Jackie Robinson Day: Pros and Cons
William Tasker, who writes and publishes the always interesting “Flagrant Fan” baseball blog (you’ll see it over to the right on my blog roll) is a friend of mine, a fellow Mainer (though I left three years ago) and a knowledgeable, ardent baseball fan. He is also one of the most fair-minded, genuine, decent people you could ever hope to know.
But that doesn’t mean that we always see eye to eye on every occasion, even regarding baseball. For example, I’m a Mets fan, and he’s not yet a Mets fan, so I’ll let it go at that. More to the point, his post today entitled, “Debating Jackie Robinson Day,” espoused a point of view that I found myself strongly disagreeing with.
Let me make it clear that although I disagree with William’s point of view here, I never once while reading his article suspected malice aforethought on his part, nor do I believe his intentions are anything but (in keeping with the wishes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) colorblind in nature. In short, in no way shape or form do I for one second think that William is motivated by bigotry.
What I’ve chosen to do here is first to republish the content of his post, then to publish my own response to his post, both of which, of course, you will also find over on his blog. So read it here, or read it there, it’s your choice. William’s article is published in bold, and my response is published in italics. After reading both (and thank you for that), I’d like to know your opinion of our opposing points of view, and why you feel the way you do.
Here’s William’s post:
Now here is my response, the intention of which is not to disrespect William’s perspective, but to humbly propose a different way of looking at things.
William, I love you, man, but I couldn’t disagree more. To start with, every great leader, whether we are talking about Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, MLK, or Jackie Robinson, is an icon representing a particular historical time and place. We choose to memorialize them because it is clear that without their particular contribution in the right place at the right time, events would have played out very differently. Whether some people get tired of hearing about them or not is no reason to cease honoring them.
Nor is it quite enough to honor a random person (black or white) to “change things up,” because that more than anything would only trivialize the reason for the memorial in the first place. Men (and women) who demonstrate not only bravery, but who have the gift of leadership, are not just like the rest of us. Who, exactly, do you think is tired of having Jackie’s legacy “forced down their throat?” Are these people also tired of having the annual celebration of the 4th of July shoved down their throat, or are we only comfortable with holidays that allow white people to feel good about themselves?
Larry Doby, who I’m sure was a brave man, only had 32 official at bats, and played the field only enough to record 15 total chances in ’47, so, for all intents and purposes, Jackie truly was alone in breaking the color barrier in ’47. Also, when you say that it, “almost feels like MLB is making itself some sort of continual penance for righting an old wrong,” well, yes, isn’t that exactly the point? And shouldn’t it be? It was MLB, not some distant, alien force that created the color barrier in the first place, so an annual public penance seems appropriate to me.
Finally, when you argue that no one will forget Jackie, so, in effect, it is safe to move on, I have to ask you, how many Americans have already forgotten about (or have never even heard of) Winston Churchill, The Triangle Factory Fire, the Johnstown Flood, Woodie Guthrie, Jack Johnson (the black heavyweight boxer), Jesse Owens, and Moses Fleetwood Walker? The thing is, Americans are really, really good at forgetting important people and events. That’s why we have T.V., Hollywood, and Glenn Beck to shove propaganda down our collective throats.
Honoring Jackie once per year is a very small price to pay to hold ourselves as a society even minimally accountable to one another.
Over and out, dude.
Stylistically, I know, it’s not one of my strongest pieces, but this is, after all, just a letter. Anyway, do you think I’m full of shit? If so, let me know. I always enjoy hearing from you guys.
- Jackie Robinson Day 2012: MLB Smart to Pay Tribute with No. 42 Uniforms (bleacherreport.com)
- HBT: MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day (hardballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- What Jackie Robinson Means to America 65 Years Later (bleacherreport.com)