By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) During the time he worked for ESPN as it was transitioning from best sports thing ever to a giant commercial with interludes of people yelling at each other and any “story” remotely sports related that could make people cry, Peter Gammons, always a mark of consistency and someone who didn’t try to enrage you or make you cry, would often have this look on his face of “What is this? What are we doing here?”
He’d sit back, hands politely in lap, trying not to shake his head at what the once-great Baseball Tonight was becoming, waiting his turn to give some level-headed analysis and hard-earned inside scoops after building important bridges in the game from decades of solid work. This was shortly after he’d been honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award by the Baseball Writers of America—kind of like the writing equivalent of the Ford C. Frick Award for baseball broadcasters where both are recognized forever in the museum in Cooperstown, New York.
I don’t know if Gammons ever answered those questions he seemed to silently ask himself in a swivel chair while being forced to say into a camera “The Xtra Xtreme Faxts About Tonight’s Game presented by new Xtra Xtreme Ghost Pepper Tiger Musk Doritos” or something. Regardless, he moved on from Bristol to work in a more dignified manner befitting of a Poynter Fellow. He has continued to steadily churn out trusty baseball news and insight to this day.
With the exception of Thursday, though. Thursday, Gammons appeared on Mike Lupica’s radio show and said the following regarding Alex Rodriguez:
“I’ve had people with the Yankees say this to me, he is just — he wants to blow up the world. You know, he’s like the marathon bombers. It’s just, he’s going to get them.”
So that was stupid. Inappropriate. Regrettable. Quite the nitroglycerine detonation midair there. I wasn’t envious of Gammons for once.
I was respectful of him, though, when he publicly apologized (multiple times) soon after rather than go into planned damage control mode of resistance, then extended silence, then a pseudo-sorry forced from his superiors. Gammons understood he made a bad comparison and acknowledged the need to be better. We all should be so self aware after our numerous foul ups that aren’t in the public eye or ear.
But most are not. And instead many people yesterday decided to voice their moral superiority by calling Gammons names not fit to print and/or calling for his suspension, retirement, or firing. Because that solves the problem of somebody giving you a sad, and then nobody will ever say anything that bothers you ever again. Just blow up that media representative, and all will be good.
This isn’t Peter Gammons outing himself after all these years as a racist or homophobic kook. This isn’t comparing sports to the Holocaust or slavery. This isn’t contributing to years of systematic prejudice by making a joke about it. This isn’t even him sympathizing with a terrorist.
He compared A-Rod—a guy most of the hot and bothered people don’t even like to begin with—to some infamously awful people of recent history. It was hyperbolic and dumb, and the man wishes he could take it back not because of the backlash but because he really regrets the words. He didn’t say baseball is the forever tarnished running event or the fans are innocent race watchers on that Boston sidewalk.
HE DIDN’T SPEAK GLOWINGLY ABOUT THE BOMBING OR SAY #BOSTONSTRONG OR HUM GOD BLESS AMERICA HOW AWFUL. People don’t even know what they’re getting mad about anymore.
But screw contemplating the rationality of your unchecked emotions. Just light stuff on fire. You need to feel better about yourselves via the downfall of people more popular than you. Even a guy who is universally accepted as competent and not a bad guy whatsoever like Gammons. The guy is the turtle from the old Tootsie Roll Pop commercial who battles almost weekly with how to properly use a cell phone but who also is really damn hip and funny. Still, you need to throw your dynamite into the demonstration.
I’m fairly certain none of the loved ones of the bombing victims had their otherwise-lovely Mike Lupica listening experience, or even their Thursday as a whole, ruined because a baseball writer made a poor comparison in a conversation, no matter how much you really hope they did in order to justify your crappy outrage. You know, inane hand wringing like this:
“He has cast himself among the mass of ‘wannabes’ that report and write for the sake of sensationalism.” His name is in the Hall of Fame, you worthless wannabe writer. I think he’s past the point have trying to establish his name.
Or this dumbassery:
How can @MLBNetwork keep Peter Gammons on staff after saying ARod was like the Boston Marathon Bombers? He has to be fired.—
(@JohnnyCrashMLB) November 21, 2013
People were calling for Jim Gray to be fired for asking Pete Rose about gambling. Gammons said ARod was the same as Boston terrorists.—
(@JohnnyCrashMLB) November 21, 2013
Jim #$%^ing Gray? I read that and it felt like a pistol shot piercing my brain as I was enjoying an evening at the theatre or something.
Gammons answered a question on the spot on radio. That’s the medium where they don’t really like when an interviewee takes the time to really think out answers to questions because silence is the antithesis. It’s also the medium where a show like Lupica’s is quietly ecstatic Gammons said what he did because it generates tons of free publicity for the show, so those involved there aren’t regretting Gammons not pausing for 10 seconds to find a more apt simile. He wasn’t writing a column where he made a calculated choice to use the terrible simile and hand it off to an editor who saw it fit to publish.
Gammons is a longtime Bostonian. It was maybe the only offensive thing he’s said in more than 40 years in the business. So let’s have him suspended or fired or forced into retirement or whatever else will satisfy delicate sensibilities but not actually be productive because that is what’s appropriate for saying something that will have zero tangible or lasting effect on anyone. Let’s poison that salad bar.
I sit back on my swivel chair watching little vultures trying to do the actual kill rather than merely pick apart the carcass and I think to myself, “What is this? What are we doing here?”
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa before earning his degree from Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). Got a comment for Tim? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @TimBaffoe , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.