The recent and incomprehensible non-decision of the baseball writers’ Hall of Fame committee reminds us that every arm of the broadcast media has been infected by “expert” ideologues.
I make no secret that I have given up on the United States of America as a coherent cultural unit; and without an underpinning of common values, it is moribund, as well, as a political unit. I therefore do not follow the brilliant work of commentators like Michelle Malkin (thought there really is no one else as brilliant as Michelle) with the attention that I did before November 6, 2012—six weeks before the Mayan calendar ran out and the world ended. I know only too well that the thugs and hooligans who are busily pillaging our corpse of a nation have no principles, scruples, or rudiments of basic human decency. I don’t need to be filled in on their latest acts of piracy. In fact, I’d rather not hear the latest. While vainly defending the pass at Thermopylae, Leonidas surely did not require his lieutenants to apprise him every quarter-hour of their losses. What’s the point?
Yet it fascinates me how one cannot escape our cultural hemorrhaging in any sort of diversion. If one plugs one’s ears and covers one’s eyes, the stench of death finds out one’s nostrils. This past week I was seeking an escape on the MLB Channel as I did my regular afternoon exercise routine. The Baseball Hall of Fame’s selection committee, composed of a thousand sports journalists in print media (those employed by TV stations being supposed to harbor partiality for the local markets that pay them… yeah, it makes no sense to me, either), had just ruled not to admit a single nominee into the ranks of the Immortals this year. The diminutive Ken Rosenthal was eloquently explaining his disapproval of this verdict, and I was thinking to myself (between push-ups), “Wow! I kind of like this guy!”… when suddenly Rosenthal lamented with tropological flourish that the disputes between voters were as bitter and warlike as if the Tea Party had been seated on the committee.
This is my paraphrase: I think it’s actually rather more tactful than Rosenthal’s remark. My head reared back as if I had been slapped in the face. Here I had thought that I was slipping away for a while from the media world of misrepresentation, fact-trimming, propagandizing, and outright slander… and from nowhere, out of the blue, a sports reporter characterizes me and my brethren—a bunch of old fogeys who just want our kids not to be saddled with insurmountable debt—in terms one would use of rioters armed with crowbars and Molotov cocktails. Why? What had we done to deserve this? And even if the reporter had a personal antipathy for our political position, what made him feel licensed to dump a pail of garbage over us publicly? Can one find no elementary civility even here—does a puny sportscaster, even, not sense any professional reluctance to spit defamation all over Middle America?
The answer is “no”, of course—and Rosenthal is also no mere sportscaster. I don’t think any such being exists any longer. Perhaps locally… but on ESPN and other major networks, sports anchors are the preppy products of elite private schools and elite northeastern universities. Bob Costas—he of the Sunday Night Football lecture on the evils of gun ownership—is their ideological granddaddy. One can imagine any member of this lot hosting his—or her (for stirring women in with the jocks is now de rigueur)—own late-night Charlie Rose-style talk show (as Costas has actually done). These perky, babbling twerps are all about social conscience, collective salvation, affirmative action, gay rights, and the paternalistic Rule of the Experts—the last displayed by themselves in their humble capacity as sports “analysts”. Brent Musburger ran afoul of them when he dared to remark over the mike, during a lull in Alabama’s blowout of Notre Dame, that Miss Alabama (captured by the camera among the spectators) was gorgeous. ESPN rushed in to apologize for his heterosexual vulgarity and paleocon lack of savvy. Now imagine, if you will, that someone in Musburger’s chair had showered vaguely “gay” praise upon a good-looking quarterback: “I could gaze at him all day with his helmet off—and the rest of his gear, too!” ESPN would have charged in, all right—to brand the twittered-and-tweeted deluge of indignation from Middle America as “hate speech”, to defend their broadcaster’s First Amendment rights, and to condemn homophobia wherever it rears its ugly head.
As Rush Limbaugh has correctly observed, these networks don’t even care about whatever hit their ratings may take for their injudicious pokes, slaps, sneers, and backstabs at the hinterland’s values. Their employees don’t regard themselves as businessmen any more than as sportscasters. The once-upon-a-time funny, then rabid and slavering Keith Olbermann is their poster child. They realize—how could they help but realize?—that the heaviest consumers of sports are working-stiff males who do not support gay marriage, do not long for the confiscation of all firearms, and do not consider women biologically and psychologically interchangeable with men. They realize all this… and they don’t care. Or rather, they care insofar as they view themselves as embarked upon a grand mission to re-program the thoughts of the sports-watching, Bible-thumping, gun-toting redneck hordes. They are our betters, our big brothers. They don’t hesitate to lecture us about proper behavior between halves or innings any more than a fifth-grade teacher would fail to exploit his class’s eagerness for recess by claiming sixty seconds after the bell rings to issue a warning about bullying.
Do we know Vin Scully’s politics, or Al Michaels’? Former Yankee star Tony Kubek, Costas’s first broadcasting partner on national TV, publicly supported the Democrat Party on occasion, as did the incomparable Stan Musial—but never during a broadcast. Besides, players who came up when Musial and Kubek did were often children of blue-collar immigrants who labored to tragically little avail in grimy factory towns. Baseball ownership in those days also enjoyed its immunity from monopoly laws to the hilt, buying, selling, and trading players like slaves and threatening to end their careers if they refused a low-ball offer for next year’s pay. During contract negotiations, players were not even allowed to have a legal advisor in the room with them. Ownership tricked Kubek’s teammate Roger Maris into playing with a broken hand in 1965, advising team doctors to keep the information from him and effectively damaging his hand for life and shortening his career. You can’t credibly trace the Costas-Olbermann enthusiasm for totalitarian socialism to some poor Polish or Serbian kid’s inbred hatred of totalitarian management style.
Indeed, one often perceives in a thousand little ways that the elite of ESPN and Sports Illustrated enjoy “slumming” with the tongue-tied superstars whose intellect they hold in no real esteem. The quintessence of the newfangled “sports analyst” is a nerdy, techie kind of anti-athleticism. He’s never played the sport—any sport (well, maybe tennis at the country club)—and he openly disdains the judgments of those who have. A lot of ex-ballplayers were lobbying for pitcher Jack Morris to be admitted into the Hall on his next-to-last year of eligibility… but the “sabermetricians”, as they cutely call themselves, observe that his career Earned Run Average is shockingly high. The on-the-field insight is wasted upon them that a superior pitcher may groove fastballs when his team has a huge lead just to rest his arm so that he may work far into his next start. Robin Roberts did this to perfection (on some very bad ball clubs that needed three hundred innings a year from him)—and he, too was made to wait for years before his Hall of Fame induction. The nerds hold the key to admission, and they insist that their criteria be met.
Since all values are relative in the postmodern world, however, one sometimes wonders just what these criteria are. Their “objectivity” seems to be invoked after the fact to let in or keep out candidates whose real virtue or sin is of the “politically correct” variety. Orlando Cepeda was admitted to the Hall years ago with marginal credentials because New Age voter-journalists a) wanted more Latinos in their shrine, and b) were eager to show the American public that they didn’t give a crap about Cepeda’s abuse of recreational drugs off the field. On the other hand, World War II hero, devout Catholic, exemplary family man, and universally loved neighbor Gil Hodges will never make it through the door, despite his being the heart and soul of the Brooklyn Dodgers team that dominated the National League in the fifties (and that integrated baseball). Hodges was briefly the all-time right-handed homerun king in the National League… but his “character” credentials, one must suspect, actually worked against him. The “analysts” seem to consider the “character” clause in the Hall of Fame qualifications as a curious vestigial appendage—rather like the Bill of Rights, you know. What precisely was Craig Biggio’s failing, that he should have been rejected this year? A mere .281 lifetime average to go with his 3,060 hits? Has any of these “analysts” paused to reflect that no one else in the 3,000 hit club ever started one big-league game as a catcher? Does Craig’s being a Hodges-like Catholic family man and pillar of the community have anything to do with the verdict? Does Curt Schilling’s outspoken defense of George Bush’s candidacy have anything to do with the cold shoulder shown to him?
One can but wonder. Such doubts seem far-fetched—after all, it’s only baseball! But is anything “only” anything to these people—to ruling-class ideologues, I mean—when the overlay of politics is applied? The world was told that steroid use, real or suspected, was the culprit in this year’s big snub. Why, then, was Fred McGriff ignored, a man whose beanpole stature remained with him throughout his career? It was explained to ESPN’s viewers (condescendingly) that steroids do not necessarily produce an Incredible Hulk physique in those who shoot up with them. True… but they do so in homerun hitters—that’s why these fellows hit more homeruns. The muscle makes the difference.
The inanity of these equivocations leads me to conclude that the Baseball Writers of America haven’t really decided just how they wish to digest ideologically the Steroid Era’s anomia. Hulking brutes strike an image of masculinity multiplied exponentially—the very thing we want to breed out of future generations (“we”, again, being the enlightened, happy few). Yet anomia—the contempt for all laws and rules—is a good thing when you’re tearing apart an antiquated republic. Yet we know that these desperate characters “juiced” in order to rake in more sordid loot. Yet everybody was doing it, or was doing something—everybody has always sinned in some way or other. Ty Cobb (as we all think we know, thanks to Ken Burns’s warped documentary) was insanely racist. Racism isn’t less bad than drug-abuse, is it? It’s worse, isn’t it?
When these “analysts” finally figure out what spinning of the steroid story best advances their agenda, then we will see the bottleneck of indecision created by their existential angst (some writers simply abstained from voting) come roaring open in a Spring thaw of resonant conformity.
I don’t know that I’ll be paying any attention by then. Since the arrogant intellectualist snobbery that has destroyed American politics, culture, and society has not spared baseball, I intend to let my subscription to the MLB Channel lapse. I can use every extra dime in this time of universal collapse that “expert” minds have engineered.