SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

On Chase Utley's Speech at the Phillies' Parade

Dear Chase:

You're a tremendous player. The fans love watching you play because you play with such even-keel emotions. Most of us get frustrated when our internet connection isn't fast enough, but you are one cool customer. You don't get too high when you get a big hit, and you don't get too low when you strike out more than once in a game.

We do admire you for that, although history in Philadelphia tells us that the most popular player on the 1980 World Series champs was neither of the team's Hall of Famers -- Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt -- but a happy-go-lucky relief pitcher who showed lots of positive energy -- Tug McGraw. We admired Lefty for the precision he brought to the pitching mound, but he was strange. He didn't talk to the Philadelphia media for over a decade. We loved Schmidt's prodigious accomplishments -- he had an outstanding on-base percentage, was the best home run hitter in the game and the best fielding third baseman -- but he was a cool customer, keeping all of his emotions inside. It was hard to warm up to him the way we could McGraw or the easygoing star centerfielder, Garry Maddox.

So, okay, you're not the personality guy on the team, but boy do fans admire you. Jimmy Rollins seems to be the team's leader, Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard seem to be relaxed and happy, Shane Victorino is a prime catalyst, and Jamie Moyer the elder statesman. Which means that you don't really have to say much -- you can let your bat and glove do your talking for you.

Except there's this one thing that we have to discuss -- the day that you decided to open your mouth, wearing your Seattle grunge-rock attire at the parade and say something other than the usual post-game speak about "seeing the ball well" that many players dive into in interviews. Because you don't usually say much, we can all imagine what you might say if we could talk to you in detail about the art of hitting, about fielding your position, and about the mental game of baseball. Because you hardly said much, we envisioned you as a bright UCLA man, a guy we'd want to have over for a meal, shoot the breeze.

And then you opened your mouth and said a bad word. Illusions -- to the extent they remained after your profane utterance within earshot of a microphone at the All-Star Game's home run hitting contest -- were shattered. Many who held you up as the ultimate professional to be admired suddenly found you to be about as thoughtful as the small number of fans who harrassed Tampa Bay fans at Citizens Bank Park during the Series. Parents were shocked, grandparents horrified, young children disappointed.

More so than if you struck out four times looking in Game 7 of the World Series.

Listen, we still like and admire you, we just despise what you said. And for that you owe everyone an apology. You didn't need to tarnish a very happy day by saying what you said. Your overall "rating", as it were, among Phillies' fans is down, not because of your play, but because of this. Do the right thing, offer a sincere, written apology, and get kudos again in our forgiving world for being a stand-up guy and admitting your mistake.

Again, we still love the way you play and are grateful for all your efforts. Thanks for your great play in the 2008 World Series.

Just tweak your overall "game" a little bit.

Thanks.

Sincerely,

SportsProf

13 Comments:

Anonymous Dean of the College said...

To: Sportsprof
From: Dean of the College

I regret to inform you that you are no longer Sportsprof at our hallowed university. It came as quite a shock when my office learned of your latest public posting. I find it mind-boggling that in your many years in sports academia, you have somehow failed to amass the simple knowledge concerning the myriad ways in which passion and excitement manifest themselves in sports. Indeed, the word “fan” is short for “fanatic,” a term we usually do not associate with rational forbearance. As a player and self-proclaimed fan of his own team, Mr. Utley merely captured what all true fans of the Phillies were thinking at that very moment. Your childish belief that somehow the parents, grandparents and children of our nation might somehow crumble in abject horror in the face of a single, “naughty” word not only betrays your complete lack of awareness in sports, but also a rejection of the freedom that makes this country great. If you continue to champion such anti-academic, anti-American principles as censorship and fear of words, I will have no choice but to take steps to strip you of your PhD. I urge you to rethink your commitment to sports academia, you mindless, provincial, self-important dipshit.

Sincerely,
Your (former) Dean of the College

9:19 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Dean:

Thanks for clarifying your thoughts for me. There's censorship, and then there's good taste. Chase Utley has the right to say what he wants. We all have the right to criticize it. That's the First Amendment for you, and that's very important.

Remember this, though: someone has to take a stand for standards and taste. Your remarks suggest that we all should be passive acceptors of trends, no matter how they can erode the dignity and decency of a good society. That's just plain wrong. I suppose that you'll view the injection of steroids into the sports world as something we all should have embraced because, well, "everyone was doing it."

Have a great day, and remember, I have tenure!

SportsProf

P.S.: And, Dean, the namecalling just isn't becoming of you.

P.P.S.: And isn't your five-year term up soon? We faculty have influence with the school president, you know.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Dean of the College said...

SportsProf and self-proclaimed defender of good taste,

The self-righteous banter you spew would be better received in a fundamentalist religious sect. This is sports. Have you ever actually been to a sporting event? Have you ever met a sports fan? You need to leave your mother's attic and actually perform some fieldwork, attend a sporting event to understand that it's not a tea party or a meeting of The Emily Post Club.

Profanity and name-calling are nothing to be afraid of, son. Perhaps if you took to heart that sticks and stones may indeed break your bones while names will never hurt you, you might begin to understand that it is people like yourself so scared of language who imbue simple words like fuck, shit and asshole with such mammoth power that they would otherwise not have. You have only yourself to blame. It is tragic that you'll never appreciate the "dignity" and "decency" of the human spirit found in such foul-mouthed icons as Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks. You have my pity.

Providing civil rights for every citizen, caring for the sick and infirm, offering affordable health care, incentivizing teachers -- these are just a sampling of actual, adult indicators of what truly makes a society more decent and dignified. Only pseudo-intellectuals like yourself choose to focus on the irrelevancy of curse words.

The Dean

p.s. Your tenuous grasp of knowledge concerning academic policy (faculty have a say? 5-year terms?) seems to match your understanding of the sports community. I’ve spoken to the president who informed me that the university is initiating criminal proceedings against you for fraud, but by all means, feel free to fight it. You might have to furnish the authorities with a copy of your dissertation and an actual diploma stating where you received a PhD in “Sports” but that shouldn’t be too difficult, right?

12:10 AM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Dear Dean:

Thanks for being able to conduct a civilized, principled debate without resorting to name calling and divisiveness. The sun is shining on your rhetoric, and I'll let others decide who is right and who is wrong on this point (which by the way, was a narrow one on the context in which Mr. Utley made his remarks).

This conversation is over.

SportsProf

8:58 AM  
Blogger josh pincus is crying said...

I have maintained that professional sports players should NOT be role models. Sure, I understand that it is difficult because that's how they are presented. However, if you consider that professional sports players are guys who get paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a game that eight-year olds play and probably couldn't cut it in any other profession, we would reassess our idol-worship.
I love baseball, but ball players should be placed on a pedestal somewhere below the average fast-food worker. Most can turn a great double play, but can't put six together to form a sentence. Chase Utley spoke to his audience in the words they understood and I'm sure they have all heard those words before.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Marcus Salt said...

So the other guy is divisive and you're not? You're the one saying who is an ultimate professional and who isn't. Why do you get to decide? You got a lot of rhetoric.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just searched the speech on google and found this site. i was hoping to find psyched people.

WE still like you. WE just despise what you said.

who's we?

who you speaking for?

i think it's just you.

1:39 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Anonymous:

The "we" are a lot of people in the Philadelphia area that I talked to -- fans, parents, kids. In addition, two major sports radio commentators -- Howard Eskin and Mike Missanelli -- publicly criticized Chase Utley for his remarks. I live in the area -- that's what people were saying. They loved the parade, they love the team, they like Utley -- they just didn't think what he said was appropriate.

Marcus: I took a stand. I didn't call anybody names, question their politics or anything like that. I just made a narrow point that what Chase Utley did was wrong. Read what the Dean wrote and what I wrote. We can agree without being disagreeable, can't we?

Josh: You might be right, but I don't think that we should settle for this.

To all commentators: I happen to like Chase Utley. If you Google "Chase Utley" and SportsProf, you'll notice how complimentary I've been of him in the past. I just don't think that what he did here was right.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sportsprof,

Imagine a prof having the temerity to criticize vulgarity! I think he should be strung up for daring to say anything of the kind! Thank you, Dean of the College (DC) for getting ride of anyone on the faculty who disagrees with you. That's the way academia should function.

A grateful student

10:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So...that's SportsProf as in Sports Professor? Is this a joke site or are you really that pretentious?

3:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imagine someone who avoids substantive debate to scold someone for vulgar language. String him up indeed.

Another grateful student

3:02 AM  
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