Friday, August 25, 2006

Dusty Baker and Racist Cubs Fans - Ugliness Everywhere

I hate to open an ugly can of worms, so I'll try to keep this short, but I can't help but comment on this week's controversy involving Dusty Baker. Apparently, Baker recently shared some racist letters he's received from angry Cubs fans with a USA Today reporter, who in turn spread the word. Naturally, the story has now blown up, including this article from today's Tribune. (I hope the link works; a password may be required.) Of course it did. God knows there are few things to get people chirping like some good ole fashion racism. People are so predictable.

My feelings on this issue are mixed. On the one hand, I'm obviously repulsed by the fans who sent the letters. Total garbage. Unacceptable. Such people are stains on the human race as a whole. They should be sought out and their reproduction capabilities squashed. As a White Sox diehard, I'm tempted to make a joke about Cubs fans, but I realize that a) it's only a handful of assholes tainting the rest, and b) these assholes are everywhere. Every team has them. This isn't just a Cubs thing. If only it were, right?

On the other hand, I'm turned off by how Baker has handled this mess. His eagerness to pick at the scabs of racism until they bleed again just rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I'm insensitive. Maybe I'm an asshole. I don't know. It just does. Why did Baker so willingly share the letters with a reporter? Does he not yet know that this sad story is nothing new? Does he not understand that every race or group of people will have its bad apples and always will? What was he expecting his sharing of the letters to accomplish? Are a few frustrated, drunken dickheads in Cubs caps really worth plastering all over the front page?

Of course, race issues and Baker and firestorms are nothing new. Race, it seems, is always on the tip of the brain with Baker.

This sentence from the article jumped out at me:

Type the words "hate mail" and "baseball managers" into an Internet search engine for national newspapers, and Baker is the only manager referenced in the last 13 years.

Furthermore, Fergie Jenkins and Bill Madlock were both quoted in the article as saying they never received racist mail while playing for the Cubs. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that they were both high-quality players and beloved, while Baker's Cubs teams have been disappointing always and often awful. I don't know. To be fair, other Cubs players have spoken of racist fans in Wrigleville. And unlike Jenkins and Madlock, they've often been those who have struggled spectacularly on the field. (ie, LaTroy Hawkins.)

Look, I'm not trying to dismiss the serious nature of Baker's claims, nor am I trying to be anything but sensitive. That said, Baker's routine as the angry black man so eager to trumpet racial flames has worn thin. Hasn't it? Or am I the only one to feel this way? Yes, the assholes are out there. We know. Everyone knows. But my question is this: Is it really worth the trouble of starting this firestorm? What has Baker accomplished other than exposing what we already know and creating more tension?

See scab. Pick at scab.

Sure, some would say this is a converstaion that needs to happen, that these things, however awful, need to be out in the open.

But I don't know. I just don't know what Baker is accomplishing by waving his racist letters in the air and demanding that people look. Is any of this shocking? No. Is Baker changing anything? Not really. There is a small segment of Cubs fans who are lower than dirt. Anyone could have told you that.

Baker played with Hank Aaron in a far more troubled time when Aaron truly felt the crushing sting of racism. Yet Aaron struggled on with quiet pride. He chose not to make a spectacle of the assholes, but rather to stick it in their face by marching on and becoming a legend.

It's a shame Baker, apparently, didn't learn many lessons. He's a black man that has been a MLB manager every year since 1993. He's one of the highest-paid managers in the game. If/when he leaves the Cubs, he'll surely get another managing position, possibly immediately. Things have worked out alright for him. Yeah, it's a shame that he's been exposed to a few assholes among Cubs fans. Yeah, that sucks. But it doesn't seem he's handled the situation with much class. It seems he's more than willing to fan the flames, something he had already earned a reputation for a long time ago. Race seems to be at the forefront of Baker's mind as much as the assholes who send him hateful letters. I'd dare say he's slightly preoccupied with it all, which is too bad for him.

Or maybe I'm just an insensitive white dude who doesn't understand. I wouldn't discount the possibilty. All I know is that when I hear of Baker running around with his racist letters and asking the world to do only God know what about it, I can only shake my head at everything.

Everything. The racist asshole fans. Baker's scab picking.



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