The case of the young Atlanta Braves pitcher is well-known: during the playoffs last year he was vocal in his distaste for New York and its fans. They demonstrated their mutual dislike from the ballpark seats. In December, Rocker was naive enough to make bigoted comments about gays, blacks, convicts and immigrants to a Sports Illustrated reporter. Bud Selig, the spineless Major League Baseball commissioner, was in a pickle. What should I do? How should I react?
In February of this year, Selig made the decision to suspend Rocker until May 1, an act that united a figurative rainbow coalition of critics against it: Clinton's crony Alan Dershowitz, hack Daily News sports columnist Mike Lupica, the Voice's Nat Hentoff, conservative writer Paul Craig Roberts, the thoughtful essayist John Leo and New York Press. It's true that Rocker isn't literally protected under the First Amendment?he works for a private company?but as Dershowitz pointed out in The New York Times and on countless tv talk show appearances, certainly the spirit of the First Amendment applies in his case.
The baseball season begins in early April, so an offhand read of Rocker's suspension might be that it isn't harsh. However, he's also barred from spring training, which starts this month, and that means the Braves' closer probably won't pitch until June. How effective he'll be as a baseball player no one knows. And, frankly, we don't care. Rocker doesn't appear to be very smart and it's likely he'll be a pariah for the rest of his career. He'll possibly land a few million-dollar contracts from other teams?the Braves will undoubtedly unload him?and then blow out his arm and head to a premature retirement. Maybe go back to Macon, GA, get married and divorced three or four times, hit the bottle heavily and finally live, broke, in a trailer park.
The point is this: Why was this young man excessively punished for a barrage of politically incorrect drivel? He didn't beat his wife or girlfriend, like some other players; wasn't caught with illegal drugs, like some other players; wasn't seen exposing himself in his team's bullpen, like one other player; didn't strangle his coach, like one basketball player; and hasn't been indicted for a double murder, like one football player.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton, a man who admitted lying to the country?and who perjured himself in the Paula Jones case?did the crime but no time. Bad press, sure, but that evaporates. Instead, when his term expires, he'll be free to hit the lecture circuit and make a fortune reciting canned speeches to sympathetic audiences.
John Rocker is a baseball player, an entertainer. Bill Clinton, who probably agrees with Selig's dumb edict, is the president of the United States.
What a weird country.