Sports in America are a funny thing. Average Americans who love sports are often dismissed by their betters in academia as rednecks and worse; especially the few yahoos who get carried away when their teams win it all. Unless of course, these celebrations take place in inner-city areas where the populace is assumed to be merely venting frustration at cruel Republican repression.
Angered by their inability to court the NASCAR dads they so thoroughly disdain, liberals urge us to embrace soccer, a sport whose rabid and often racist supporters make American fans look genteel by comparison. It is comical that they think that should we ever truly take the game seriously -- committing our best athletes and becoming a major force -- the rest of the world would love us more. Forget George Bush creating terrorists, how about the U.S. winning the World Cup?
No, we will stick to baseball. It was famously said by historian Jacques Barzun that "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." This was true for many years and hopefully will be again, but not until we are rid of blights on the game like foul-mouthed White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and his ilk.
Most baseball writers, at least those at the major dailies, are just as liberal as their political counterparts. Sports Illustrated gushed over the fact that after the Sox captured the World Series trophy, Guillen took it "back to his native Venezuela in a jet furnished by President Hugo Chavez." Hugo Chavez!
Until very recently, these writers were enjoying a love affair with Guillen. His machismo and quotability were the toast of the baseball world. Why? His speech is vulgar and overflows with all the latest obscenities so loved by the intelligentsia; a kind of cuddly Latino Lenny Bruce. An example of his keen stylings so admired by the press, are the kind words he had for former teammate Magglio Ordonez:
He's a piece of (expletive). He's a (expletive), that's what he is. He's another Venezuelan (expletive). (Expletive) him. He has an enemy. Now he has a big one. He knows I can (expletive) him a lot of different ways. He better shut the (expletive) up and play for the Detroit Tigers.
While it's always been true that most baseball men have been known to wrap their tongues around an obscenity or two, it's most likely that these words were used off-the-record as modifiers and not central to a highly public press conference. Interestingly, one of the above modifiers was the word "Venezuelan," which would have been a no-no had it been uttered by a white manager.
But no matter; this crudity was of course viewed as part of the package liberals assume must accompany Latino immigrants to this country and so must be applauded. That is, until he brought it to bear against the unassailable. Speaking tenderly of Chicago sportswriter Jay Mariotti, with whose column he took exception, Guillen said, "What a piece of (expletive) he is, (expletive) fag."
Gone was the air of impermeability that had shielded him from the poison pens of the politically correct, as he was damned with predictable outrage. Even the usually spineless Bud Selig weighed in with the following: "Baseball is a social institution with responsibility to set appropriate tone and example. Conduct or language that reflects otherwise will not be tolerated. The use of slurs embarrasses the individual, the club and the game."
So Bud Lite is fine with the gansta rap behavior exhibited daily by many ballplayers and celebrated gleefully by ESPN. He's unconcerned with the soft porn ads of MLB sponsors which are shoved nightly down the throats of our children on TV. And he doesn't seem at all fazed by the reprehensible language that flows like a torrent from the mouths of Guillen and others in full public view: unless it's directed at homosexuals.
As Mr. Barzun pointed out long ago, America's culture and baseball are deeply intertwined; the one has always influenced and reflected the other. If the drug-enhanced, egoistic, sex-driven, unsportsmanlike and utterly uncivil manner in which the game now conducts its affairs continues, then woe be to the great game of baseball and our good country.