Jim Bowden must go

Comparing Players' Association head Donald Fehr to the Sept. 11 hijackers degrades the memory of the victims, and baseball too.

Topics:

Jim Bowden should resign, or be dismissed, as the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

When, in 1987, the Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis went on ABCs Nightline and stumbled through an illogical, almost superstitious, explanation for why African-Americans didnt have the right “necessities” to become Major League Baseball managers (or swimmers, for that matter), it became unavoidably clear that Campanis would have to leave his job.

There was nothing irredeemable about the man; he had grown from the pure racism of first-generation Greek immigrants in New York, to become Jackie Robinsons first double-play partner in the minor leagues, and then to hire black men as scouts when no one else in baseball did this. He had grown. He had just failed to continue to grow. Al Campanis, in 1987, showed he did not understand the pain of a large segment of the American people.

But to say what Jim Bowden said, 42 days before the anniversary of what history may judge as the worst day in this countrys history, is to show that he did not understand the pain of any of our people after Sept. 11. Nor did he understand the not-inconsequential role his own sport played in assuaging that pain, both then, and since.

“If players want to strike, they ought to just pick Sept. 11, because that’s what it’s going to do to the game,” Bowden said to a stunned group of reporters before Thursdays Reds-Dodgers game in Cincinnati. “I don’t think there’s going to be a work stoppage. I don’t think anybody’s that dumb. If they do walk out, make sure it’s Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let (Players’ Association leader) Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that’s what they want to do.”

Sadly, baseball has an extraordinary closet full of unforgivable, anti-social, skeletons. Besides Campaniss remarks, there was the infamous interview Yankees outfielder Jake Powell gave Chicago White Sox announcer Bob Elson in 1938 in which he spoke of his off-season duty as a police officer who liked to crack the skulls of black men. Billy Martin alone produced dozens of remarks about women that ranged from the misogynistic to the pathological. The very team names of Atlanta and Cleveland speak to a lingering, institutionalized racism against Native Americans.

Yet all these things, however hateful and unpalatable, were to one degree or another limited. Al Campanis, Jake Powell, Billy Martin, and others who shared their stupidity or their anger still had loyalties to somebody.



After the impact of his pre-game remarks became apparent, the Reds issued a written statement in which Bowden was quoted profusely apologizing. He termed his comparisons “horrible” and “extremely insensitive.” But unlike Powell, whom the Yankees escorted from tavern to tavern in Harlem to personally apologize for his skull-cracking remarks, and even Campanis, who faced the media several times before he resigned, Bowden did not even read his own apology aloud.

Instead of summoning up the courage to be enough of a human being to personally ask forgiveness for the pain he had caused with his indefensible allusions, he had somebody else hand out a sheet of paper. One feels that had Bowden chosen to stand up and breathe life into these flat words, the apology might have seemed sincere, the trespass understood, and the reaction limited to some brief suspension or leave of absence. Instead, Bowden has compounded cruelty with cowardice.

Management and players will be to blame, of course, if a baseball strike ruins this September. The additional irony here is that Bowdens team was in New York just last week, and the Reds players — those selfish, strike-contemplating players who were on the other end of Bowdens Sept. 11 analogies — acquitted themselves like heroes. Ken Griffey, often excoriated as the quintessence of the egomaniacal modern athlete, met the widow and orphans of Kenny Marino, a New York firefighter who perished in the collapse of the towers. Two weeks after the attacks, Katrina Marino had e-mailed the Reds, explaining her lost husbands fanatical devotion to Griffey, and asking if the outfielder could hit a home run in Marinos memory.

He promptly did just that.

As Griffey followed-up with a personal visit with the Marinos, his teammate Scott Williamson went to Ladder Company 2 in Lower Manhattan. Williamsons fiancie is pure firefighter stock  her father and brother each district chiefs in Cincinnati, another brother, a captain. They brought shirts and hats from Cincinnatis department to the officers of Ladder 2, who lost 10 men in the attacks. The New Yorkers, in turn, gave Williamson a cap, which he wore on the field that night. Scott Williamson is from Fort Polk, Louisiana, and lives in Friendswood, Texas. And he went downtown and cried as honestly as any native of Manhattan.

When I first heard Jim Bowdens remarks I was out in Queens, at Shea Stadium, not five feet from where a city cop stood sweaty watch over us useless lugs in the press box. On my way out, I passed a group of New York Emergency Medical Technicians. And as I walked to my home, I crossed in front of the firehouse that is literally next door.

I thought of all the men and women in this city, and in Washington, and Shanksville, and Boston, and Los Angeles, and San Francisco — every city that lost somebody on Sept. 11. I thought of the families of the friends I lost, and all the families — all of us for whom, in a sense, it will always be Sept. 11. And I wanted to ask Jim Bowden: Who do you think you are, dragging these unending tragedies down to the level of your greedy business?

Salon columnist Keith Olbermann hosts the ABC Radio Network's "Speaking of Sports ... Speaking of Everything."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>