So, this weekend was interesting on Twitter.  A writer who contributes to the NBC Sports website wrote a little piece about Madison Bumgarner, and called him an asshole while posting the link.  Dave Flemming called him out.


Then, in a nighttime feud, this guy starts retweeting and implying that Bumgarner is reacting about the shows of emotion against non-white players. 4-in-1 Baer's ThemePoint Holds Count the Rings As many people, from fans to broadcasters to sportswriters, start calling him out on these statements and behaviors, he starts mass-blocking people and turns his account private because of how it was going. Blame San Francisco

(BTW, I’m including screenshots others have taken of his tweets and retweets because he deleted it all and you can’t see it in his timeline anymore.  He blocked me because, well, I accused him of deleting things.  Oops.)

Finally, he comes back with his “Last Words” on the subject, barely apologizing that he made some bad retweets but then saying he isn’t apologizing for bringing up all the racism that is in baseball everywhere, even though this whole thing started with him saying he wasn’t calling Bumgarner racist, and bemoaning the fact that we can’t have a rational, civil discourse about racism in this country.

Predictably, a lot of people weren’t into those “Last Words.”

More thoughts from established journalists here and here.

So…here I am.  Because the one thing he said I agree with is that .  It’s not a discussion, since, you know, this is a blog post, but I’m up to the challenge of talking about what started this discussion.

CONTEXT: This is Kevin writing, and yes, I’m white.  I wish it wasn’t relevant, but it is, so there it is.  Rog Hernandez, the amazing artist behind the comic, has read this and approves of the post, but these are my words, and not his.  I simply want to be clear about who this is coming from.

I want to divide this into two parts, because I genuinely believe there’s two different discussions that are being blended (badly) into one.

The heart of this discussion is about celebrating in baseball.  The topic of race circles around it, yes, but I do honestly think it’s about culture, which is different than race (though one can certainly influence the other).  A lot of players grow up in baseball cultures that are okay with outlandish celebrations, baseball cultures that aren’t the U.S.  And yes, when that’s the caribbean or Korea, then yes, the vast, vast majority of those players are non-white.

It is absolutely important to bring up that it’s not the color of the skin that seems to initiate these conflicts: right or wrong, it’s about the action.  It’s about the enforcement of this “No Celebration” unwritten rule in baseball that others in this country have grown up with.  That’s a big part of trying to bring this together without throwing out divisions by accusing people of race or racism.

Unfortunately, the racial side of this is constantly brought up.  One of the more quality and well thought out representations was by Chris Rock, on HBO’s Real Sports.

Rock brings up a lot of excellent points about baseball not appealing to African-American youth of this country.  Those are very real problems facing baseball for its present and future.  But Rock does so by generalizing a lot of things.  He is correct that the Giants won the title without a single black player on the team, but that doesn’t mention a roster that including 9 Hispanic players and one Asian-American players.

But then, he says of Giants fans “The closest thing to a person of color in the stands is Lou Seal”.  I’m sorry?  This is where these discussions of race always go wrong.  Maybe he’s still focused on just black fans (which, even so, is still wrong), but he is clearly whiffing on a fan base that is beautifully multi-racial, and with fans of all types very much in love with their team and baseball.

And this is where so many discussions go foul…even when well-meaning folks want to talk race, when it turns into generalizations they can go very wrong.  And it is wrong to generalize.  “Most” or “Many” can be factual statements.  “All” turns the person you’re talking to into the person you are accusing.

I don’t believe over-celebrating is truly an issue about race; it’s an issue where race can overlap, like a venn diagram where the circles almost look like one.  I don’t believe that if you have more melatonin in your skin, you are more prone to flipping a bat or anything else.  That’s just silly.  I believe that this is about what we are taught or raised with.

So let’s talk celebrating.  And I’ll tell you what I think, and you can tell me if you think otherwise in comments or Twitter or anywhere else.  First…

I think that not showing too much emotion isn’t just a baseball or sportsmanship thing.

I can only speak for what I have been raised with, and what I have seen, but in my experience it seems like a pretty normal, moderate, California upbringing.  In every side of my life, I’ve been taught to be humble.  I shouldn’t show off, because it could hurt or insult or simply make someone who hasn’t been as lucky as I have been sad.

And, this is important, in every single success of my life, I have been so very lucky.  I had enough skill or talent to jump on the opportunities I got, but I know I wouldn’t have been in those situations without luck, be it my race, that I got an amazing family, or just being in the right damn place at the right moment.  Right down to the opportunity to be doing this comic, to have brainstormed it and pursued it at the exact moment that Rog, the amazing artist and friend I partner with, was open to doing it.  A year later, a year earlier, who knows if that would’ve happened.  And I believe that for every success any person has had, there was an extreme level of luck that led them to that on top of the things they did as well.

Now maybe this is just my American, or possibly even just white-American, culture to have been taught this.  I don’t think it’s that crazy of a concept to take in consideration everyone’s feeling around me in everything I do, and to be honest, trying not to hurt or offend someone else does not water down my joy in any moment.

I agree that Baseball is too uptight about celebrating and showing emotions in sports.

I do think that baseball (and football) are out of touch with modern culture on this fact.  There are limits to this, but I don’t think the act of a bat-flip, or spending too much time watching a magnificent home run are egregious errors of conduct that require anger, frustration or payback.  It’s taught in the majority of places in America to not over-emotionalize things, for good and bad reasons, and maybe in this case it shouldn’t be.

We pump a fist, or even dance, without being too outlandish.  We can jump with our teammates and yell and cheer without hurting anyone.  And yes, a bat flip is not, in my mind, showing someone up.

I think it is easy for people to take it too far, and many athletes have and still do.

Shall we call this the Richard Sherman line?  Celebrating is one thing, going on live TV and using his victory to insult and verbally rip an opponent and belittle them?  Yes, I believe that is too far.

This is not to clear anyone who retaliated anyone who responded to Richard Sherman with racist and attacking statements; tit does not equal tat.  But actions like Sherman’s are the reasons I do still like having people who pursue unwritten rules and try to keep things civil.

There are other ways things go too far.  It amazes me that soccer allows for such choreographed celebrations in a sport where doing so not only takes time, but takes game-time that the other team could be using to try and come back.  Terrell Owens pulling a well-planted sharpie out of somewhere and signing a football and giving it away as a celebration is facepalm funny.  A dance that shows more effort than half the acts on “America’s Got Talent” is a bit too much.

Oh, and Owens on the Cowboy star?  Definitely crossed the Sherman line before Sherman was around, and I say that as a San Francisco fan.  That wasn’t one where I facepalmed while laughing…my face met palm because I was embarrassed a guy wearing our colors did that.

Anyone who thinks that celebrating in Baseball is okay also needs to acknowledge that anger and frustration are okay.

Not all emotions are positive.  And, surprise surprise, overshowing positive emotions can lead to negative reactions.  You know what?  The whole American culture of sportsmanship comes from this very principle.  If you’re okay with the outpouring of positive emotions, you have to be okay with the negative emotions coming out as well.

Bumgarner not liking someone being overly demonstrative by being overly demonstrative himself is hypocritical.  But so is liking one kind of emotion, but not another.

Sportsmanship isn’t a bad concept to embody.  It’s also not boring.

And I personally don’t find it boring.  Even players who seem to have made themselves the gatekeepers of the “Unwritten Rules” are not boring, and the Giants have a couple of the best versions: Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.  They aren’t robots when it comes to emotion, obviously.  But they save their celebrations for when something’s actually won (We know this because, well, they’ve actually won things.  Frequently.).  And they do have exuberant shows of celebration, they just do it off the field, not in front of the faces of their opponents.  Madison has even been mocked for his particular celebration.

I do think that Madison Bumgarner needs to calm down.

All this said, and as a Giants fan, Bumgarner needs to tone it down.  Not because of any allegations or what people think, because Bumgarner’s at a level in this sport where he doesn’t need to care about that.  He is, however, dangerously close to the Sherman line.  I don’t think he’s belittling his opponents, but he’s absolutely making it about them.

He hasn’t gone as far as most.  He almost never targets opponents with retaliation pitches.  One certainly can’t call him passive-aggressive, he will come at you straight up with what he thinks.  That is different than showing him up, or insulting them or going through any other means than man-to-man.

This is more about how it can affect everybody on the field, his team and opponents.  I like fire.  Jake Peavy has fire, but he’s kept it controlled.  Right now the only thing that separates Bumgarner from Hunter Strickland’s postseason explosion is that Bumgarner has earned respect by doing it on the field.

The way to have a good discourse about race in baseball is start with the goal of the discussion: Bringing everyone together.

And what I mean about that is not by passively aggressively accusing anyone of being racist, or doing racist things.  And not hiding being insensitive specific actions by bringing up wide-ranging institutional failures to excuse yourself or distract from your actions.

I’m saying a lot of strong things here.  I know not everyone will agree with me.  But I’m not going to back down from what I’ve said, and I will listen to whatever others say.  It’s the only way all of us, and baseball itself, will progress to a better place.

Bill Baer needs to go away.

Seriously.  There’s spongy stuff sitting at the bottom of a chicken coop that’s getting very offended by being compared to Bill Baer.

So…that’s my thoughts.  We don’t have comments turned on with the comic because, honestly, it became a spambot garden, and I haven’t found the right tools to make it worth opening back up.  But I encourage you to tweet your opinions and responses to me @sflunaticfringe or on our Facebook page.  I won’t block anyone just because they disagree, I’ll try to respond as I can to those who want it, but I might not be able to do it with all.  But I do hope good, constructive talk happens.  That’s what we need, passive-aggressive crap some journalists seem to think is good.