Sun-Times Contends Wrigley is Racist

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sun-Times Contends Wrigley is Racist

. Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gordon Wittenmyer ran a column today about Milton Bradley's ability to deal with negativity from the fans. No different from any of the dozens of writers who have asked the same question, right? Oh, except this none contends - actually, accepts without much deeper examination -that Wrigley Field is a hotbed of racist taunting of players. I'm seriously disturbed by the claims made in the article, for a number of reasons. Please, take the time to give it a read.

The subhead includes the phrase "fans known for racist taunts." Am I that much of a homer that I'm ignorant of this reputation? Wittenmyer makes no contention about that - he merely states it as fact, hoping readers will do the same. He writes:

Milton Bradley says he's aware of Wrigley Field's reputation for fans who not only boo their own players, but also have a history of getting racial.

Except Milton Bradley offers no quotes on that subject in the article. The only quotes we see from him are the same regarding negative fan behavior and his newfound maturity. In other words, what we've been hearing from him since his first press conference. I says "I've heard about that," but it's left unclear whether he's referring to racist taunts in general or Wrigley specifically. Wittenmyer also references Torii Hunter's unwillingness to consider signing with the Cubs - a position that seems less informed by fact than by rumors he heard from LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones. Likewise, Mike Cameron says "he's heard some things," but the prose seems again to itself insinuate racism, rather than draw it from the material. We get an unnamed source, and some non-cooperation from Derrek Lee.

I am more than willing to accept the negative aspects of Cubdom along with the warm, cuddly ones. I'm not in the childish frame of mind where any criticism of the franchise makes me shut down and deny. If racism is really a problem at Wrigley, and I've been blinded to it by circumstance or my love for the team, then I'm willing to accept that. Eliminating that kind of filth should be a priority. That being said, if you're going to paint an entire fan base as overtly racist, you had better be damned sure that you're able to back up what you're saying. I feel that Wittenmyer has not met this threshold, and I believe that this is irresponsible. To take what is a tiny minority at best - and a debatable one at that - and frame the entire fan base with this identifying maker, is a disgusting example of shock journalism. This story features on the top banner of the front page. Race-baiting, a complex issue, is reduced to a lurid accusation hurled without consideration at the entirety of the Cubs franchise. It makes me ill.

I often listen to 670 The Score on my way to work, and the morning hosts were talking about this very story today. The Score is, among other things, the official radio station of the White Sox. One host is a passionate Sox fan, the other gave up on the Cubs after last year's NLDS showing. Clearly, they have no reason to gloss over this issue. Yet neither could take Wittenmyer's tossed-off claims at face value. They both raised concerns similar with the ones I outlined above.

They then asked for callers to refute or support the column's claims that Cubs fans are widely-known racists. A bleacher season ticket holder (...why?) called in and said that even with the rotating cast of occasional morons who populate the bleachers, he'd never heard any racist abuse. In fact, he said, enough swearing was enough to get one pinched by the users or Wrigey Wrent-a-Cops. Others voiced similar opinions. One opposing gentleman did call, and he claimed that the hosts and other callers were being blind to the issue, and that racism was commonplace at Wrigley. They asked, had he ever seen it himself? "Well, no I haven't." In all, it seemed that a few minutes of reasoned discussion on the home station of the White Sox addressed this supposed issue better than the column of a man who has as much time as he needs to carefully choose the words that he is going to say.

I do not deny that there is a possibility that racist things have in the past been yelled at Wrigley Field. When you see millions though the turnstiles every summer, there are bound to be a handful of ignorant fools. Yet I'm also not willing to accept that we're a prominently racist fan base just because Gordon Wittenmyer needs a new angle on the "can Bradley keep it together?" story.

Cubs fans boo performances - not race, and not, I would argue, players. Todd Hundley, Juan Pierre, and Hee Seop Choi were men of different races - each given a chance to excel, and each currying fan disfavor after failing to live up to expectations. Performance, not race, was the deciding factor. It's not ideal that fans boo the home team, but that is their right. When a reliever gives up three walks and five runs to turn a certain win into a heartbreaking loss, why wouldn't fans express their feelings? Even the cheapest tickets go for decent money when the team is winning. It's easy for some people to take that five-run inning personally. And occasional booing, someone should tell Gordon, is a long way from regular racist taunts. To use the existence of the first to confirm the second is absolutely reprehensible. Please, let me know if I'm wrong here. I intend to examine the issue itself, something that Mr. Wittenmyer failed to do.

Sorry to get all serious and Whiskey Daddy on you, but bad journalism and tax day angry up the blood. Now back to your regularly scheduled immaturity.


Jen said...

You said it perfect, John, and proved once again that bloggers can be (and often are) intellectually and ethically superior to the endangered newspaper columnists. I think the crowning touch on that offensive excuse for journalism is that it was published on Jackie Robinson Day.

wolfie said...

Pre-apologies for the rambling, but wow, this article really got me going. Of course, my witty conversations and profound conclusions won’t come across right as a post, so if you guys think this goes on too long, feel free to override democracy and erase it. In any case, here are some disjointed thoughts on the matter:

I know one person’s perspective doesn’t prove anything, but I’ve been going to games since the early 80s, have sat everywhere in the ballpark, and have never had the impression that Cubs fans, on the whole, are racist. I’m a Cubs fan to the end, but I’ve got my priorities straight, and I feel like the kind of hogwild racist behavior that’s implied in the article would have stopped me from going to games a long time ago. (The one thing I will say is that I have had non-Chicago friends comment on how white the crowd is at Wrigley. I can't argue with that observation, but I feel this has more to do with overall segregation, which you can find in any city.)

If anything, the '08 election proved my sneaking suspicion that there are crazy racist motherfuckers everywhere, and they get louder when they’re drunk. Cubs fans are pretty harsh to begin with, and when a player’s descent into suckiness brings on the chronic booing, there’s bound to be some ignorant racist assholes in the crowd. It doesn’t help Wittenmyer’s argument that pretty much everyone he mentions in his article, while not white, didn’t just suck, they were supposed to be good and then royally sucked.

Annoying "I have black friends too" arguments aside, for every suck-ass Corey Patterson there’s been a Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Hawk, Sarge, Dunston, etc. Sosa was treated like a God before his sad demise. And while we may be sarcastic and mean-spirited, if you give us some good memories, you may well be immortalized. As they were saying on the radio the other day, the ’69 Cubs blew it for the ages, and we celebrate those guys, black and white, as if they had won it all (By the way, Ernie Banks, not Ryno, not Grace, not Wood, is Mr. Cub, and I wouldn't have it any other way). I think this is what puts Cubs fans above the rest - even without a championship team in so long, we have memories, traditions and heroes that put other fan's fandom to shame.

Oh, and as far as the racist Fukudome t-shirts go, I quote an April 2008 SunTimes article: “Inundated with e-mails from offended fans, Cubs officials investigated, discovered the unlicensed product used a trademarked Cubs logo and confronted the vendor.”

I’ll leave the journalistic analysis to the professionals – yeah John, I called you a professional, suck it up – but lastly, the SunTimes is a rag of a paper (you too Trib!). And there’s no better way to get hits in a 1-and-1/2-baseball-team-city like Chicago than to combine racism and sports, and let the fans post ad-nauseum, like I just did.

Steve said...

i agree with everything you said wolfie. additionally, it gets me excited to hear the rants you may have after a couple of stops on the bar crawl.

J.J. said...

I read that article, and most of the comments posted as well. There are actually people that believe that moron. Obviously people that have never been to Wrigley. I have sat pretty much everywhere in Wrigley at one time or another, and have never heard anything racist. I have seen drunken idiots in the Bleachers get warned and kicked out for swearing loudly and throwing peanuts. That's as bad as it got. It really ticks me off that this "columnist" can get way with smearing an entire fandom of people based on what a few sucky players have to say. He should be fired.