A Real Bronx Cheer: Kansas City’s Right to Boo Robinson Cano

When I used to teach at the Florida State University, I would occasionally — okay, more than occasionally — make fun of my home state of Alabama.  And, I would always follow it up with a simple disclaimer: “It’s okay, I’m from there.  I can make fun of Alabama.”

In many ways, I feel that Jeff Passan is doing the same thing with Kansas City.  In his article following MLB’s All-Star Game, Passan takes several shots at his “hometown” for their excessive booing of the New York Yankees’ Robinson Cano.  From the Home Run Derby to the actual “game” itself, KC fans let out a hearty Bronx cheer for Cano.  And Passan took them to task for it.

But if fans attending the All-Star game were excessive, then so was Passan in his out-of-the-way bashing of Kansas City.  Reminders of KC’s title drought — would he do the same to Cleveland? — and that the “best” players have no interest in playing in western Missouri litter Passan’s article.  All that was lacking was a reference to a line in Mel Brooks’ movie Blazing Saddles.  Or, at least a link.

Nevertheless, Passan seems to miss the point on a couple of levels.  First, all the loveliness in the world is not going to suddenly draw the best players to Kansas City.  Players are not flocking to Kansas City or Minneapolis or even St. Petersburg.  Why?

Money.  Or lack thereof.  KC will be fortunate to hold on to its young talent.  The best players are going to go to where the money is located.  Minnesota thrived and Tampa Bay is thriving because of young (and relatively cheap) talent and good systems.  But they cannot compete long-term.  Think about it.  People like to point out how brutal the New York media can be if you fail to produce.  Yet, players still go there.  $$$$$$!  And money translates to (at least) championship contention.

Ergo, Passan misses the point here.  Booing did not change anything.  Players were not going to Kansas City even before the All-Star Game.  What makes Passan think they were suddenly going to want to go there afterwards (sans booing).

As for the lack of championships, purchasing power (or lack thereof) can partially explain that…along with only two professional teams in KC (at least at the “major” level).  Okay, they have three, if you include the Kansas City Wizards Sporting Kansas City.  And hey, Kansas City’s MLS team has the most recent championship for the city…um, metropolitan area.

Anyway, Passan misses the bigger picture.  And, it is actually one that Passan half-assed admitted to…that KC fans had the right to boo.  In fact, they were bestowed that right when Cano reneged on his earlier statement to include a Royal in the Home Run Derby.

Sure, to be fair, Cano would have had a difficult time replacing Jose Bautista or Prince Fielder.  Mark Trumbo, though, could have been replaced.  Outside of Los Angeles, are fans really clamoring to see Trumbo hit?  Yeah, I know…outside of Kansas City, are fans really clamoring to see Billy Butler hit?  Especially someone who has never hit more than 21 homers in a season.

But, then again, if Trumbo and Butler are basically interchangeable (in the eyes of casual baseball fans), then why not give Butler the nod?  He probably could have hit more than Cano did.  And it gives the hometown fans — fans who suffer so much, according to Passan — something to genuinely cheer for during Monday night’s festivities.  Especially since KC had only one representative.

But no.  Cano backed out.  And instead of taking Cano to task over his flip-flopping (well, to be fair, Passan did state that Cano was “stupid” for insinuating he’d take a Royal), Passan lays into Kansas City.

But KC did nothing more than what any other collection of fans in any other sport would have done, given the situation.  Perhaps this would not have happened in New York has a Yankee (or next year, a Met) been left out of the home run derby after a promise to include one was made.  But, that is because New York does not give a shit.  Beyond that, Royal fans were being loyal to their player…and booed like they are supposed to do.

Yet, for this, they were called “classless” and “jerks.”  Where are these labels when this is done simply for an opposing team — not because that team anally raped the mothers of the other team while putting sugar in the home players’ gas tanks.  No…they are booing……because they are the opposing team.  In other words, they are booing for no reason!  And yet…no outcry.

Or what about when Jets fans boo whatever player is drafted during the NFL Draft?  It is a “ritual.”  But they are not “jerks”??

Yet, Royal fans had a legitimate reason to boo.  Not because Cano is Yankee; but because he reneged on a statement that he’d include a hometown boy in the Home Run Derby.  Is it a petty reason?  Perhaps.  Was it excessive?  Maybe.  But they earned that right.

Look, in general I am no fan of booing.  I do not think it accomplishes anything.  But if KC fans want to boo, then so be it.  Let it out.  If Passan wants to claim it is frustration over years of ineptitude, then so be it.  But, had Cano actually chosen Butler, then there would have been no boos at all.

The only thing that Royal fans did wrong was attempt to “justify” their actions in the media and talk radio.  That they had to defend themselves from the silly reaction from the national media (i.e., that it was “classless” when the same media does not criticize all fans for booing) was sad to begin with.  But those fans did not need to defend themselves anyway.  But, by doing so, it is almost as though they do think it is wrong…but need to explain themselves.  Kind of like having to explain the punchline to a joke…if you have to do that, then the joke is not funny.

So, if KC fans are having to defend themselves, then maybe they should not have booed in the first place.  Ah…but they earned that right to do so.  They were essentially taken on a guilt-trip by people like Passan and made to believe that they had no business booing “such a fine player” like Cano.  That the Royals fans had to deal with the “backlash” (as Passan put it) was ridiculous.  So, they naturally were left to defend actions that they initially felt were within their bundle of rights.  And yet, in the end, they were the ones left ridiculed.

In other words, a vicious circle was created by people like Passan, who want to “shame” Royal fans for doing the very same thing that others do for no reason whatsoever.  By shaming them into believing that they were wrong, Kansas Citians felt obligated to defend themselves.  And, by extension, probably led to the increased intensity of booing during the “game” itself.  Take that, media!

So, to Passan and others that criticized Kansas City fans for giving Cano the ol’ Bronx Cheer…I say…


With a Name Like “Oil Can,” How Can You Be Surprised?: Drugs, Sports and Our Society

Recently, it was released that Oil Can Boyd (real name Dennis Boyd) liberally used cocaine during his baseball career.  As quoted in this article from SI.com, Boyd states:

Some of the best games that I’ve ever, ever pitched in the major leagues, I stayed up all night [doing cocaine]. I’d say two-thirds of them . . . [I] wasn’t doing anything that hundreds of ballplayers weren’t doing at the time, because that’s how I learned it and I just caught the deep end of it.

He goes on to note that he was never drug tested, but told to clean it up.

Now, I grew up knowing of Oil Can; his baseball card was my favorite because of his nickname.  It has always stuck with me and every time that I hear his name, I immediately think of his baseball card.

So, when I first heard his name the other day, my mind went to that card.  But when I heard that he admitted to probably pitching 67 percent of his games high on cocaine (and actually using it during games), my thought went to one word……….And?

I mean, does this really surprise anyone?  And, it is not just that it is Oil Can, although with a name like that how could you not figure that he was probably juiced up (and I don’t mean on HGH)?  But why are we surprised when it turns out that an athlete in any sport does drugs, or god forbid perform their sport high or hungover.  Don’t be so self-righteous and hypocritical!

How many times have you (or at least someone you have known, if you want to be naive) gone to work with a hangover?  Essentially, that is what Oil Can is stating would happen.  Most of the time, he’d stay up all night with his friend cocaine, and the next day go out and pitch.  The effects have not fully worn off and thus, he is pitching “hungover” off of cocaine.  And certainly, he admitted to using during games as well.  But how is it any different than any of you going to work hungover from alcohol?

Or going to work high.  Hell, growing up I know people who would take a “bathroom” break just to smoke up.  Are you telling me that “common people” can do that, but athletes cannot?  Well, you should not do drugs anyway (our PSA/cover our ass statement), but the problem is we demonize athletes for pitching while high or playing while stoned, while at the same time brushing off people working under such conditions [unless, of course, an accident happens resulting in injury or death].  So, do not be hypocritical.

But also, do not be so naive as to not heed Oil Can’s words that it was rampant.  One only needs to look into the annals of baseball history to find the most infamous no-hitter as evidence of drug use while playing.  In 1970, Dock Ellis decided to enjoy some LSD on his off-day.  However, he soon realized that it was not an off-day and he, in fact, was scheduled to start!  Allegedly still feeling the effects of the drug, Ellis went out and threw a no-hitter…while walking eight batters.  Again, he did not take the drug while playing, but took it prior and was still “hungover” from it.

And, let us not forget the recent stories about the drinking sessions in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.

So, why the shock?  Why the big news?  I mean, I would not be surprised it baseball players were snorting lines off of baseball bats.  Or that football players were growing ‘shrooms in their helmets.  Or basketball players had a heat lamp in their locker that aided the growth of marijuana.  In other words, this is not surprising.  In the paraphrase Clark W. Griswald, I would have been more surprised “if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet.”

It is not that there is a drug/alcohol problem in sports (although, it does seem to be confined to baseball; but, athletes from all sports have been busted for DUI and drug possession).  But sports reflect society.  Sure, we hold athletes to higher standards because of their visible position and salaries.  But they are still human.  And they are still a part of society that also has individuals that use drugs or drinks alcohol.

This in no way condones the actions of Oil Can Boyd.  If anything, he was being irresponsible.  But, we as humans sometimes make irresponsible decisions.  To paint this only as a sports thing is to ignore that similar actions are conducted by “common people.”  And this ignorance is done purposely because it turns the light away from our own mistakes and towards those individuals that we place on higher pedestals.

Athletes are still human.  They are still part of our society.  Their status simply brings more attention to their actions, whether it is drug use, or alcoholism, or promiscuous activity.  But it is not any different than what happens in the everyday lives of millions of U.S.ians.

Again, I am not condoning that activity.  Nor am I suggestion that everyone uses drugs, or consumes alcohol, or sleeps around.  But, stop pretending that athletes are no different (in terms of lifestyles) than regular folks.

Stop being surprised!