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Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2000/ 7 Shevat, 5760


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Free John Rocker -- THE LAZY, mindless liberalism and attempt at thought control can simply stun an honest man. Consider the John Rocker controversy: A stupid baseball player, 25 years old, shoots off his mouth to any reporter who’s willing to scribble his bigoted nonsequiturs and Humpty Dumpty falls down. Rocker was well-known to New York fans last fall during the playoffs; he didn’t make a lot of friends here with his ravings about queers, drugs addicts and purple-haired slackers. A cracker from Macon, Rocker is Bill Clinton and Orrin Hatch on triple-dose truth serum.

A feature story by Jeff Pearlman appeared in Sports Illustrated last month, in which the Atlanta Braves relief pitcher ill-advisedly reprised his redneck shtick, and now Bud Selig, the spineless Major League Baseball commissioner, has ordered that Rocker receive psychological testing. I guess Bud missed that day in seventh grade when the First Amendment was explained. There’s a lawsuit waiting to happen and I hope Rocker’s agent takes MLB to the cleaners.

He may be an ignorant fool, but so are Al Sharpton, Hillary Clinton, Alec Baldwin and Richard Cohen, and none of them has been forced to seek therapy. (You’ll remember that Baldwin advocated the murder of Henry Hyde; The Washington Post’s Cohen suggested that Newt Gingrich be hanged for his adultery; Hillary said she was a Yanks fan; and I haven’t the stomach to list Sharpton’s list of transgressions.)

C.W. Nevius, writing in the Jan. 8 San Francisco Chronicle, applauds Selig’s action, although it wasn’t immediate enough in his judgment. He writes: “Now we are hearing that Rocker is ‘apologetic.’ No kidding. His career is in jeopardy. But what is he apologizing for? Didn’t he realize that this kind of behavior was offensive? [Sports Illustrated] is a national magazine, available at virtually every newsstand and dentist’s office in the country. Who did he think he was speaking to, Ranger Rick from the Weekly Reader?”

We needn’t discuss that fully 75 percent of sportswriters could pass for Nevius’ Ranger Rick. But does the reporter really believe that Rocker’s career is in “jeopardy”? In the unlikely occasion that the Braves let Rocker go, he’d be signed up in five minutes by another team’s general manager, who, until the ink was dry, would join the chorus of sheep denouncing the kid’s loathsome slurs.

An Orlando Sentinel editorial on Jan. 8 also trashed Rocker and managed this remarkable conclusion: “Baseball is revered as America’s favorite pastime, as wholesome as apple pie. Racist views such as Mr. Rocker’s undermine that image.” The “apple pie” myth has long been dispelled, probably starting with Jim Bouton’s seminal Ball Four. Baseball has traditionally been littered with ugly people, some with very bad habits: Billy Martin, Darryl Strawberry and Ty Cobb come to mind. The drinking and drug addiction problems of players are now commonplace; incidents like David Cone allegedly “playing with himself” in the Mets’ bullpen fail to shock. So can we please forget this “apple pie” rot?

The most sensible comments about Rocker I’ve read recently were written by Baltimore Sun columnist Gregory Kane, a black man, who also dislikes New York. Kane wrote on Jan. 5: “Thank heavens the rest of American society isn’t run like major league baseball. How many of us would escape chastisement for opinions unbecoming political correctness? I wouldn’t... [Rocker’s] Sports Illustrated comments harmed no one. They ticked quite a few people off, but they harmed no one.”

Keep Elian Here

BILL CLINTON was thrilled to pass off the deportation of Elian Gonzalez to Attorney General Janet Reno. (G-d knows she’ll have an unhappy retirement: just think about it, doing Clinton’s dirty work and being treated as garbage by him as a reward.) I yield to no one in a father’s right to maintain custody of his child, but all the squishy pundits (who’d never advocate sending a six-year-old back to Iran, Iraq, South Africa—in the old days) are forgetting the main reason to keep the boy on American soil, at least for the time being. Elian’s dad, Juan Miguel, who didn’t speak up until Cuba’s dictator Fidel Castro made his son a national symbol, cannot be counted on to have his true feelings known. Castro, who’s gotta be running out of gas, is using Elian as a pawn—everyone knows it—but still the Eleanor Clifts, New York Times editorialists and Ellen Goodmans of the world want to send him back to rice & beans Cuba, instead of living with relatives in Miami. Gov. George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain are right: bring the boy’s father and new family to Miami, and let him decide then, without fear of Castro reprisals. If what the senior Gonzalez says is true, then the lot should go back to Cuba. More likely they’ll stay.

Daily News columnist Lars-Erik Nelson is rather blasé about the controversy. In a Jan. 7 piece headlined “Family Values Gone Awry,” Nelson used Elian to take digs at Bush and McCain. “Both need right-wing votes, and in a Republican primary, all you have to do is mention the name Castro and all rational thought goes out the window—along with considerations of morality and the law... How many days does Castro have? I bet that Elian and his father and their country will be free before the boy turns 10.”

Granted, GOP Sen. Bob Smith and Rep. Dan Burton competed for airtime when they criticized the INS decision to send Elian home, but they happen to be correct.

Al Gore can’t seem to make up his mind on this issue. How surprising. Once again, the United States’ policy toward Cuba should be relegated to the attic time capsule, along with items like the hula hoop, Beatles trading cards and Tupperware parties. All sanctions should be lifted—ignore the human rights violations, like the U.S. has done in China—and let insurgents chase Castro back to the hills where he can die in peace; then a democratic leader, just waiting to emerge, can shape the country with America’s aid.

Some fear that mass riots will engulf Cuba if Castro is defied, but he’s too old, and the true adherents of his communism are either dead or disgusted. When Castro is forced to go, it’ll resemble the final scene from The Wizard of Oz: the uniformed henchmen, charged with capturing Dorothy and her friends, cheered when the Wicked Witch finally melted. That’s Fidel, baby, gone like a puff of smoke.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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©1999, Russ Smith