Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Remebering Reggie

Reggie White is dead. He died in his sleep of an apparent lung problem on Sunday December 26, 2004. White will be remembered for a lot of things. In Philly he became “The Minister of Defense,” known as much for his spirituality as his ability to crush quarterbacks. In Green Bay he was The Savior, the first mega free agent to show that the frozen tundra was a great place to play. White, as much as Brett Favre, was responsible for returning a title to title-town. I’ll always remember White because he was a pen’s length away from signing with SF and giving us an even greater dynasty. With White on the edge we may well have beaten the Cowboys in ’93. In my mind’s eye I can see Troy Aikman getting pummeled just as he releases what in real life was a 70-yard catch and run by Alvin Harper that all but ended that game. I’ll always remember the year White injured his shoulder and continued to play with his arm strapped to his chest. Playing this way for several games, I remember watching him pick up a Carolina OT and throw him aside with one arm en route to a sack. When White retired he did so as the NFL’s all-time sack leader*. Most of the coverage of White’s death lauds his actions on the field. ESPN and others have trotted out writers, broadcasters and former players to talk about how great Reggie was as a man, and as a leader in his community. I, however, will always remember White for something else. For something that has remained as buried in the days after White’s death as ketchup-as-a-vegetable and “trickle down economics” were after Regan kicked.

To me, and for many of my friends White will be remembered most for remarks he made to the Wisconsin state legislature on March 25, 1998. These remarks, though shocking, were mostly laughed off because Reggie seemed like a Zealot, a caricature of the Southern Minister. Here are Excerpts of White’s comments that day.

“We always should look at the situation and ask ourselves a question. Why did god create us differently? Why did god make me black and you white? Why did god make the next guy Korean and the next guy Asian and the other guy Hispanic? Why did god create the Indians?

Well, it's interesting to me to know why now. When you look at the black race, black people are very gifted in what we call worship and celebration. A lot of us like to dance, and if you go to black churches, you see people jumping up and down, because they really get into it.

White people were blessed with the gift of structure and organization. You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature and you know how to tap into money pretty much better than a lot of people do around the world.

Hispanics are gifted in family structure. You can see a Hispanic person and they can put 20 or 30 people in one home. They were gifted in the family structure.

When you look at the Asians, the Asian is very gifted in creation, creativity and inventions. If you go to Japan or any Asian country, they can turn a television into a watch. They're very creative. And you look at the Indians, they have been very gifted in the spirituality.

When you put all of that together, guess what it makes. It forms a complete image of god. God made us different because he was trying to create himself. He was trying to form himself, and then we got kind of knuckleheaded and kind of pushed everything aside.

As America has permitted homosexuality to establish itself as an alternate lifestyle, it is also reeling from the frightening spread of sexually transmitted disease. Sin begets its own consequence, both on individuals and nations.

Let me explain something when I'm talking about sin, and I'm talking about all sin. One of the biggest ones that has been talked about that has really become a debate in America is homosexuality.

Now, I believe that one of the reasons that Jesus was accused of being a homosexual is because he spent time with homosexuals. I've often had people ask me, would you allow a homosexual to be your friend. Yes, I will. And the reason I will is because I know that that person has problems, and if I can minister to those problems, I will.

But the Bible strictly speaks against it, and because the Bible speaks against it, we allow rampant sin including homosexuality and lying, and to me lying is just as bad as homosexuality, we've allowed this sin to run rampant in our nation, and because it has run rampant in our nation, our nation is in the condition it is today.

Sometimes when people talk about this sin they've been accused of being racist. I'm offended that homosexuals will say that homosexuals deserve rights. Any man in America deserves rights, but homosexuals are trying to compare their plight with the plight of black men or black people. In the process of history, homosexuals have never been castrated, millions of them never died. Homosexuality is a decision. It's not a race. And when you look at it, people from all different ethnic backgrounds are living this lifestyle, but people from all different ethnic backgrounds are also liars and cheaters and malicious and backstabbers.”

White also appeared, in uniform, in several anti-homosexual ads put out by a coalition of Christian groups.

So far I have seen only one article that mentions White’s anti-everyone remarks, and even that one seeks to forgive him by pointing out that he apologized. The article, by Ray Ratto, for ESPN.com, also notes that White gave up a lot of money and a possible job as an analyst when he made those comments. The article does not mention that White only apologized when he was pressured to do so in the face of losing his endorsements**.

“As controversial as his speech was, the aftermath has become, perhaps, even more controversial. After the speech, White said that if people found his comments offensive, "that was their problem." But soon a call was made for companies that sponsor White to release him from contract. These companies include Nike, Campbell Soup, and Johnson & Son, Inc. (Edge Shaving Cream).

In his apology, White said, "I made a point that our society is fortunate to be comprised of different races and cultures. I must admit that my examples may have been somewhat clumsy and inappropriate on how the races differ, but my intent was not to demean anyone. If I did, I humbly ask for your forgiveness." White's apology was not as inclusive of homosexuals. "I do not apologize for standing on God's word when it comes to sin in my life and others."

While some sponsors (Chunky Soup for one) did not renew White’s endorsements, Nike welcomed him back with open arms.

“We welcome Reggie White back as a Nike athlete to another season of exciting NFL football. With regard to his recent remarks before the Wisconsin Assembly, Mr. White has issued an apology to those who may have been offended. Therefore, we are prepared to continue support of his commitment to excellence on the field and his established record of community service throughout the country."

While I acknowledge that White did apologize I am skeptical as to why he did so. I feel that it is clear that he believed these things when he said them, and continued to believe them after he apologized. White’s wife was more direct on the issue of CBS deciding not to hire White as an analyst saying, “that CBS was "too scared of the Sodomite community," and added, "I feel sorry for them because they can't stand the truth." These remarks, along with White’s “that’s their problem,” along with the fact that neither he, nor his wife, nor Nike, made any attempt to include homosexuals in the apology makes the entire act insignificant. White apologized, not because he felt remorse that he had hurt people and contributed to the world’s overall total of ignorance and intolerance, but because he was hoping to hold on to some money.

At the time many people tried to make this a free speech issue. It is not. I have yet to read anything related to the issue that says that Reggie White should not have been allowed to say what he said. No one that I’ve read has suggested that he should have been punished for his beliefs, or his expression of those beliefs. From what I read at the time, and the discussions I’ve had on the matter since then the consensus seems to be that Reggie White was a jerk. And that is what’s being glossed over in the wake of his death. One thing I’ve noticed about people who scream about free speech are actually arguing, not for freedom of expression, but for freedom from consequences. Remember Rush Limbaugh on NFL Countdown? The issue is not that people cannot, or should not express certain beliefs, the issue is whether or not we have to love them for it, or whether a company should continue to carry such a person as an endorser. In the case of Rush, or Kobe, or Reggie White certain entities decided to distance themselves from what they thought was a negative image. Really, in these situations it becomes the company endorsing the athlete rather than the athlete endorsing the company, and just like you don’t see a lot of athletes endorsing Zips or Pro Keds, you don’t see a lot of companies endorsing rapists, or racists, or open homophobes.

Sure Reggie White did good things for the community, but he also did harm. How many homosexuals in his parish were stung by his remarks, even as they applauded his other charity work. These beliefs do not negate the good there may have been in Reggie White, but the good he did cannot override or sweep away the harm he may have done. When someone dies their whole story should be told. Here is the voice of true dissent, to me Reggie will always be The Minister of the Indefensible.

* Deacon Jones, who actually coined the term “sack” is probably the real all-time sack leader, however, sacks were not recorded as a statistic for most of Jones’ career.

** Apology related quotes from, the June 1998 issue of Allied Rainbows. Allied Rainbows serves as a medium for Vermont's Gay/Straight Alliances to share ideas and resources that will help them to function at the highest possible level. For more information, email Palmer Legare at ZekTAllen@aol.com

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Farewell to Arms (Part One)

And so baseball economics hits home again. The A’s have traded Tim Hudson and yet another era comes to a close. Hudson was the cornerstone of the A’s return to respectability. Hudson came up mid-year in 1999 and posted an 11-2 record in 21 starts. I’ll never forget his debut against the San Diego Padres. At the time I was living in a small one-bedroom apartment in South Berkeley. Because the A’s had been terrible for 7 years the game was only being broadcast over the radio. I remember Ken Korauch and Bill King talking about how excited the A’s were about Hudson. In his first ML game, in his first ML at bat, just as Ken was saying that Huddy had been an outfielder and a DH in collage, and had led the NCAA in slugging his senior year, Huddy smacked a ringing double off the wall that missed being a home run by about two feet. Hudson only pitched five innings, giving up seven hits, four walks, and three runs, getting a no decision, but he struck out 11. The next year Huddy won 20 and led the A’s back to the playoffs for the first time since 1992.

Hudson has been the rock upon which Billy Beane has built his franchise. For long time A’s fans he represented the A’s resurgence more than any other player. Now Eric Chavez is the only player left from that 1999 season in which the A’s missed the Wild Card by 4 games. The A’s have lost many a marquee player over the past six years, (if want a full rundown read through the archives at the bottom of the page), but this is a unique case for two reasons. First, this is the first time the A’s have traded a star player rather than try to win now and allow him to leave as a free agent. Second, this is the first time a player hasn’t blasted the team, the city and the fans on his way out of town. Kenny Rogers, Johnny Damon, and Miguel Tejada all made disparaging remarks about Oakland when they left. The grand-daddy of them all of course was Jason Giambi who held a news conference insulting the team, the management and the fans, then went on Letterman and blasted the town. Hudson is a different story. Discussing the trade he said this to mlb.com,

"More than anything, it was sad," Hudson told MLB.com. "I mean, it's not like it was unexpected, what with all the talk the last couple weeks. But hearing it come out of Billy's mouth, making it real, that's when it really just hits you in the face.

"You just kind of realize, 'Man, it's really over.' All the relationships I've built with teammates, with the fans, with people in the organization -- it's hard to think that it's never going to be the same. I'll still be friends with all those people, but knowin' that they're not going to be a part of your everyday life the way they've been for so long, it's definitely sad.

"The fans in Oakland have been so good to me and my family," Hudson said. "All the support they've shown to me over the years, all the nice things they've said to me and the cheers and all that, I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. That's one of the hardest parts about leavin', because I'd have liked to help win them a championship.

"But I understand why Billy traded me. I know he has to do what he thinks is best for the team in the long run, and obviously he's doing it. But I'm really going to miss being there.

"I just want everyone to know how much I loved it in Oakland," he said. "In a perfect world, I'd have been able to play there forever, and me and Mark and Barry [Zito] would always be the Big Three. But it ain't a perfect world, and I know that. It's a business.

"So I'll be pulling for those guys no matter where I am, and who knows? Maybe we'll all meet up again in the World Series or something. Wouldn't that be something?"

Class. Much better than Ben Grieve’s “I won’t miss the fans and I won’t miss the city.” And far better than Giambi’s “Have you ever been to Oakland?” crack-back.

In return for one of the best pitchers in the last ten years the A’s got three prospects, one promising outfielder and two pitchers. Both pitchers project as relievers, though Peter Gammons seems to think that Juan Cruz will take the number four slot in the rotation (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/gammons/story?id=1947932). If Charles Thomas is as good defensively as Gammons says the A’s may be able to move the ever promising, but so far disappointing, Bobby Kielty for more pitching, or maybe a backup middle infielder now that Mark McLemore is gone.

But all that is beside the point. Even if this trade ends up making sense in terms of on field production and payroll flexibility the point is that it’s sad to see Huddy go. As the man said, it’s a business. As Seinfeld said, we root for laundry rather than players. It seems that the day is long gone where you’ll ever see a player stay with one team his entire career. So long Huddy, thank you for bringing us back from the dead, and thank you for not dragging us through another protracted contract battle.

PS As I was preparing to post this I logged on to espn.com and saw that the A’s had traded Mark Mulder to St. Louis. Needless to say I’m in shock and my faith in Billy Beane is badly shaken. On top of that I hear that one of my other favorites, Eric Byrnes, a true sparkplug and one of the last true grit, fan friendly, everyman type players may also be on the block. I don’t know what to say. More on this in the days to come.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Long Time No Rant

Ah the end of the year is nigh and I realize that though I have had many thoughts in the last month I have yet to commit anything to paper; or in this case, bytes. Though there have been many Rant worthy events in the last few weeks I just haven’t had the time or the motivation to add my thoughts to the mass jumble of opinion out there. So now I present to you a Rantdumb sampling of disjointed opinions on a variety of topics.

I did some volunteer work the other day collecting canned goods for Latrell Sprewell’s family. Like Eddie George said in Jerry McGuire, “People don’t understand what kind of problems $54 million comes with.” Latrell must be getting negotiating advice from Patrick Ewing. At least now when he chokes we’ll know the reason.

DC has baseball! Now they don’t. Now they do. No, wrong, they don’t. This sucks, I want a local team and since I’m not moving before this summer it has to be in DC. Sure, I think stadiums should be built with private money. Stadium funds should come from people who choose to support baseball, like advertisers, ticket buyers and the like. The reality is that MLB has a monopoly and they hold all the cards. No stadium, no team. I can’t stand the people who get all outraged that a stadium would cost $600M and think that the money should go to schools instead. Hey morons, the money would come from a new tax on businesses most likely to profit from bringing a team to DC. The taxes would be on hotels, tickets, rental cars, concessions and rent that the team pays to use the venue. This means that most of it would be paid for by baseball fans and people from out of town. Fans should be paying for it and who gives a fuck about out of towners? If I can get some Okie to subsidize my baseball team so much the better. Besides, Baseball only takes up 81 days per year, the rest of the time the city could rent it out for other events. You can’t do these things in order to raise money for schools! You can’t tax Okies and bars for school money. School money comes from taxing income on private citizens, if you taxed businesses also you’d be taxing the same people twice for the same thing and it would be a disincentive to go into business in DC. On the other hand you can tax business by something that will help business. What they screechers don’t understand, or choose to ignore, is that the increased taxes will not be levied against individuals. The stadium isn’t draining any money from the schools, or diverting money that currently exists and could go to schools, it’s a new revenue source, one that exists for a stadium. No stadium, no new tax, no new revenue, no net impact on the schools whether there’s a stadium or not. Finally, DC spends more money per student than any state in the union. The DC school problem is one of mismanagement, not funding. But hey, it’s easy for me to say, I moved to Maryland.

The other angle is that Linda Cropp may be the Grinch who steals my Christmas. (Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know what you’re getting for Christmas skip to the next paragraph.) Last week I went online and ordered Washington Nationals gear for all the male members of my family and a few friends. I thought it would be nice for them to be the first folks on their blocks to get some Nats gear to show off. Yesterday the team suspended all promotional activities. The nice folks at MLB Shop.com couldn’t really give me a direct answer about the things I’d ordered. It seems like they’re waiting for a definite answer before they ship anything, which means they may never ship, which means I may be giving my little brother a picture of the shirt that might be coming to him eventually, maybe. My guess is that MLB’s pride would cause them to cancel my order if the team doesn’t go to DC rather than allow me the fun of giving my folks gear for team that only ever existed on paper, and in the hopes of DC baseball fans. “You’re a mean one, Linda Cropp! You really are a fiend…”

The Kerry camp is supporting a recount in Ohio, though they also concede that it won’t change the outcome of the election. What if the recount shows Kerry winning by 10,000 votes? Will they still concede? If Kerry wins will he be suddenly scarred by acid?

So Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi ARE on steroids. Or were, at some point. So Giambi’s weight loss wasn’t totally due to the tumor, or the bacteria, or VD. So hitting 258 homeruns after the age of 35 (~51/yr) after hitting only 445 in the previous 13 years (~34/yr) isn’t just due to a new workout routine. SHOCKING!!!! Every one of Barry’s stats should carry a *, as should Giambi’s and anyone else proven to be on roids. The players involved should be suspended indefinitely. It doesn’t matter if the evidence is culled from illegally obtained testimony. As commissioner Landis said after the Black Sox Scandal, "Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ballgame; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball." In this case the references to gambling can be replaced with doping and apply just as well today as it did in 1921. Of course Shoeless Joe didn’t have Don Fehr on his side. The fact is that there will likely be no reprisals against any of the MLB players connected to the BALCO scandal because MLB is too weak and too afraid of the union to do anything bold.

All right folks, that’s it for now. I’ll be back in the Bay starting Dec. 22nd so hit me up. Happy holidays.