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Who is More Macho?

EphBlog author David Rodriguez ’06 graduates next month. What shall we get him for a present? How about a rehash of the Barnard/VISTA controversy of three years ago? Perfect!

You can read my prior commentary (here, here, here, here, here and here). Rodriguez commented here and here, but those discussions did not go on as long as they should have.

Too lazy to read all that? No worries. Allow me to summarize. Barnard said some things about Latinos and baseball on a local radio show that some students found objectionable. The key comments were:

1) “It’s not easy for a Latin player to take 100 walks.”

2) “Saturday Night Live used to do a skit called Quin es ms macho? – ‘Who is more macho?’ There is clearly a cultural aspect involved here.”

3) “It’s no secret that Latin American players hate to take pitches so they rarely walk. It’s an ego thing. Machismo. Swing for the fences every time and damn the consequences.”

4) “It’s a cultural thing with Latin players in terms of machismo.”

You can listen to the key portions of Barnard’s interview here. Many thanks to Rodriguez for providing me with this piece of Williams history.

Wait a second! Only two of those quotes are actually from Barnard! The other two are from noted Hispanophobe Sammy Sosa and baseball historian David Marasco.

Now, without looking, which ones of the 4 are most objectionable? If you find them all equal (either all objectionable or all not), then you ought to conclude that, whatever his other faults, Barnard is no less acceptable as a speaker on the topic of the interaction between Latino culture and baseball than, say, Sammy Sosa.

I don’t have anything more to say about this than I already have above. (By the way, Barnard’s quotes are numbers 2 and 4). Read the links if you want more details. The central point is clear:

If it is not acceptable at Williams to discuss the connection between culture and individual behavior, then something is very wrong with the intellectual life of the College.

Who would disagree? In this dispute the claim can be restated as:

If it is not acceptable at Williams to discuss the connection between Latino culture and individual behavior on the baseball field, then something is very wrong with the intellectual life of the College.

Consider a different example. James Webb’s “Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America” argues, among other things, that Scots-Irish culture is more prone to fighting and that some stereotypes, like the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame, are accurate. Can a book like this be read and discussed at Williams? What if some students found it offensive?

The correct response is not to doubt those students. They are, in fact, offended. We should empathize with them. But, in the end, the highest value at Williams must be open-minded intellectual enquiry.

By the way, Barnard himself may be Scots-Irish. This raises a delicious question:

Quin es ms macho? Barnard o Rodriguez?

;-)

Happy Graduation David! And welcome to the world of finance.

UPDATE: Edited slightly. An earlier draft was presented by mistake.

UPDATE 2: Two links that I included in the prior draft caused offense and consternation. (See comments below for details.) I have removed them. To be honest, I had considered not including them at all since I knew that people would be offended, but, at the same time, I like to think that most of our readers are intelligent and open-minded enough to consider unusual points of view. Indeed, one of my personal missions is to bring a broader set of opinions to the Williams conversation. There is a balance to be struck, however, and when a link causes someone like (d)avid to resign as an author, the link is not worth the candle.

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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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Barnard Wins

After issuing my challenge, I sent an e-mail to all the interested parties. Barnard wrote back:

[N]ot sure any of the offended parties are really interested in the subject matter. I have publicly offered to discuss my remarks with anyone seriously interested in baseball and Latino culture. Two weeks later no one has taken me up on that offer. Since no one other than the Dean – who admitted he wasn’t a baseball fan – wanted to discuss the matter with me one on one, I would have serious reservations about the sincerity of any person from this community claiming to be interested in a debate.

All perfectly reasonable. Of course, I have more faith (perhaps too much) in Barnard’s opponents. Or, at least, I used to. Here is what Lisha Perez had to say.

I no longer have any interest in pursuing the matter further or debating with anyone who fails to recognize cultural essentialism for what it is. Please refrain from sending me further mail. Thank you.

Isn’t that pathetic? It isn’t like I (or Dave Barnard, for that matter) went out looking for a fight with Lisha Perez and her fellow VISTAistas. She is the one who started things. She is the one who went to the Record. She is the one who made several serious and (potentially) career-damaging allegations against Barnard without either talking with him first or even getting a basic clue about the facts of the matter. Now she wants to just wander away.

Back in my day, the Leftist on campus were much more serious.

Moreover, I can’t help but marvel at the closed-mindedness of Perez’s sentiments — although I should confess to not knowing what “cultural essentialism” is. In essence, she doesn’t want to debate (talk with? meet? be in the same zip code as?) people who disagree with her.

Perhaps Bill Lenhart should have a “frank exchange” with her about how one of the purposes of a Williams education is to be confronted with ideas and perspectives different from one’s own.

Side Note: I try to always ask permission before posting an e-mail like this. Alas, since I don’t want to get accused of harassing Perez by e-mailing her again, I can’t ask her. Catch-22.

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A Challenge

I have a challenge for Dave Barnard, Lisha Perez and Nina Smith.

You seem to have a strong disagreement about, at least, two topics. First, does the fact that Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa are Latino have any bearing on their behavior during the recent Major League Baseball playoffs? Second, what role, if any, should there be at Williams for discussion of the influence of culture on behavior?

I, for one, have enjoyed reading your statements in the Record. It is wonderful to read such pieces. You are fortunate to be at a place like Williams that relishes passionate and informed discussion.

The perfect place for such a debate would probably be a Gaudino Forum. Presumably, it would not be hard to change the format so that each of you had an opportunity to first present your views, perhaps question each other and then involve the audience. I have no doubt that a good time would be had by all. Bill Lenhart, he of the “frank exchange,” might make for an excellent moderator, or perhaps even a full fledged participant. Harry Sheehy might also be included.

The cynic in me wonders, however, if any of the three of you are really ready for the rigor of such a public exploration and examination of your views. Perhaps Barnard is no more than a simple jock, intellectually incapable of participating in such a debate and best left to wallow in his own unexamined prejudices. Perhaps Perez and Smith are nothing more than shallow campus activists, unable to do more than be offended and issue demands.

My guess, however, is that the cynic in me is wrong.

On a personal note, I participated in a debate or two like this during my own time at Williams 15 years ago. They are among my fondest memories.

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Long Knives

One of thing to be aware of in the Barnard/VISTA dispute is that the long knives are certainly out for Barnard. Note how the article in the Transcript ends:

Williams spokesman James Kolesar said the college had no plans to take any formal action against Barnard.

Williams Athletic Director Harry Sheehy also ruled out disciplinary action right now.

“I know Dave is not a racist,” Sheehy was quoted as saying in the Record. “My guess is if Dave felt like students were upset, he would take that to heart.”

Barnard is the winningest coach in Ephs history. The Williams College baseball team has no Latin American players.

Of course, everything here is the “truth,” but note how the Transcript’s framing implies that one of the reasons that the College is taking no action against Barnard is because he has been so successful. A reporter more sympathetic to Barnard would have either omitted this fact (how is it relevant?) or placed it somewhere else in the story.

However, if you believe that Barnard’s record is not irrelevant to how the College handles this matter, then the placement makes sense.

I also wonder how the Transcript knows that the College has no Latin American players. Of course, you can see last years roster on the web, but just because someone’s current hometown is, say, Acton, MA, one can’t assume that he was born and raised there.

Moreover, what possible relevance does the lack of Latin American players on the baseball team at Williams have for the issue at hand, unless you want to imply that Barnard is a racist who not only makes despicable comments but also actively discriminates in organizing the Williams baseball team? How many Latin American students at Williams play on other teams? How many Williams students were even born in Latin America?

As a side note, this all might provide a perfect opportunity for Barnard to go a get some Latin American players — perhaps similar to the set up whereby men’s soccer brings in students from Jamaica. I, for one, would be eager to see my alumni fund contributions. meager though they are, spent on a full scholarship for some poor kid from, say, the Dominican Republic who was a) smart enough to go to Williams and b) able and eager to play baseball for Barnard.

Actually, a) would be enough for me, but one way of finding such 17 year-olds in out of the way places is to incentivise a guy like Barnard to go out and look for them. I wonder how the men’s soccer Jamaican connection was originally set up . . .

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Frank Exchanges

Baseball Coach Dave Barnard’s statement to the Record does not deserve a Fisking, at least from me, since most of it seems spot on. However, there seems to be a fair amount going on behind the scenes, so perhaps some deconstruction is in order. As background, note this tidbit from the Record article:

Bill Lenhart, dean of the faculty, said he had a “frank exchange” with Barnard about his comments. “Balancing the fundamental values of respect and freedom of expression is a challenge for all communities, including ours,” Lenhart said.

Harry Sheehy, director of athletics, indicated that no disciplinary action was being taken at the present time.

“I know Dave is not a racist,” Sheehy said. “My guess is if Dave felt like students were upset, he would take that to heart.”

Since much of what Barnard writes is reasonable, I’ll just quote and comment on some highlights. Barnard begins with:

On a recent local radio call-in program entitled “The Opinion Show,” I made some remarks about the relationship between Latin culture and recent pitcher/batter confrontations in Major League Baseball. The incidents discussed involved Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, New York Yankees outfielder Karim Garcia, New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens, Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett and Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa. The following rationale constituted the basis for my comments.

This is certainly a much better opening than VISTA’s confused beginning. The central issue at hand is precisely the (alleged) connection “between Latin culture and recent pitcher/batter confrontations.” Barnard then notes:

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.

This may be true but it doesn’t take a statistician to point out that a sample size of 6 doesn’t allow for very sound inferences. It is reasonable for Barnard to point this out, but he really ought to directly acknowledge the number problem.

[T]he possible linkage of culture in these altercations seemed a perfectly legitimate topic of discussion for talk radio given the proportion of Latin-born participants involved in both these recent occurrences and historically well-known baseball events.

Who could possible disagree with this? Of course, my guess is that VISTA might object to any comment that suggested that any aspect of Latino culture was associated with something undesirable. If so, they need to learn that a, perhaps the, central value of a place like Williams should be open-ended intellectual enquiry. Barnard might be wrong in his original claim that Latino culture played a causative role in some of this behavior, but there is nothing wrong with him bringing up the topic.

Indeed, I am heartened to see how smart and eloquent Barnard is. It is marvelous to see a Williams coach who combines talent in sports with skill in debate. Even if there were another baseball coach that Williams could hire that would be 20% better at the art and science of coaching baseball than Barnard is, I wouldn’t want Harry Sheehy to hire him instead. Better to have a less-good coach who is intellectually engaged in the life of the college, than a much-better coach who is not.

On this point, it is interesting to note that this is not Barnard’s first foray into the pages of the Record. Although Williams seems to have no more than a handfull of conservative professors, at least the athletic coaches provide some measure of ideological diversity!

If I was definitive in my response — stating my opinion as if it were fact — I misspoke, as that was certainly not my intention. What I should have said was, “Maybe there is a relationship” versus, “some of this is,” “it is,” or “there is clearly.” My purpose was to invite discussion, not to make a statement of fact that I did not know to be true.

My bet is that the “opinion versus fact” issue is a direct result of Barnard’s “frank exchange” with Bill Lenhart, Dean of the Faculty. That is, Lenhart probably berated Barnard and told him that he had no business offering his opinions as if they were fact.

But whether or not I am correct in this deduction, the entire topic is somewhat asinine. You don’t have to be a post-modernist to see that the distinction between “fact” and “opinion” in a discussion of the causal relationship, if any, between an individual’s culture and his actions is specious at best. Although there are certain “facts” involved here (many of them conveniently captured on videotape), we have nothing better than opinions (whether Barnard’s, VISTA’s, Lenhart’s or mine) about the relationships among these facts.

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.

Again, I don’t think that Barnard is doing so. I think that he was coerced into making a distinction which he actually recognizes to be meaningless in this context.

Although I have twice visited Mexico on baseball trips and have been a casual observer of Latin culture within the sport of baseball for many years, I am not a cultural anthropologist or sociologist.

Although I don’t know any of the individuals involved here, I can’t help but to see Lenhart’s “frank exchange” in this admission. I bet that Lenhart told Barnard that it was suspect of him to offer facts/opinions outside his area of expertise. Either way, the whole notion that you need to have the union card of a Ph.D. in anthropology or sociology in order to offer an opinion on behavior in a baseball game is ludicrous. Now, though it might be wise to put more credence in Barnard’s ideas if he did have a Ph.D. in these fields, the ideas themselves stand or fall independent of the speaker.

I was simply offering an opinion based on more than two decades of coaching experience and observations watching a few thousand major league baseball games over 35 years.

Read: “Screw you, Ph.D. geeks.” I love the use of the word “simply” in this sentence. Barnard is subversively pointing out that, in all likelihood, no one at Williams is more qualified than he to offer an opinion on the cultural component, if any, in the actions of Martinez, Ramirez and Sosa. If you want to be an “expert” on this topic, then you probably need to be an expert on both baseball and Latin culture. Does anyone at Williams know more about the former than Barnard? Certainly there are some faculty members (5? 10?) who know more about Latin culture than Barnard knows, but I would wager than none of them know nearly as much about baseball as Barnard does.

Baseball, “machismo” (masculine pride) and Latin culture have long been a part of public discourse. During the Major League Baseball playoffs, the topic has been much discussed on talk radio and other journalistic mediums around the country. There is also a significant body of sociological and cultural research, in addition to other print articles, about the topic. 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.

Barnard makes two points here, one good and one weak. The good point is to point out the (obvious) fact that anywhere else but in the sheltered harbor that is the world according to VISTA, a discussion like the one he had on radio would be unremarkable. The weak point is that he can use Google. Glad to hear it! I would expect Barnard to, at a minimum, highlight a reference or two that was directly relevant. If I plug in “Barnard” and “idiot” into Google, I get 3,350 hits.

The number of hits produced has little bearing on this discussion. If Barnard believes that other well-informed people of goodwill make the sorts of points that he was trying to make, he should point us toward those people.

To suggest that cultural or sociological explanations of pitcher/batter confrontations shouldn’t be discussed because an individual or group may take offense, runs contrary to the ideals of the college learning experience.

What possible response can VISTA make to this argument?

The well-respected Harvard political science professor, Harvey Mansfield, had it right when he stated in a 1991 article entitled, “Political Correctness and the Suicide of the Intellect,” “The purpose of academic freedom is to further inquiry, inquiry means being more aware, not being more sensitive. . . . Giving and taking offense is especially inappropriate to a campus. It is perhaps part of politics but certainly not part of inquiry.”

Again, it is a pleasure to see a Williams coach demonstrate this sort of intellectual engagement, regardless of whether he is right or wrong about the issue at hand. Barnard finishes with:

For those seriously interested in studying the relationship between baseball and Latin culture, I welcome the opportunity to discuss, inquire and learn.

It is tough to judge from a distance whether or not this offer is made in good faith; note the snarky use of “seriously.” Fortunately, I believe that I have a way of testing this, which I’ll save for tomorrow.

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Fisking VISTA

Here is my promised “Fisking” of the statement by VISTA as printed in the Record.

Baseball Head Coach David Barnard’s comments regarding the fight between Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez and Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer over WMNB 100.1FM North Adams on Wednesday, Oct. 15 are utterly unacceptable.

Could VISTA have chosen a more confusing sentence to start off their statement with? As the articles in the Record and Transcript make clear, Barnard’s comments were about the (alleged) relationship between Latino culture and a series of baseball incidents, most of which involved pitcher/batter confrontations. The Martinez/Zimmer tussle was a result of (some of these) incidents, but really a side issue. Moreover, Barnard explicitly defended Martinez’s actions as reasonable (and not in any way related to Latino culture).

My guess is that the authors of the statement either didn’t see the incidents in question and/or don’t really understand the point (however flawed it might be) that Barnard was trying to make.

Barnard attributes Martinez’s actions during the Oct. 14 game to a cultural aspect, insofar claiming that Latinos are implicitly volatile and violently aggressive. His use of the word “territorial” connotates that Latino players (and Latino men in general) are uncouth, primitive and irrational, thereby implying these men cannot adhere to the standards of good sportsmanship.

As best I can tell, Barnard never used the words “volatile,”aggressive”, “uncouth,” “primitive,” or “irrational.” (However, I do not have access to his complete remarks.) Barnard does claim, implicitly, that a person’s culture influences how he behaves and that Latino culture influenced the behavior of Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

Coach Barnard reduces Latino machismo, a cultural concept of honor, into a cultural deficiency. Comments like these highlight the current state of underlying race relations on campus.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Barnard thinks: a) Latino culture influenced the actions of, at least, Martinez and Ramirez, and b) that there actions were not praiseworthy. It is not clear whether VISTA disagrees with a) or b) or both. All of us are influenced by our culture(s). Sometimes this influence is for the good but, at least once in a while, that influence is for the bad.

My guess is that VISTA denies that Latino culture has anything to do with the problematic behavior that Barnard cites. This is a perfectly defensible position, which they have, alas, done their best to obscure.

It is a sorry fact that a Williams faculty member who has authority and influence over students can push fallacies as facts.

It is a sorry fact that these Williams students seem unable to assemble a coherent argument. Assume for the sake of argument that Martinez and Ramirez behaved poorly. Did their behavior have anything to do with their cultural background? I certainly don’t know, but VISTA presents zero evidence that this is a fallacy.

I would be much more impressed with VISTA if they tried to demonstrate that Barnard was wrong. For example, if Latin players on average are less likely to be involved in these sorts of incidents, then it would seem that Latin culture, relative to other cultures, should not be blamed when Latin players are involved. In other words, if this is true, then Martinez and Ramirez behavior is more likely person-specific rather than culture-specific.

But VISTA presents no such evidence. Moreover, the tone of their statement implies that Latin culture is never the cause of any objectionable behavior.

During the radio segment Barnard was presented as a representative of this College, and just as any student or administrator, he must adhere to community standards. His remarks reflect poorly on Williams and stain its reputation as an institution committed to diversity and multiculturalism.

These are fighting words. By citing “community standards,” VISTA is claiming that Barnard’s remarks are beyond the pale and should be treated in the same way as, for example, Pritchard’s e-mail. Now, if Barnard were a tenured professor in, say, political science, this wouldn’t be that important. Unfortunately, as far as I know, he doesn’t have tenure, so, if enough students raised enough of a fuss, the College might very well fire him, or at least decline to renew his contract.

VISTA should make clear how someone might make the argument that Barnard makes (Latin culture played a role in Martinez and Ramirez’s less-than-perfect behavior) and stay within the community standards of Williams. An uncharitable reader is left to conclude that, in VISTA’s world, such an argument is, ipso facto, outside the bounds of community standards.

Although Williams is committed to diversity and multiculturalism (along with motherhood, apple pie and the color purple), it’s central commitment is to education and the intellectual life of the mind. Although diversity is an important aspect of these goals, it must take a back seat to free and untrammelled inquiry.

Latino students are deeply hurt and infuriated by these comments.

Although I have no doubt that this is true for some Latino students, it would be nice to see evidence about just how widespread these feeling are. I would be especially curious to know how many male Latino athletes at Williams found Barnard’s statements objectionable.

Coach Barnard has violated community standards and his racist remarks should not go unchecked. We feel that Coach Barnard should recognize the error of his statements and formally apologize to the community at large.

Whah, whah, whah.

Although I hate to tar all campus groups with the same brush, VISTA certainly provides an excellent example of the worst sort of shallow complaining. They provide neither a coherent description of Barnard’s remarks nor any evidence to rebut them. Their point seems to be that Barnard has offended them and that, by itself, means that he deserves punishment. Moreover, “recognize the error of his statements” is positively creepy in its demand for Cultural Revolution style self-criticism.

None of which is to say that Barnard isn’t, perhaps, also at fault here, but more on him tomorrow.

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Baseball Machismo

One mini-controversy, eclipsed by that surrounding the QBE (Queer Bash E-mails), concerns the remarks of baseball coach Dave Barnard. The Record summarized the dispute with:

Several members of the community have expressed disappointment over comments Dave Barnard, head coach of baseball, made two weeks ago on a local radio show concerning the effect of Latin culture and “machismo” on professional baseball.

Barnard made the comments during an appearance on The Opinion Show broadcasted by North Adams’ WMNB 100.1 FM. On the show, he offered his views on the fights between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox that occurred in game three of the American League Championship Series.

“I have to say… I think some of this is cultural,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it involves Latin players, same thing in the Florida game [where Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa pointed his bat at Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett after being thrown a high and inside pitch]. It’s a cultural thing with Latin players in terms of the machismo thing… It’s a cultural thing with Latin players on their territory, and that kind of stuff.”

Unsurprisingly, these sentiments failed to resonate with VISTA, the student Latino organization. VISTA’s statement, as published in the Record, argues that:

Latino students are deeply hurt and infuriated by these comments. Coach Barnard has violated community standards and his racist remarks should not go unchecked. We feel that Coach Barnard should recognize the error of his statements and formally apologize to the community at large.

The entire statement really deserves a thorough “Fisking” — blog-talk for point-by-point rebuttal — but that will have to await another day. It is interesting to see that Barnard shows no inclination to back down. His own statement in the Record argues that:

To suggest that cultural or sociological explanations of pitcher/batter confrontations shouldn’t be discussed because an individual or group may take offense, runs contrary to the ideals of the college learning experience. The well-respected Harvard political science professor, Harvey Mansfield, had it right when he stated in a 1991 article entitled, “Political Correctness and the Suicide of the Intellect,” “The purpose of academic freedom is to further inquiry, inquiry means being more aware, not being more sensitive…… Giving and taking offense is especially inappropriate to a campus. It is perhaps part of politics but certainly not part of inquiry.”

For those seriously interested in studying the relationship between baseball and Latin culture, I welcome the opportunity to discuss, inquire and learn.

Read: Screw you, VISTA.

;-)

Barnard’s entire statement merits a closer reading, but not today.

On the one hand, I couldn’t be more pleased that the College’s baseball coach is a serious and intelligent individual (Wesleyan, ’81) who clearly knows how to write and argue. On the other hand, I worry that, instead of encouraging Barnard to participate in the intellectual life of the College, the first instinct of Williams’ administrators is to tell him to shut the heck up. How else should we interpret this tidbit from the Record article?

Bill Lenhart, dean of the faculty, said he had a “frank exchange” with Barnard about his comments. “Balancing the fundamental values of respect and freedom of expression is a challenge for all communities, including ours,” Lenhart said.

We’re all for “frank exchange” here at the Williams Blog, but in any balancing act between “respect” and “freedom of expression,” we have to come down on the side of the latter.

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