March 30, 2000: Here Come the Braves!

ln case you have been too caught up in the saga of the federal government’s conspiracy against beloved-terrorist-turned-imam, H. Rap Brown, you probably haven’t noticed that another baseball season is upon us.

It is time to once again get our hopes up with the Atlanta Braves, who have turned “near-miss” into an art form over the past decade.

But this year, sports fans, things are going to be different.  The Braves are serious about bringing a World Series championship back home.  They have hired a sensitivity coach.

Play (politically correct) Ball!

Just think.  When the Bravos are waxed by the Yankees, Mets, Reds or whoever next September, as they no doubt will be, our heroes can gather in centerfield, hold hands and sing, “Kum Ba Ya”.  Don’t you just love it?  No longer will a 97 mile an hour fastball be enough.  Now, the players must be touchy-feely, too.

Somehow, I have the sneaking suspicion that this development is a direct result of the embarrassment caused by the blathering of the team’s ace reliever and designated motor mouth, John Rocker, to a Sports Illustrated reporter a few of months ago.  Never mind First Amendment issues, Rocker has put the Braves squarely in the gun sights of special interest groups like the Concerned Black Clergy, who need his hide in order to get much-needed television face time.

Explaining the need for sensitivity training, Stan Kasten, president of the Braves, “We take the business of our community relations and our image in the community very seriously.” Bull.  If that was the case, the organization would discourage the Tomahawk Chop, which Native Americans find offensive.  This isn’t about being good citizens.  It is about trying to mollify a group of demagogues. Just as the Braves can’t win the big one, they can’t take the heat from a few mean-spirited preachers who couldn’t find the word “forgiveness” in the Bible if you spotted them the first five books.

If they were serious about sensitivity training, they would have had their leader, Ted Turner, sitting on the front row.  What Rocker said in one interview, Atlanta’s own looney tune has managed to say over a number of years.  Turner has insulted Christians (“Christianity is for losers.”), Jews (“I know what it is like to be rounded up and sent to the East somewhere and resettled.”), Italians (“They’d rather be involved in crime and making some wine and just have a good time.”), Haitians (“Haitians breed like cats.”), and the Pope (When asked what he would say if he met the Holy Father, Turner said he would hold up his foot and say, “Ever seen a Polish mine detector?”)

Rocker gets the special-interest crowd hyperventilating because he is an easy target.  Like shooting fish in a barrel.  Turner?  It seems he is a different situation.  Were the Concerned Black Clergy upset by his depiction of Christianity as a religion for “losers”?  Not a peep.  Did the Baseball Commissioner threaten to suspend him for his slurs against various ethnic groups?  Not a chance.  Did Stan Kasten invite him to sensitivity training along with the jocks?  I doubt it very seriously.

What we are dealing with is a double standard.  When you have a few billion dollars to sling around, as does Mr. Turner, people tend to overlook a few slurs here and there.  It is hard to be angry while holding your hand out.

If the Braves had only asked, I could have saved them the grief in which they now find themselves and a few bucks on sensitivity training.  Any organization that would allow a puffed-up and self-important kid like John Rocker to strut and preen with a reporter from a national magazine unsupervised, needs more than the words to “We Are The World.”  It needs a new public relations staff.

No public relations person I know would have let the Rocker interview occur without some coaching beforehand.  An organization as concerned about their image as the Braves claim to be, would have had a public relations representative there during the entire interview.   They asked for trouble and they got it.

But, all is well that ends well.  The Braves are now sensitive.  The Concerned Black Clergy has cowed another victim.  Prices are still too high at the ballpark.  Turner is still rich and still acting like a clown.  Native Americans are still offended by the Tomahawk Chop.  It’s baseball time again.

Kum Ba Ya!