had played a round of golf before being taken out of the rotation due to stiffness. Once again, the baseball media went nothing short of batshit. Beckett was called a “boor” for his antics, Bleacher Report dubbed it “Golf Gate” because of course they did (seriously, fuck you forever, Bleacher Report, you’re the worst), and Beckett was called out for an Adam Dunn-like disinterest in playing baseball. Yeah, Beckett’s defense of “I work hard and don’t get many days off” was kind of the terrible but, my God, dude played a round of golf.
Google search results for “Josh Beckett Golf” – 1,343,000.
I bring this all up because there was another story that seemingly fell through the cracks of the never-ending news cycle. Or, it fell through the cracks about as much as any story can fall through the cracks in a time where Blue Ivy Carter’s bowel movements are reported on (stay strong, Ivy).
At the end of last month, Delmon Young (who has never misbehaved, ever) was arrested. It wasn’t that serious a charge. It was only for committing a hate crime. Young apparently got drunk, went out with his boys and called a homeless guy wearing a yarmulke, who asked the millionaire ball player for some change, “a bunch of fucking Jews.” I mean, yeah, whatever, we’ve all been there right?
Putting aside the hilarity of Young calling a singular panhandler “a bunch” of anything, this seemed like a pretty egregious offence committed by young Delmon (see what I did there?) and it was only a matter of time before his character was called into question by the baseball media. Funny thing though – it wasn’t. Young was suspended for seven days without pay and has a hearing scheduled for May 29th.
Here’s the rambling, round-about point I’m trying to make though: Google search results for “Delmon Young Hate Crime” – 247,000. Okay. “Delmon Young Arrested” – 704,000. Huh.
Now, granted, Delmon Young doesn’t have the profile of an Ozzie Guillen and he doesn’t play in Boston so smaller or non-baseball news outlets might not pick up the story. Let’s try, oh, FOX Sports’ website and let’s get creative with our quotation marks to yield more exact results and not find any stories on, say, Starlin Castro (because, as far as I know, Starlin Castro has yet to run a small, island nation). “’Ozzie Guillen’ AND ‘Fidel Castro’” – 41 results, “’Josh Beckett’ AND ‘golf’” – 31 results, “’Delmon Young’ AND ‘hate crime’” – 15 results. “’Delmon Young’ AND ‘arrested’” – 19 results.
The problem isn’t really the amount of coverage; however, although it’s largely symptomatic of it, it’s the type of coverage. Every single story on Delmon Young that comes up on Fox’s website is a news brief. “Delmon Young Apologizes After Arrest On Hate Crime Assault Charge” sort of stuff. On the first page of the Ozzie results? “Ozzie Guillen Should Be Suspended by Miami Marlins for Fidel Castro Comments”, “Miami Marlins Ozzie Guillen Is Wrong Agin [sic], But First Amendment Is Always Right”, etc.
What this speaks to is a complete distortion of priorities by the baseball media. Why doesn’t Delmon Young’s arrest get a snappy, headline grabbing title? I mean, come on, guys. “Hate-gate” was right there for the taking. It writes itself. There are lots of political implications when it comes to these stories, specifically as it relates to Ozzie, but that’s also a problem that extends beyond just the baseball sphere. Make positive comments about Fidel Castro? Ostracized from society. Throw a couple anti-Semitic remarks around? Meh, see you in a week.
It really doesn’t matter what religion/race/creed/whatever is slandered, the fact that an offence regarding hate speech is considered a lesser story is simply unacceptable by today’s standards. It has to be, right? Yes, there are far worse hate crimes than an immature, drunk athlete yelling a relatively harmless insult at someone (I stress “relatively” here and only as it relates to hate speech) but there has to be some straightening of priorities as it relates to condemning those who fill our baseball stadiums.
I recognize that this is not a problem limited to the baseball world or even the sporting world. Our friends down south are gearing up for some kind of election and if you look at what the news media covers when it comes to politicians, it really shouldn’t be a surprise that the sports media is more interested in petty squabbles than it is in actual issues.
It’s not a situation that can be fixed overnight and it’s certainly not a situation that can be solved by the guy who spent his morning looking up quotes from The Shield, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. If we must hold up Roger Clemens, Ozzie Guillen and Josh Beckett to the court of public opinion, we must do the same for Delmon Young and all players guilty of more egregious offences than hitting the links or, God forbid, stating an opinion.
It’s not that anyone is condoning Young’s actions, far from it; I’ve just yet to hear enough people actually condemning them. And that’s a problem. At least until Derek Jeter starts dating a Kardashian and my Twitter feed goes berserk. Then I’ll probably forget all about it.