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It Really is Okay to Say Something Stupid Occasionally

Mike SteffanosMonday, April 24, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

For the most part, I've always kept this blog about New York Mets baseball. I haven't tried to work my politics or my belief system into things, as they have nothing to do with the Mets.

The whole todo over Keith Hernandez and the female San Diego massage therapist, however, brings up an issue that is very important to me -- the right of someone to say something that most of us don't agree with. I didn't agree with Keith's statement that a woman had no place in the dugout, but I also did not agree with her assertion that his comments discredited women. Sorry to anyone I offended on either side of the issue, but I guess my point here is that the only way never to offend is to never really say anything -- an art that many politicians and sports commentators have mastered, to the detriment of us all.

I have a smartass streak in me, which led me to make the point that by rule she shouldn't have been in the dugout. This has allowed some to ignore the rest of my argument and focus on one sentence in the story. You were indeed correct that this was not the rule, so you got me there. Too bad you chose to ignore everything else I talked about, but that's your right, I guess.

In any case, my point was never that Keith was right. I even agree with SportsNet New York for making him apologize, because he did cross a line. There are those that refuse to let this thing end here, and I have an issue with them.

The problem with this world we live in today is that it refuses to allow dissent from what is considered "acceptable" thinking. It takes one thing that someone says and chooses to blow it out of anything resembling proportion. Keith Hernandez honestly believes that women don't belong in the dugout -- a commonly held belief from when he played and the generation he came from -- and this is elevated to a slur on all women. Maybe there can be a meaningful discussion on this subject if the incurably morally superior can get over their outrage over one man's opinion.

There is a reason why politicians trip over themselves not to say anything at all. We now demand a insipidness and orthodoxy of thought from our public figures that is pathetic. Have we become so fragile that we'd prefer to be patronized with platitudes rather than be engaged by meaningful discussion? I'm so bored and so frustrated by this world that we now live in. I'm sure that Hernandez will be replaced sooner or later by someone that never says anything controversial, and the thought police will be free to move on in their never-ending quest to make the world a little blander.

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Comments (16)

Couldnt agree more Mike. I actually really like Keith and I understand that he is old school and doesnt hold back. SNY must know this and if they want the brilliance he brings then they will just have to suck it up.

I loved the banter later after he apologised. 'I just try to get here on time and try not to sound stupid'
Cohen asked 'hows that working out for you?' Classic!!!!!!!!

Oh yeah, cut Zambrano.

Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one in the world that feels this way. I thought I was losing my mind for a while there.

Very good points Mike; we live in a society that doesn't allow free thought or discussion. As a child of the late '60's and early '70's, it's very distressing to me to see how far we've regressed that way. I actually agree with Keith somewhat, and don't necessarily believe that women and men HAVE to be in places they previously have not been! It is not an earth-shattering human-rights violation to think that women may not be a necessity in the dugout of a major league team where everyone playing is a man! Shocking! The fact that she is not a trainer, but a massage therapist(as far as I can find out), only makes the uproar all the more inane. Male or female, there is no need for a massage therapist in any major league dugout. What's next; psychologists, motivational coaches, personal assistants, and CPA's? Come on, let's get real here, and keep in mind that this is baseball we're talking about!

Yeah, George, things have changed a lot. In the 60s and 70s people were fighting for the right to say what was on their mind, now they're fighting to keep out any point of view they don't agree with. We've come a long way.

Mike, I can see you've taken great offense at my criticism of you. Let me respond.

First off, I felt I wasaddressing more than simply the rule issue. But since you felt I didn't let me take a second stab. This is the portion of your original blog that you are most concerned with, right? ...

There is a difference between something that you don't agree with and don't like to hear and something that crosses the line into an offense against a segment of humanity. We all talk about tolerance, but that sometimes entails having a sense of humor and tolerating the rights of others to express views you don't agree with.

As for the difference between something that one doesn't like to hear and something which is insulting to a whole segment of the population, that dividing line is different for different people. It's not fixed; it varies. Obviously, as this very issue demonstrates. For you the line was not crossed. But for me and many others it was. If you read most of the mainstream analysts since this thing broke (such as Neil Best in today's Newsday or John Donovan in his SI power rankings that I pointed to yesterday), you'll see that they felt Keith did cross that line too.

Then you mention tolerance. Well the tolerance is usually relative to the degree of outrage people feel over a comment, no? Obviously if Keith said something pretty innocuous -- like he didn't think camouflage looks good on women -- then this wouldn't be a story. But since he said something more provocative, people are going to react. That's just human nature. As it is, and as I said before, no one (or very few) are calling for his firing. He's just being reprimanded and being called a caveman basically. The tolerance then in this instance, IMO, is suitable and fits the crime. If he had said something more on the order of what John Rocker said about New York, then I think he would have and should have been fired. There would be less tolerance for that.

Perhaps you feel that Hernandez should be immune from criticism? That he should be able to say almost anything he wants without repercussion. Well the fact is, in this society, some people hold positions of influence or prominence that carry with it added responsibilities for their actions and words. It goes with the territory, and people who take on those positions know beforehand what they entail. Keith's position as a sports announcer allows him to speak directly to millions of people, and, rightly or wrongly, he is felt to represent the Mets. Whatever he says therefore carries with it more weight than what you or I say. If he didn't want to be scrutinized, then he shouldn't have taken such a high profile job. If he were simply Keith Hernandez, ex-Met and friend of Jerry Seinfeld, no one but perhaps a few Mets fans would give a hoot what he said.

So, of course, Keith always has the right to say what he feels. But he just has to be prepared for the consequences of how his comments are perceived by the public. And, of course, you have the right to hold any opinion you want (I wasn't trying to say you couldn't as you implied previously), but then I have the right to criticize your opinions. And you've made it very easy (thank you) by supplying a comment section with your blog.

Some have railed against the so-called "thought police," but in reality it's simply public opinion at work. It's society weighing in on how they feel about things. It's forming a consensus on matters -- whether it's the war in Iraq, the issue of gays, steroids in sports, or women in the workplace. It's how society operates, and to expect anything different is just not realistic. If one dislikes the constraints of society so intensely, the answer of course is to go find another one they like better (and some do this) or to live alone away from society. Otherwise, one has to put up with societal pressures and restrictions the best they can.

I just want to reiterate: This issue isn't about free speech the way some are making it out to be. No one is putting constraints on Keith's ability to say what he wants. They're just putting constraints on the forum in which he says it -- a forum that doesn't belong to him or anyone else but SNY (and to some extent the FCC).

If your arguement now is that many in the mainstream media are criticizing Keith, too, that doesn't really move me. Think about what you're saying here. I don't feel that if Neil Best, John Donovan or anyone else in the media, or any consensus among them, invalidates my arguement.

Do we really want to keep the pressure up on people in the public to never say something that a lot of people don't agree with? That's the most important part of my arguement to me, but it's the part that you just keep glossing over.

Obviously you haven't been persuaded by me, but I haven't been persuaded by you, either, and I'm weary of this discussion.

Do we really want to keep the pressure up on people in the public to never say something that a lot of people don't agree with? That's the most important part of my arguement to me, but it's the part that you just keep glossing over

Believe me, I'm not glossing over anything on purpose. If you feel I didn't address your point, it's either because I felt I did or I didn't fully understand your point, or you didn't fully understand my answer (or I didn't explain it well). So your point is should people in the public eye and in positions like Keith is in be subject to public pressure? My answer is yes, and I thought I made that clear to you from my previous post. Public pressure/opinion is how society acts in order to attempt to operate smoothly. It is the means for building consensus and helps define social limits, rules, and standards of behavior. Without it, there would be endless friction between societal elements. As I said, if one does not like these restrictions, then the answer is to move to another society, or live removed from society (as some do). But Keith chose a job that he must have known would come with considerable boundaries. If he didn't think about this before he took it, then he was naive. He is free to criticize individual players, and I'm sure that's what SNY meant when they said they wanted independent-minded broadcasters. I doubt they had in mind someone who would spout sexist comments.

The reason I brought up Neil Best and others is because I thought you were taking the stand that Keith's comments did not cross the line of propriety and did not offend a segment of the population. My point was that the line of proprietary is not the same for all people. It's a moving line, depending on who you ask. While you felt the comments didn't cross the line, most or many did. And I just brought up the mainstream analysts to try to shed light on what is probably the mainstream opinion. That's all.

I don't expect to sway your opinion. I was just attempting to give an alternative view.

Keith should continue to give his opinions if he really feels strongly about them, even on topics that have little to do with the Mets. But he just has to be prepared for the consequences if people find them offensive. Perhaps if he finds he can't take the heat, he should eventually get out of the kitchen.

Fastball, my friend, what you don't understand is that I don't have time to spend hours debating an issue when we can't even come at it from the same direction. This blog is a hobby, not a job for me. Everything in your last comment I can answer with the last paragraph of the post that you placed this comment on:

There is a reason why politicians trip over themselves not to say anything at all. We now demand a insipidness and orthodoxy of thought from our public figures that is pathetic. Have we become so fragile that we'd prefer to be patronized with platitudes rather than be engaged by meaningful discussion? I'm so bored and so frustrated by this world that we now live in. I'm sure that Hernandez will be replaced sooner or later by someone that never says anything controversial, and the thought police will be free to move on in their never-ending quest to make the world a little blander.

The problem isn't that I haven't answered you, it's that you do not accept my answer as valid. What else should I say to you? I don't accept your alternate view, though I respect your right to hold it. I've been answering hate mail all day from those that chose to take everything I said out of context as defending Keith Hernandez rather than defending unpopular speech. Not sure why everyone finds it hard to understand the importance of allowing unpopular speech in a free society, although now I understand how Republicans were able to paint everyone that doesn't go along with all of their policies as traitors to America.

Rather than hurting women, his comments opened up a meaningful debate and shone a light on women in baseball. In a free society with free speech, this is often the result of tolerating the opinions of those that don't speak for the majority. Notice I said "tolerate", not agree with. We are forcing our public figures to say less and less of any real consequence.

Fastball, I love your passion, but we're not changing each other's mind in the least, and I already understand the alternate view, I just passionately disagree with it. That's why I was willing to write something in the first place that I knew would bring me nothing but grief (you should see my e-mail). I don't care that the majority doesn't agree with me.

I don't want to get between Fastball and Mike(although I must admit to enjoying the back and forth), but I think one thing Fastball is missing here is that the mere fact that people in the media("Neil Best and others") object, does not make that an honest referendum on society's feelings on the subject! Of course the media and others will speak out against this; that IS the point, that it's part of political correctness run amok! Best and the others are simply jumping on the latest "wave", and taking an easy opportunity to get a shot in at Hernandez(this is far too obvious and the wrost kind of pandering to women!). The "outrage" is so blatantly obvious in it's intent, that it has become almost laughable. I too am tired of this, and I'll bow out after this blog and let you guys have at it. A poor choice of words by Hernandez? In today's ultra-sensitive society, most likely. But, I certainly uphold Keith's right to voice his opinion that women don't belong in a MLB dugout during the game; one doesn't have to agree, and maybe the fact that this has created dialogue on the blogs(hey, it got me to write in for the 1st time ever), will help start to open dialogue between everyone(doubtful).

I thought Best was pretty fair. Some of the others were obnoxious in the rush to jump on the "holier than thou" bandwagon.

As far as us guys continuing to have at it, please, in the immortal words of Roberto Duran, "no mas." I need to keep my real job. Spent enough hours on this topic.

Mike, I'm sorry that you're getting hate mail. You don't deserve it. People who disagree should stick to the issues and not make it personal. And thanks for engaging me in this discussion. Sometimes I get so focused on an issue that I can beat it to death.

I think we will just have to agree to disagree because it's clear that neither of us are fully appreciating each other's position. For example, contrary to what you seem to think is my opinion, I believe people really should speak their minds. But they just have to be prepared to accept the consequences of doing so. Don't turn around and then cry PC POLICE! It's a two-way street. I want a free flow of ideas too. I know you still feel he didn't insult women, but I think he did. This in turn did open up the dialogue and this we can at least agree on.

At any rate, peace! May your future writings be filled with more harmonious chatter and less intrusions from the "thought police."


To George: Of course you are right that the opinions of Neil Best and others do not necessarily make it a referendum on the topic. But I don't think you're right to discount the probability that they were expressing their true opinions -- and NOT just jumping on the latest "wave" to parrot some PC line. I give these journalists more credit than you do.

To Fastball: Point taken. I wasn't trying to impugn anyone's integrity, but have learned that even people coming from things honestly, bring their own biases to the mix. I believe that the presence of a female massage therapist in the dugout actually does insult Hernandez' old-school sensibilities; he could have framed that discussion in a better way of course, but I'm pretty sure his viewpoint is held by the majority of major league ballplayers(I realize that doesn't make it right or wrong to hold that viewpoint, but it is their viewpoint to hold). I've got to be honest; as I stated earlier, the presence of a massage therapist(male or female) in the dugout, insults my sensibilities as well. Assuming that massages are done in the clubhouse, isn't that where the massage therapist should be?

Mike S: Great job; sorry if I've added to any unecessary stress, and I look forward to new topics in your blog.

George: How can you say that the majority of ballplayers feel the same way Keith does? He is of an older generation after all. Times change, at least for most people. As for the presence of a massage therapist being a problem, it was reported that Calabrese's credentials extend beyond massage therapy. She is licensed by a medical board in the midwest and also has a fitness and conditioning license. Her duties extend beyond just massage therapy though that is her official function. She rotates with the other personnel of the training staff during the games. Even if a trainer just did massages during games, why would it be a problem? If someone like Carlos Beltran could benefit from some quick massages to his troubled hammy between every inning in order to keep him on the field, that's to the benefit of the club. I don't see why massages have to be performed in the clubhouse only.

George, no stress. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You too, Fastball.

Fastball: WOW, you really do take this very seriously don't you? How can I say that that the majority of ballplayers feel that way; it's called an opinion. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd be very willing to wager that a majority of ballplayers wouldn't want women on the bench during games; but that's only if the poll of players had NO chance of the poll being made public, and it's still only an opinion. The chance that a player would dare to state his honest opinion(if he was uncomfortable with a woman on the bench), would ruin that player by the sounds of the verbal feedback of the minority of people that opine about these things! And, I've quickly tired of all the statements of this woman's qualifications; you'd think she sprinkled holy water on the players by some of the replies I've seen in some publications(not your remarks obviously). How many fully-licensed trainers(that are also qualified in massage) would jump at the chance to work for a major league club? She was the only person available? Come on, you're not that idealistic and unrealistic are you? Anyway, it's simply an OPINION, and we're all allowed to have one! I'm distressed to see that this discussion about Keith's opinion has morphed into a sort of distorted dialogue on men vs. women, and opposing opinions not being tolerated. If you've spent any time in any locker rooms and dugouts of any
kind(even recently), there is still a boy's club attitude.....and that's ok! Women have their places that they prefer men not be around; does that make them socially intolerant and politically incorrect too? No one is disputing whether this woman has proper credentials(I'm merely stating that there are thousands of others that have the same or better qualifications......another column would be to investigate why she was hired and under what criteria, if you want to head down that path;I'd prefer not to), it just seems that anyone that doesn't spout out the typical PC line will get the business very quickly. I have no inside knowings of how today's player actually feel(and as I've stated before, you'd never be able to get an honest survey anyway), but I base my opinion on my years of experience of observing the human race closely; times may have changed in regarding what you're allowed to say, but I think you'd be very surprised at just how much things HAVEN'T changed as well. I've enjoyed the conversation.

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