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Coach Barnard (yet again)

Thank you to David Kane for allowing me the opportunity to respond to issues brought up on this blog. I would like to say that, although I’m part of VISTA, I feel as though you can’t take a statement drafted by two people as representative of the entire Latina/o population at Williams. I will offer my own viewpoints that are not necessarily those of my peers.

If you listen to the entire radio broadcast, the radio host asks Dave Barnard to go over the entire incident resulting in the bench-clearing push and shove match between the Red Sox and the Yankees. He begins his argument by speaking on baseball’s generally aggressive style of play, where pitchers do throw at batters to show dominance, but goes on to say that he “do[esn’t] think it’s a coincidence that [this incident] involves Latin[o] players”. In fact, he goes on to say “when you asked me to come on the show I was thinking back to a couple years ago SNL used to have a skit called ‘�Qui�n es m�s macho?’, ‘Who is more macho?'” I think referring to SNL as a starting point in his discussion made it difficult to believe that this was legitimate intellectual discussion, but that’s just me.

Before I go into the rest of my argument, however, I should point out that it’s not “machismo” that would cause Pedro Martinez to throw at Karim Garcia’s head (given Pedro Martinez’s superb command of his pitches, it doesn’t take much to infer that throwing so far up and in was a conscious decision); it is stupidity, irresponsibility, and a true sign of cowardice. Why bother respecting or fearing the repercussions of such an act when you yourself never have to step into the batter’s box in the bottom of the inning? At worst, the opposing pitcher would plunk the next guy at bat. This seems real sensible and ?macho?? let your teammates take the punishment for your cowardice. Such is the way of the American League and the DH rule, but I digress?

Now, onto the “fisking” of Coach Barnard’s comments?

Coach Barnard, in his infinite wisdom, decided to impart on us a definitive statement on Latino (not Latin? Latin = dead language, Latina/o = of Latin American descent) culture when he says,

“it’s a cultural thing with Latin[o] players in terms of the machismo thing. It’s a cultural thing with Latin[o] players and their territory.”

To speak with such an air of confidence (i.e. not saying “I think” or “Perhaps”) one would expect Coach to back up his statements. He does not. David Kane doubts whether it’s worthwhile to separate opinion from fact in this matter. He says,

“Opinions are all that you have in any discussion of this type. Some of those opinions are better — more informed, more persuasive, better supported by the evidence — than others, but it is stupid to play the naive positivist game.”

I don’t think it’s so trivial. Given the fact that there are a number of baseball statistic firms that provide us with all kinds of useless information, it’s not a stretch to believe that one could, through some data collection, prove whether or not Barnard’s assertion is true. While I don’t expect Barnard to do any such thing (nor do I want to myself), the facts aren’t irrelevant. Thus I state that Barnard is unprofessional in his statements without justification.

To refute this claim, David K tells us, “Barnard was the very picture of professionalism throughout the entire dispute. He made a casual observation (outside of Williams), backed up that observation in writing, and offered to meet in public debate or private discussion with anyone honestly looking to explore the question of the influences of culture on baseball, if any.”

Like I said, I don’t think he backed up his claim, so I suppose we’ll agree to disagree on that point (at least for now). I do think he handled the situation relatively well after the fact. The irony is, however, that he originally issued an apology to VISTA members who e-mailed him after the incident (alas, it is gone from my inbox). I suspect that speaking to higher-ups made him change his tone. If you read my post on WSO, you’ll see why I even bring this up many months after the fact. I argue that you should not discredit someone with something you say unless you can back it up. Hence, I feel that coach Barnard’s statements were inappropriate. Feel free to respond to either this post or the WSO post. I actually think the WSO post has a lot more to say than the discussion on Coach Barnard can offer.

The subsequent comments on Latino Studies after Kane’s post deserve a “fisking” of their own. Alas, I think I’ve given enough fodder for discussion for now. I’ll post on that soon.

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#1 Comment By Aidan On May 15, 2004 @ 9:59 pm

any discussion of baseball pitchers and “machismo” is necessarily incomplete without talking about Roger Clemens, who’s about Latino/a as John Wayne.

#2 Comment By David Rodriguez On May 17, 2004 @ 4:57 pm

Aidan, your attempts at being PC are admirable, but you only have to use the Latina/o when it’s about the population as a whole. Latina is feminine while Latino is masculine. Hence Roger Clemens is about as Latino as John Wayne.

In Spanish, when referring to a group of people (with both male and female), the masculine modifier is the default. Only when referring to a group of exclusively females do you use the feminine modifier. Hence talking about Latinos as a group is technically correct, but I suppose people prefer the whole Latina/o thing in English as syntax rules are different. In Spanish it would simply look silly.

#3 Comment By Aidan On May 17, 2004 @ 5:28 pm

if you want to subscribe to such rigid, patriarchial, theories of gender, be my guest. I’m going to continue saying latino/a at my leisure.

#4 Comment By David Kane On May 18, 2004 @ 7:17 am

1) Thanks to David R for these thoughts.

2) There really isn’t that much here that I disagree with. Barnard could have done a better job of backing up his claim, as I commented last fall. I suspect that he was hesitant to spend the time to do so unless he could be sure that there were some honorably interested parties out there. Perhaps he will now re-enter the discussion.

3)Is the entire radio broadcast avaible for listening somewhere or did you hear it when it was originally aired?

4) You write:

Thus I state that Barnard is unprofessional in his statements without justification.

Was Barnard unprofessional to make the statement the first time (on the radio) or was he unprofessional in failing to back it up (enough) when challenged?

I think that you mean the former, but, I want to be sure before attacking it. After all, there are plenty of examples of Williams professors saying things — say “illegal settlements” — without backing them up in their original context. I think that is fine and that, as long as the professor backs things up when challenged, all is OK.

But to the extent that you are claiming that, on a North Adams radio show, Barnard shouldn’t discuss the impact of culture on baseball while Lynch should discuss the impact of settlement activity on the Middle East, we have a disagreement.

#5 Comment By David Rodriguez On May 18, 2004 @ 10:36 am

I don’t know how true it is that Barnard was reluctant to back himself up when he gives us gems like

Latin-born players make up roughly one-third of major league roster spots yet comprised two-thirds of the people involved in the recent events in question.

or…

In fact, if you plug in ?baseball? and ?Latin culture? into your search engine you?ll discover over 33,000 web sites and articles; if you search ?machismo? and ?baseball,? you?ll find in excess of 2,100 hits.

Well, if I plug in “David Rodriguez” and “violent behavior”, I get in excess of 18,500 hits. (The top hit refers to my WSO post… cool) Clearly then, there must be a correlation between David Rodriguez violent behavior.

I actually see the vailidity in his reference to Juan Marichal, but are there no examples of similar behavior by non Latino players? Roger Clemens threw a piece of a bat at Mike Piazza for crying out loud, and as Aidan notes, he’s about as Latino as John Wayne. I’m sure I’m likewise too young to know about any real bad ones in past years.

My family is good friends with Marichal,and I have actually had the chance to discuss the incident with him in detail. He told me that things back then were different. You could hear the taunts of people in the stands. Players left and right would blatantly taunt you. Johnny Roseboro was saying some things or other and really getting to Juan. In throwing the ball back to the pitcher, Roseboro brushed right by Marichal’s ear, and he just snapped. He’s able to smirk about it now and how it kept him out of the hall of fame for many years. He’s significantly more laid back nowadays, and I don’t think he’s taken a bat to anyone’s head in recent years. He’s a great guy.

I suppose it’s likewise ironic to note Juan Marichal’s closeness to Pedro Martinez and its relevance to the current discussion. Two peas in the same slightly insane pod? Heh… I’ll ask him what he thinks on that one next time I get a chance.

Anyway, back to your questions. I once had an audio clip of the broadcast. I can’t find it on my computer. I’ll let you know if it turns up, but I think I summarize the whole thing pretty well. I did not hear it when it was originally aired. I thought it humorous when Barnard says that phone lines at the radio station were open for 20 minutes after the comments and no one called. The chances of anyone around here listening to North Adams radio is next to nil. The only reason VISTA found out about it was that someone writing for the record wanted the opinion of the co-chairs on the matter.

On the matter of professionalism, I claim he is unprofessional because he makes a pretty bold assertion and fails to back it up. If I were to say something like, “Palestinians are inherently violent people,” I’m sure someone would tear me apart if I had nothing to back it up with. Saying that Latino baseball players are territorial based on on their culture isn’t something you should say unless you’re likewise willing to back it up. It’s not an indefensible position, but you do need to make an effort to substantiate that claim.

I don’t really know anything about your reference to Lynch and commments on the Middle East, but I’ll venture to say that both have equal right to state their opinions in a public venue.

Aaaaand back to paper writing.

#6 Comment By David Rodriguez On May 18, 2004 @ 10:58 am

so many gramatical errors in that comment… but anyway

#7 Comment By (d)avid On May 18, 2004 @ 12:02 pm

Jeff Zeeman made an interesting comment on the last Barnard thread. He suggested that the opinion stated by Barnard may not be wrong, but the methodology used to come to the conclusion is clearly inadequate. I’ll make the point more explicitly:

If Barnard came to make his statement because of long, hard, and dispassionate view of Major League Baseball, then he may have touched upon an interesting fact.

However, if his observations were colored by a racist lens where he noticed incidents involving latino players more than incidents involving white players, then his observation reveals an unconscious and subtle racism that is all too common in our society.

I can’t speak to the political machinations about the proposed debate that never happened, but I do think the claim is worthy of further inquiry and VISTA was right to challenge its validity. To borrow a suggestion that David Kane often throws out, the incidence of violence in baseball and ethnicity would make a great senior essay in sociology, political science, anthropology, or even economics.