Before we give this ESPN column the toilet paper treatment, we should point out that the premise is spot-on. BJ Upton is the type of player that could bring young African-Americans back to baseball. But like many of Scoop Jackson’s columns, the execution was perfectly flawed.
As one of the central players in the Rays’ remarkable turnaround, Upton has elevated himself during these playoffs as the face and future of “urban” baseball. A face that has been slowly disappearing in the game…In Upton’s case, he has unknowingly become the one player that Torii Hunter and Joe Morgan have been looking to who can bring the game back to the hood in a way no other young black player in the game has been able to do.
Upton could very well be the “face and future of ‘urban’ baseball”, but it seems a little strange that Scoop needs to stereotype Upton into the role. While we don’t know the entire story of Upton’s upbringing, what we do know paints a picture of a typical middle-class upbringing, be it black, white, Latino or Asian. Upton’s father has been a basketball referee in the ACC for the past 15 years. Upton and his brother graduated from Greenbrier Christian Academy, a private Christian school in Chesapeake, Virginia. Nothing says “hood” like a private christian school. [Ed. note: This old ESPN column has more on Upton's upbringing (thanks Carey)]
He has put on display…the look of the game that resonates with those “young’ns” who have decided that basketball and football provide a brighter future…his style, his slight build, his mannerisms, his persona, his presence, his swag.
In other words, Scoop thinks Upton looks ghetto.
Maybe not on the same level, but with similar reverence, Upton might become to African-Americans in baseball what Dice-K has to Asian players or what Papi has to players in the Dominican Republic.
This is just a strange correlation: Nevermind that “Asians” turning to baseball because of Daisuke Matsuzaka is about as silly as saying young kids in Tampa will gravitate towards basketball because they feel a kinship to Canadian Steve Nash. But was there an absence of young Asian and Dominican baseball players before Matsuzaka and David Ortiz? Baseball has been the national pastimes in Japan and the Dominican since before either player was even born. And while both players are heroes in their native countries, there is no shortage of other players that Japanese and Dominican children worship.
The fact that Upton’s not perfect makes him perfect. His propensity to be lazy (as witnessed in August when he “decided” not to run hard on three different occasions), the fact that Maddon literally pulled him off the field after not running out a double-play ground ball, the meaningless error in the seventh inning of Game 4 that allowed questions about his lack of focus to surface. All display a flaw in him that almost works to his advantage when kids and wannabe baseball players look at him and say “I’m not perfect either, but look, he’s still standing.”
Fuck the heck!?! Could you imagine Scoop Jackson’s reaction if Peter Gammons had written that paragraph? Scoop Jackson just said Upton is a role-model to young African-Americans because he is lazy. Why in the world would anybody ever look to this as a positive quality. This is insanity! And it may be borderline sociopathic. Good lord Scoop. We don’t mean to yell, but did you eat paint chips when you were a kid? Of all the positive things Upton does on the baseball field that are worthy of emulating, Jackson picks laziness as why inner-city kids will gravitate to the Rays center fielder. Jesus, this pisses us off…and we’re white!
“He roamed well,” Maddon said after the out-of-nowhere 13-4 Game 4 victory that placed the Rays one win away from the World Series. “And we got to see his arm strength.” Meaning: In an unnecessary time in the game, Upton showed off his skills for the heck of it.
%@#$%!!!! Steam just came out of ears. Seriously. Actual steam just came out of our ears and the sound of a steam-whistle could be heard 10 blocks away. In baseball a team does not win the game until they record at least 27 outs. There is no clock, and in an ALCS game in Fenway Park, there is no such thing as an “unnecessary time” to try and throw out a baserunner. And to say that Upton was just “showing off” his arm is lunacy. Upton may be the only center fielder in baseball that could have made that throw from deep center field to first base on the fly in an attempt to double-up a baserunner. And the amazing thing is the play was actually close. Just when we thought Scoop couldn’t write anything dumber, he totally redeems himself.
He’s the role model, he’s the torchbearer, he’s the savior…Jackie Robinson should be proud.
Is Jackie Robinson the Elvis Presley of the African-American community? Did Scoop see Robinson in a Michigan Burger King recently? We thought Robinson passed away, so shouldn’t that say “would be proud” or do we need to throw a [sic] after “should”?
Upton’s emergence can help rewrite the game, preserving a part of a history on the verge of being lost.
We understand that the number of African-Americans in baseball is at the lowest percentage in 20 years, but we have a funny feeling baseball is not going to revert back to the pre-Jackie Robinson days. Hyperbole is apparently Scoop’s friend.
Again, we have zero problem with the issue at hand. If Upton can bring inner-city kids back to the game of baseball, we are all for it and certainly can see the potential. But for Scoop to stereotype Upton into that group just because he is black and for Scoop to paint African-American children as lazy and as more interested in showing off than of winning, is not only idiotic, it is borderline ignorant.
Then again, Scoop Jackson knows as much about the ghetto as Paris Hilton.
The true meaning of B.J. Upton [ESPN]