While most writers are still looking for excuses for Rick Ankiel (which D-Wil has already punctured through and left looking like Swiss cheese), the Four-Letter’s Jayson Stark has at least made a valiant attempt to address the obvious rush to defend Ankiel in a manner more consistent than expected — but he’s still missing something:
In his first 23 games as a major league outfielder, Rick Ankiel has nine home runs.
As Ankiel’s saga in particular so vividly demonstrates, we adjust those standards — and taper our level of outrage — depending on whose name happens to wind up in the headline.
Is this a player we like or a player we don’t like?
Is this a player we root for or a player we root against?
Is this a player slugging his way to “history,” or is he “just a pitcher”?
Is this player a star trying to “cheat” his way to glory, or is he just some poor underdog trying to keep up with the drug-popping masses?
And then there’s the double standard that really inflates our blood pressure:
Is this guy one of those cheating baseball players, or is he a football player just doing his selfless best to get healthy and help his team get to the big game?
If we’re looking for the perfect test case for all those double standards, you can’t beat this Rick Ankiel tale. It overlaps just about every one of them.
Yes, it does — except that the NFL one is kind of ham-handed, Rodney Harrison did not escape unscathed; he got the brunt of the mess while everyone sympathized with Wade Wilson, who claimed that he was just trying to battle ED by getting the HGH. But there’s a problem, much bigger than the one about Stark’s NFL comparisons (which are par for the course when baseball writers write about football sometimes.) How hard is it for a white sportswriter to write: “And there is the double standard of race; because Ankiel is white, we’re more likely to give him a pass”?
Apparently, it’s impossible. Double Standard #1 by Stark tiptoes around it, but won’t go there:
So why would we root for him over Barry? Because America made up its mind a long time ago — long before “Game of Shadows” — that it didn’t like Barry. That simple.
Didn’t want him on the All-Century Team. Didn’t want him in mucking up the history books. Didn’t want to bid up his home run balls on eBay. Didn’t like him. Period.
So if you’re one of those people trying to find a rationalization for Ankiel right now, you’re also one of those people who wanted Barry’s stats obliterated from the backs of baseball cards everywhere. Hey, thanks for playing. You’ve helped us demonstrate Double Standard No. 1. Much appreciated.
If America disliked Barry long before Game of Shadows, then tell us why, Jayson. Because he was and is a black man in American society who won’t play nice with the press? Because he will not play to the expectations American sporting fans have of their athletes of aw-shucks humility? Because he is not a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps story? Merely 40+ years after the Voting Rights Act, we’re still going to have problems with the uppity black man as a society. So why can’t you cross that bridge? I’m well aware of Bonds’ ego and propensity for dickish behavior, but that can’t contain all of the dislike alone.
It offends our idealistic sensibilities to believe race has something to do with it. This is why we still accuse folks of playing “the race card”: most of the time, it means society doesn’t want to address it seriously. Accusing someone of playing the race card is a trump; it cuts off all attempts at honest and rational discussion.
So, while Stark’s to be commended for at least bringing up Bonds in comparison to Ankiel and the budding hypocrisy within, he’s still whiffing on a hanging curve on a 3-2 count.
Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin