Did weekend errors serve the cause of justice?
“The Mets’ Anti-Gay Daniel Murphy Lost His Team the World Series. Good.”
That’s the headline on Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern’s hate-filled article today. From his lead paragraph: “I’m thrilled that Mets (former) fan favorite and fomenter of homophobia played a crucial role in bringing his team to an embarrassing defeat.” Later, Stern added, “Murphy’s horrifying performance, his downfall on the field, likely had nothing to do with his noxious personal prejudice. And yet, in some small way, it felt like justice.”
Stern’s punching bag: the second baseman who earlier in the playoffs hit home runs in six straight games, setting an all-time postseason record. Stern did not like the fan support Murphy received: “Even I, a fairly thick-skinned gay adult, was stunned by the celerity with which otherwise tolerant baseball fans forgave his anti-gay disparagements once he started hammering homers.”
For the record, here’s how Murphy forthrightly answered a reporter’s question early in March, when baseball’s “ambassador of inclusion,” gay ex–major leaguer Billy Bean (not the Oakland baseball executive Billy Beane), came to the New York Mets spring training camp: “I do disagree with the fact that Billy is a homosexual. That doesn’t mean I can’t still invest in him and get to know him … but I do disagree with the lifestyle, 100 percent.”
Happily for Stern, Murphy had only three hits in 20 at-bats in the World Series. No home runs. No RBIs. A late-inning, run-allowing error in each of the last two games, helping the Kansas City Royals win the best-of-seven series last night, four games to one. In its story after Saturday’s Game 4 Mets loss, The New York Times did not refer to Murphy’s criticism of homosexuality during spring training this year, after which the Mets ordered him to talk only about baseball from then on. But I wonder if that controversy played a part in the Times’ sarcastic headline: “Daniel Murphy Hit Them High and Far, but Couldn’t Reach Down Low.”
In urban slang, “down low” refers to heterosexuals who secretly engage in homosexual activity. I don’t know who at the Times generated that headline, but other mainstream media headlines played it straight: Time magazine reported, “The Mets Lose and Daniel Murphy Isn’t Mr. October Anymore.” Some internet posts were severe: Murphy “was such a butcher the last two nights, he should be trimming the fat on my next steak.”
I wonder what Stern would write if a gay player flubbed a ground ball, and conservative publications chortled about his manhood and said the error “felt like justice.” Stern could have noted that some players love to brag to reporters when they’ve done well, but character comes out most clearly when they don’t—and Murphy’s showed up well. Newsday noted, “A somber Daniel Murphy was waiting by his locker as the doors to the clubhouse swung open. … He was ready for the questions and when the cameramen had situated themselves, he took accountability. …”
Here’s some of what Murphy said about one error: “I just misplayed it. It went under my glove.” One reporter felt sorry for him and threw out a lifeline: Was the base runner crossing in front of you a distraction? Murphy did not grab the rope: “I didn’t make the play.” Another reporter threw out a second lifeline: Is that a play you make nine times out of 10? Murphy: “I didn’t make it the only time that counts.”
Good for Murphy. Not so good for fans who booed Murphy last night. Not so good for The New York Times and its sarcastic headline. Not so good for Stern and Slate. The only good news is that if Murphy’s fall represented justice served, Stern at least may be acknowledging that there is a Judge—and maybe that could be the beginning of a productive conversation.
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