How Non-Fight Baseball Reflects the Strange Journalistic Discourse on Racism

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There was a strange moment in a baseball game last Saturday between the hometown New York Yankees and the visiting Chicago White Sox. With zero physical contact precipitating, Yankees hitter Josh Donaldson and White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal began jawboning, getting into each other’s faces, and then clearing benches and empty bullpens as each team engaged in a time-honored “baseball fight” standing tradition. around the crowd, throwing no punches, and eventually retreating back into position for the rest of the game.

Usually, a baseball fight starts with an action, not a word – the pitcher throws the bat, the base runner shifts aggressively towards the field player, the field runner signals the runner loudly. But this opportunity, which eventually led to a one-game suspension and a multi-day national mini-talk about the race, started with the right words: Jackie.

Donaldson, who is white, has mockingly called White Sox shortstop star Tim Anderson, who is black, “Jackie,” as is the all-time great baseball and revered breaker-of-the-color barrier Jackie Robinson. Grandal (a bright -skinned Cuban American, for those who keep racial / national scores at home), explained after that game, “Comments like that are just not acceptable. It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed.” White Sox Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa, who is old enough to have played pro football back when preseason hotel accommodations were still separated, considered Donaldson name-calling “racist.”

This is proof enough for many journalists.

“Yankees’ Josh Donaldson Suspended for Making Racist Comments Against Tim Anderson, ”became the headline Bleacher reportechoed in outlets such as Revolt TV and At the root. “Yankees 3B used‘ Jackie ’racial comments against White Sox stars,” CBS Sports reported.

That last formulation was considered woefully inadequate by the wags of Deadspin. In the section titled “Just Saying: Josh Donaldson makes racist comments against Tim Anderson,” Deadspin‘s Jesse Spector asserts: “Our media apparatus remains unprepared to address the challenges we face, for fear that saying anything – telling the truth – will be controversial and cause reactions. It’s cowardice. That’s all. It is.”

This is an increasingly popular sentiment in the journalism industry. The media “should report aggressively and clearly on racism, misogyny, and Christian nationalism that advocates for rights, rather than covering it up with euphemisms,” critic Dan Froomkin said this month. Nation. “Moral clarity will ensure that politicians who unleash racist stereotypes and tropes – but intelligently – are branded with clear language and unburied evidence,” journalist Wesley Lowery wrote in an influential 2020. New York Times op-ed. “Racism, as we know it, is not about what’s in the human heart. It’s about words and actions. And a more aggressive commitment to the truth from the press will strengthen our industry to finally acknowledge it.”

Having been in the game, confused, and previously shocked by the low journalistic standards to back up the level of baseball -related racism accusations, I went poking around for details. First, as reported, Donaldson vehemently denies racist intent, admitting to respecting Jackie Robinson (Thursday he published claim apologized to the Robinson family), and said he used the name to tease Anderson from becoming a White Sox star in 2019. use names to describe ourselves.

The last detail should be a moment of journalistic pause. Baseball since its inception, even though I’ve been around for a long time, has become a game of nonsense (“bench-jockeying,” in old parlance; “ragging,” in the 80s and 90s). The idea is to break the enemy’s concentration, or simply alleviate the distress with insulting comedy over a long period of time. The players look too big for britches especially to mock — after pitcher Jim Bouton published his infamous book. Four balls in 1970, other players around the league took to calling him “Shakespeare.”

Tim Anderson is an excellent player (he made the All-Star team, became number seven in the Most Valuable Player selection, and won the batting crown), and he is active and outspoken in trying to make the sport more accessible to the black community… Lordy , whether she is not Jackie Robinson. It’s because no one perhaps, whether it was about the unspeakable difficulties that Robinson had to face (and not just in baseball diamonds; he failed to stand trial in a military court in 1944 for refusing to sit in the back of an Army bus), or his unparalleled superiority in almost every competition entered (including but not limited to ping-pong and ballroom dancing, as well as basketball, football, and long jump), or career activities after playing in business, politics, and journalism.

What makes Anderson’s comp, which comes in 2019 Sports Illustration the article, even more ripe for needling among the inclined, is that this is not to say primarily about the race, but about… allowing for a more demonstrative exuberance in baseball diamonds. Here is the relevant section:

[He] sees another barrier, one that is going for toppling: the “have-fun barrier.”

“I feel like Jackie Robinson now,” he said. “That’s huge to say. But it’s cool, man, because he changed the game, and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I have to change the game.

Anderson’s point is more nuanced than it might sound. Robinson remains an American hero, and Anderson will not face Jim Crow’s fearsome Robinson and the first generation of major black leaguers survive. Also, many players, white and non-white, had fun while playing the game.

However, as a rule, baseball does not encourage individualism. As other sports have evolved to display the personalities of the stars, old baseball keepers have embraced that principle. Open the ground ball. Keep your mouth shut. Slowly place the bat near the front plate — the player must respond to the front race as if he or she would react to the news that the acquaintance filed the tax properly.

These attitudes often reflect racial lines, although not necessarily.

MLB’s new marketing campaign has showcased the league’s young stars and their passionate style. “Let the kids play,” the ad said. But sometimes other kids don’t.

It’s a rather thin… reed to compare ourselves to being the greatest and most important American athlete of the 20th century, mainly because of Anderson’s generation of famous (and multicultural) players. He was, thankfully, hardly alone in flipping the bat after a home run, expressing emotions on the field, and agitating for baseball to loosen the hell up.

me certainly wouldn’t tease people about calling themselves kinda-Jackie, not someone who loves the grown-up taste of people’s knuckles, and there’s a good reason why overt, Don Rickles-style ethnic ridicule has largely disappeared from the trash-speaking field. (Jackie Robinson is also the main character in the story.) However, the comparison is somewhat similar to that of former All-Star Rick Monday, famous for rescuing the American flag from hippie protesters in 1976, it would certainly take a while. to call himself “today Ted Williams.”

There are other complications. For example, a framing device from Sports Illustration profile, the reason Anderson talked about “fun obstacles” in the first place, because A) after crushing a home run in the fourth inning of an early 2019 season game against Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller, Anderson triumphantly fired the bat in the direction of his own dugout; B) in the next few bats, Keller responded by throwing a quick ball into Anderson’s ass, causing a breakout from the Baseball War; C) during a non-punching stand-around, Anderson called Keller (the white one) a “weak-ass fucking nigga”that D) Major League Baseball suspended Anderson for one game.

Or, as Deadspin‘s Carron J. Phillips recently put it, “Think about that for another. The White League is run by a white man suspended from one of the few Black stars in its league all for just using words that white people can’t say that. So many who’s obsessed. It’s not fair. “

It’s definitely one way to see things. Another is that the league gives equal one-game suspensions to Josh Donaldson and Tim Anderson, for contemptuously speaking to opponents, respectively, “Jackie,” and “weak-ass fucking nigga.” At Deadspins world finds the former too lenient and the latter an outrageous imposition, because they hate racism.

To make my rooting interests clear, in addition to hating both the Yankees and White Sox, I was objective in favor of exuberant bat flipping, opposed (in almost all cases) to pitchers intentionally throwing in hitters for being demonstrative, very in favor of talking waste, and against almost all language-policing suspensions. Self-centered as he may be, I’m easily Tim Anderson more than Josh Donaldson, who seems like a dick. (And who, in previous situations, has complained about … bench-jockeying!)

But the two are red-ass Class-A rivals. (This may have something to do with them being so successful!) Ridicule, random revenge, felt-these are all ways to keep you motivated through 162 games, after (in Donaldson’s case) 16 years of playing pro football on a regular basis . elite level. There’s a very good chance that we wouldn’t have had this racist conversation if it weren’t for Donaldson two weeks ago physically manhandling Tim Anderson from third base in a pickoff attempt, Anderson pushing him back, and the bench. semi-clearing again. These guys are rivals.

Anderson now has Jackie’s revenge / racism, the team (like the team) supports him. When the club met the day after, Yankee fans predictably booed and serenaded Anderson with chants of “Ja-ckie”; Anderson hit a three -run homer and gave a universal “shhhh” sign, and everything seemed balanced on the Force.

That, or gut-sinkingly racist.

What happened at Yankee Stadium over the weekend, at best, was a reminder of the dangers of groupthink and blind loyalty – dangers that remain a major part of American culture and are firmly part of American sports culture. Yankees fans become very racist or unfaithful to racist bastards because they wear team jerseys, or both. Either way, it’s reviving the noise of the same dynamic Jackie Robinson catches and the sport clearly hasn’t beaten it. And unfortunately, it’s a regression I suspect we’ll see even more of, in our polarized world and in sports, in the months and years to come.

So done Will Leitch, a sports writer I’ve long enjoyed, over at New York magazine.

It’s hard not to be glum about basically everything, too including race relations, in the wake of the horrendous mass murders in Buffalo and Uvalde. It’s all possible that Josh Donaldson is indeed a “racist asshole”; of course there are many reports about half of these formulations.

But to assert the red R as a journalistic fact requires at least treating all of Donaldson’s explanations as lies, dismissing it as irrelevant if Anderson compares himself (impossible, if we’re honest) with Jackie Robinson, imagining that racists own a home club. a 6’7 “biracial superstar and seven players born in the Caribbean (possibly very, but logically challenging); and positing as a 2022 racial slur of the term shows comparative veneration for the man who broke baseball’s street barrier. It’s a series of assumptions, from coin- to coin. his flips are called the same way every toss, and if you truly believe it all, the view of humanity will be unrelievedly grim.

“[It was] a bad moment for a sport that has long struggled with Black participation and Inclusion. Bad moment. It’s too bad. And everyone saw it was so bad except, we learned the next night, a lot of fans at Yankee Stadium, “Leitch cried. Black players. How could this happen?”

Except it didn’t happen.