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In Which I Connect A-Rod With Racists (But Not In The Way You Think) …

by gwolinetz on August 7th, 2013

UPDATE (8/8/13, 10:40am): Related and relevant column from Rob Neyer at Baseball Nation regarding A-Rod’s appeal. There’s some really good stuff in here about people’s vitriolic reaction to A-Rod.
There’s a scene in the Blues Brothers (a movie that I admittedly hadn’t seen in many, many years before I was up with my son early in the morning a few days ago) where Nazis, led by Henry Gibson, are blocking Jake and Elwood’s way to go reunite with one of their former band members, so that they can complete their mission from God by earning the requisite funds, thereby saving the orphanage in which they grew up.* Anyway, the Nazis’ are being vigorously protested by some onlookers, who are being held back by a litany of policemen. And this is not the only comedy movie where there’s advocacy for violence against the Nazis (and honestly, with good fucking reason), movies where the simple notion of Nazi rights to march are met with a call to bludgeon the shit out of them. And here I am, sitting, watching this movie and thinking to myself, “Would people even get that riled up about this these days?” I answered that with a qualified “Probably,” meaning certain people probably would, but I think the population at large, while against Nazism if you ask them, would probably shrug their shoulder and say “Man, that’s terrible.”

*I’d say spoiler alert, but the movie is over 30 years old, so if you’re reading this and you haven’t seen it, I’m letting you know you’ve got no basis for complaint. But still, see the fucking movie.

** There’s a great exchange in the Woody Allen movie Manhattan where Woody Allen is at a party. He brings up that some Nazis are going to march in New Jersey and that they should go down there with some baseball bats and bricks to show them what’s what. The party goer responds that there was a great Op-Ed in the New York Times*** about it, to which Woody Allen responds “Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks and baseball bats really gets right to the point.”

*** Newspaper reference!

Because really, I think our society has gotten to the point where people don’t make a big deal about the really big things and make a really big deal about the things that don’t fucking matter at all. You’ve got people that are actually saying out loud that Alex Rodriguez should be shot. Shot! For what? Taking steroids and trying to be a better baseball player by cheating? That’s why he’s become public enemy #1 in this country. You know, years ago, you actually had to do something pretty bad to be vilified in this country. I guess now all it takes is cheating at something that’s reasonably insignificant to get people’s blood boiling to the point where they think something should be done. They’re so desensitized to everything big: the bullshit in Washington, the spree killings across the country, etc., that they just react violently to things they consider to be black and white issues, even though nothing is all that black and white. It’s fairly obvious (to me anyway) that Alex Rodriguez is simply a flawed human being that did something that many of us in the same situation would do also. We just don’t realize it because we’re not in the same situation. It’s easy to say you wouldn’t do steroids to get better at baseball when you work a day job in accounting. Let me know how that works out when there’s millions of dollars, total adoration and fame at stake. I’m not saying that I would or wouldn’t. I’m just saying that I have no idea how I’d react in that situation. And I don’t think anyone else does either.

Getting back to the point a little bit, today, I read this.

This shit still exists in spades. Oh, sure, not by Nazis necessarily. Only the really stupid are actually affiliating themselves with Hitler or Nazis. but shouldn’t we be outraged at this? I mean, really outraged. Doesn’t it merit more than a cursory article and a “we’re treating this as a bias crime?” I mean, a) a bias crime? You think so, genius? It’s swastikas and racial epithets, not flowers and unicorns and b) where’s the outrage? Where the commentary beyond “Hate Crimes is investigating?” Where’s the “this is a disgusting act of desperate people looking for any kind of attention anywhere they can get it And if this is kids joking, it’s not funny. We’re going to find you and prosecute you. This type of language and behavior has no place in our society.” Maybe treating this case as matter-of-factly as the NYPD is treating it keeps them from getting the attention that they want. I just don’t think this is something to be matter-of-fact about.

There’s a lot of hate out there. Some of it is focused and some of it is unfocused. What are we doing to combat it? That’s my question. When are we going to be as outraged about swastikas as we were in 1979 (when Manhattan came out) or 1980 (when the the Blues Brothers came out)? I don’t know how to finish this other than to say that I’m really not in a position to tell people what their priorities should be. If you want to focus your hate on A-Rod, go for it. Seems like wasted energy to me, but hey, that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla. It’s difficult to sit down and have a discussion with the 10-year old that idolized A-Rod and explain to him that steroids are bad, but sometimes good people do bad things and that things aren’t always as simple as we want them to be. It’s a tough conversation to have and it’s a tough one for your kids to get. But I’d suggest that it’s a good conversation to have, because A-Rod’s not the bad guy. He’s just a guy, a guy who made bad choices. He’s not the only one.

But there are real people out there that really hate for a lot of reasons and sometimes for no reason at all. I think we should be focusing on them.

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