Friday, July 08, 2005

Walk Away From Trouble When You Can

Crafty Texas Rangers left hander (and former MN Twin) Kenny Rogers released an apology regarding his altercation with some members of the media last week.

"I have 17 years in the Major Leagues, with all my experience, regardless of the circumstances, I should have acted professionally and I regret that that was not the case," Rogers said. "I am deeply disappointed and embarrassed with myself for my inability to rise above the situation no matter how it became."

Which is all well and fine. Contrition is warranted, especially with possible criminal and civil lawsuits pending. But, call me a sentimentalist, I was hoping someone named Kenny Rogers would resort the Coward of the County defense:

I promised you, Dad, not to do the things you done
I walk away from trouble when I can.
Now please don't think I'm weak, I didn't turn the other cheek,
and Papa, I sure hope you understand:
Sometimes you gotta fight when you're a man."

There ain't a jury in the great state of Texas that would have convicted him after that tear jerking confession.

Regading the incident, I saw the entire spectacle dozens of times on video tape via ESPN NEWS channel. The singular joy of that outlet is its willingness to shamelessly exploit on field violence for entertainment purposes. Sure, they act like it's news and that the world is ending by suspending normal programming and bringing in sports sociologists and grief counselors to talk in hushed tones about how awful it is. But all the while, they're running super slow motion replays of every punch thrown and obscenity shouted. It's great.

The first time I noticed this tendency was after the basketbrawl in Detroit a few months ago, between the Indiana Pacers and the fans in the stands. Watching it all, over and over and over, I stayed up until about 2 AM morbidly hypnotized by the spectacle before I finally dragged my soul weary bones to bed. I wouldn't have been surprised if by sunrise they had composed theme music and birthed ther own "Nightline" to follow breaking developments in that story.

So when I heard last week of an incident with Kenny Rogers, of course I went right to ESPN NEWS. Sure enough, they were dissecting the video frame-by-frame. The Zapruder film didn't get this much scrutiny. And I'll be darned if I didn't see a second Ranger throwing punches from a grassy knoll.

My judgement on Kenny's antics, he should not be treating people this way. It's childish, destructive, and ineffective (now I'm sounding like Sean Penn). One of the cameramen involved apparently was hauled out on a stretcher, which is not at all acceptable in a civilized society. Or Texas.

But .... seriously, it all appeared very mild, at least by aggravated assault standards. A little pushing, some "in your face" attempts at intimidation, some jostling for the camera. Really, nothing more than what we experience every Thursday night at Keegan's when the owner (Terry Keegan) attempts to get our scorecard away from us before we're done fully exploring our possible answer options. And do we sue? Call the cops? No, we just let it go!

Rogers implied he may have a back story with the media that could put his actions in context. I can't believe anything short of preexisting stalking charges against the cameraman would get him off the hook.

Or maybe it's something like what allegedly occured in Minnesota last week, surrounding new Timberwolved draft pick Rashad McCants. First, some backstory. McCants has always been somewhat of an enigmatic personality. Has "born to be hated" and "dying to be loved" tatooed on his biceps. Is generally kind of moody and has had trouble adjusting to some coaches and situations. Considering this reputation was earned while he was still a teenager, none of this should be front page news.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated interviewed McCants about these issues (and others) last year. It's a good interview, which includes this exchange about previous media coverage and its affect on McCants:

SI: Your mother, Brenda, told me the hardest moment for her over the past two years was when a columnist in North Carolina called you "borderline psychotic" on a radio show. What was your take on that?

Rashad McCants: I've been called "borderline psychotic." I've been called "bipolar." [Shakes head.]

Psychotic? Maybe when I dunk. Bipolar? Never. For anybody out there who reads the newspaper and makes a perception on a couple words they read is amazing. And I think it happens every single day, every minute. But that's life.

A restrained, reasonable, mature response. Which stands in stark relief to the rhetoric he was greeted with after his debut before the Minnesota media. This from a Tom Powers column in the Pioneer Press:

"Say, Rashad," one of my esteemed colleagues said, "there's something I wanted to ask. Are you bipolar?"

McCants' jaw dropped to the lapels of his sky blue suit coat.

"Bi polar?" McCants repeated.

"I heard you were bipolar."

I don't know what Rashad McCants will be like once he starts playing here. But if he ever starts to shove around a member of the media, we'll have to keep that exchange in mind. And then turn immediately to ESPN NEWS.

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