Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Miller’s Manners

At the end of his latest column questioning the wisdom of September call-ups, CBS Sports writer Scott Miller digresses into the topic of ball park etiquette.

After mentioning the Carlos Zambrano incident (he was booed during a disastrous outing, took exception in post-game comments, and then shamed into apologizing for criticizing the fans), and the rather inexplicable way that Anaheim fans turned on Francisco Rodriguez after a recent blown save, he moved on to the Brewers, and gave catcher Damian Miller a platform to air his opinion: "We're in it. It's supposed to be fun. But there's been some boo birds out there, and I don't quite understand it."

Scott Miller’s view is that having missed the playoffs for 25 years, the fans should be grateful that they’re even in the hunt. (Memo to Miller: there’s a job with the Oilers waiting if you ever leave journalism.) Grateful’s understating it, actually, since he writes that “Brewers fans should be thrilled right now with the nightly drama. And yet, Yost and his first-place team are still getting ripped more often than not in Milwaukee.”

Perhaps the fans are booing because at the end of June they were 15 games above .500, and their nearest rival was below .500. Today they’re tied with the Cubs. At least BP’s playoff odds still give them the edge.

Damian Miller should probably be thankful that having given away the division, the team at least had the decency to do the giving on the road. The Brewers are a fan-pleasing 45-26 at home and 29-44 away from Miller Park. They wouldn’t be booing if those records were reversed, they’d be storming the gates by torchlight.

Funnily enough, this simple explanation doesn’t occur to Scott Miller. The fans are booing, he says, because “There is a distinct lack of civility in our society, and our pervasive talk-show culture is only eroding it more rapidly. It's all about who can scream the loudest, and if results aren't produced now, the screaming begins.”

[Aside: I’m writing this as Glenn Beck (shudder) is ranting on the television that “Vietnam has Hanoi Jane, now Iraq has Damascus Dennis (Kucinich).” Maybe he has a point about the talk shows.]

Now this is entertaining: a lecture in civility from Scott Miller. His campaign against Barry Bonds reached hysterical proportions this summer – the latest stage of a multi-year obsession. Having failed in his 2006 attempt to popularize the moniker “BALCO Barry,” Miller developed a childish fetish: pairing every reference to Bonds with an asterisk (lest we forget).

Throughout, the tone of the campaign has been distinctly lacking in the civility Miller demands of the fans. Here are two examples – one from last season, and one from the night of historic home run 756:

I. BALCO Barry owns vanity and greed like he owns the San Diego Padres' pitching staff…Like Nixon at the peak of Watergate, Bonds behaves as if he's above the law. He simply adds names to his Enemies List and sneers toward another day. Now, the conclusion needs to be the same. Like Nixon, Bonds needs to climb aboard that helicopter, flash a peace sign -- or another hand gesture sign, his choice, if he'll just go -- and disappear from the public eye. He is an embarrassment. He is a detriment to the game. And ultimately, if he continues down this greed-infested, vanity-covered path, the only thing that will save him is a pardon.

II. What once was the most cherished record in all of sports lost its luster at 8:51 PT on Tuesday night, Aug. 7, when Bonds* blasted the home run that had never been hit in 100-plus years of major league history, career No. 756, on a full-count, fifth-inning fastball from Washington pitcher Mike Bacsik. The tarnish on this record cannot be removed by cleaner, the George Mitchell report on steroids (whenever that's finished) or by any number of other statements or stain removers. This isnot a record baseball is proud of, nor should it be.

There are plenty more examples. The record for asterisks in a single column may have been the 15 in April 12th's column, but the frequency barely diminished as the season wore on. There were five during a 200-word passage in his All Star voting column alone.

Miller’s "Bonds*" campaign has become an embarrassment. Just as importantly for the reader, it’s become boring. It was useful to make a point in one column; it’s tedious as an ongoing endeavour. Having declared that he’ll never print Bonds’s name again without the qualifier, Miller may feel that he has no way out that saves face. But he’s just digging himself in deeper with each column.

For the record, I hate booing – whether it’s at the ballpark, or in a column. I’m not sure I’ve ever booed a player (officials are another matter). I’ve cheered, sat on my hands, groaned, derisively clapped, and done everything in between. But booing the opposing team, or your own team, never seemed sporting to me. I’d be happy to join Miller in chastising the Milwaukee fans (the swoon in the standings had a great deal to do with the injury to Ben Sheets, for example). But only once Miller's restored some civility to his own endeavours.

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At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Avi - I'm going to have to get back in the habit of checking this site daily...


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