“A Nation Of Assholes” Epilogue, Baseball Edition

To be fair, Donald Trump supporters and Trump himself are not the only ones who would transform the United States into a rude, boorish snakepit of jerks and narcissists.

There is Bryce Harper, for example, shown above in his minor league days blowing a kiss to a pitcher after a home run.  In a much discussed interview with ESPN, Harper decried the “unwritten rules” of Major League Baseball, which, among other things, disapprove of showboating, trash-talking, styling, and showing up  opposing players. Naturally, many sportswriters, whose IQ and ethical standards hover perilously close to those of the juvenile, none-too-swift Harper, are flocking to his side.

“It’s a tired sport because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do,” Harper said in the interview. “I’m not saying baseball is . . . boring . . . but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig — there’s so many guys now who are so much fun.”

Nobody’s against fun, of course, and there have been many players past and present whose unique flair was justly celebrated. Harper, not being a rhetoric master, probably mixed up the harmless with the toxic in his list unintentionally, but there’s no excuse for Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Tom Boswell, other than the fact that intellectual dishonesty is his career calling card.

“From Willie Mays basket catches to Pete Rose sprinting to first on a walk to Dennis Eckersley fanning his finger-pistol at hitters he had struck out, baseball needs all the authentic extroverted individuality it can get, ” writes Boswell in his piece about Harper in the Washington Post. Ah yes, the device of the deceptive metaphor. Willie Mays used the basket catch because that’s the way he caught baseballs. Pete Rose ran to first on walks because he hustled.

The pistol routine Eckersley used (occasionally)? He was being a jerk. Continue reading

Ugly Consequentialism: The Daily Beast Backs Perez Hilton

I am developing a real dislike for the Daily Beast. Tina Brown’s slick news aggregating website has gone out of its way to slander innocent dog breeds, features self-promoting hypocrites like John Avlon, and generally displays the ethical instincts of Piers Morgan, which is to say, none. Today it gave us an update on Serene Branson, who was mocked by blogger Perez Hilton and others for having an obvious, and frightening, on-air neurological event that caused her to be unable to speak coherently. Entitled “Line-Flubbing Grammys Reporter Fine”—trivializing as “line-flubbing” what was clearly nothing of the sort; people don’t get checked out by physicians for flubbing lines—the Daily Beast’s commentary noted that paramedic could find nothing wrong, so “Laugh away.”

This is the ugly face of consequentialism, judging the ethical nature of conduct based on what happens afterwards. Perez Hilton’s cruel amusement at a reporter finding that she cannot form intelligible speech is now retroactively fine and dandy, because Branson hasn’t—so far—keeled over or gone blind. So laugh, jerks, laugh…until she does keel over, tomorrow, or next week, or next month, in which case the ridicule becomes unacceptible to The Daily Beast.

Another human being who is panic-stricken as her body turns on her is not funny, and it is a sign of callousness and a deficit of compassion to laugh at the sight of it, whether or not the apparent catastrophe turns out to be minor after all. But the Daily Beast is proving that it is a playpen, occupied by reporters, columnists and editors with the ethical sophistication of gradeschoolers.

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UPDATE 2/15/11 (From AOL News):

“Despite Branson’s insistence that she’s fine, doctors who have examined the now heavily circulated footage of the incident continue to express concerns.

“This is what we call a class neurological event,” Dr. Keith Black, director of the Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told NBC’s ‘Today’ show. “She was obviously aware that she was having difficulty.”

According to Black, Branson’s episode was likely the result of a transient ischemic attack, essentially a “blockage in blood flow going to the brain,” or a “mini-seizure located in the language area.”

The New York Post also spoke to doctors who viewed the tape, and they said that Branson’s garbled speech could have resulted from “aphasia, which affects the ability to articulate, and that it could have been brought on by a mini-stroke, a tumor or a circulatory issue.”

Ethics Dunce: Blogger Perez Hilton

There is snarky, and there is vicious and cruel. Perez Hilton, the over-the-top celebrity blogger who always amasses enough points to be in the running for Media Creep of the Year, hit rock bottom over the weekend, showing a level of humanity, empathy and caring we identify with the people who ridicule  ALS sufferers and terminal cancer patients, and who find watching heart attacks and strokes amusing.

“MUST WATCH!!!” “Grammy Reporter Fail!” wrote Hilton, about a frightening video showing CBS reporter Serene Branson suddenly finding herself unable to speak coherently on the air as she reported on the Grammys, and obviously experiencing some kind of neurological episode that was a lot more serious than being “tongue-tied.”

“Someone call an exorcist!” joked the blogger, who called Branson’s cisis “HIGHlarious.”

[This post originally included the video footage, but CBS has pulled it.] Branson gets a few words out, then you can see the fear and panic that starts to come into the young woman’s expression as she realizes that her thoughts are no longer being formed into words. She utters a stream of jibberish  very reminiscent of the sounds made by the swimmer at the beginning of “Jaws” who is being attacked by a Great White shark, and then the station cuts her off. If watching another human being in peril and terror is “HIGHlarious” to you, “Ethics Dunce” is an understatement.

Hilton quickly pulled his first post on the incident when it began drawing fire, and so far, doctors haven’t been able to determine what caused the incident…so Hilton obviously thinks he’s in the clear.

He’s not. Even if we never know what happened to Branson, she was frightened and something bad was obviously happening to her. I’m sure she’s still terrified, and should be: my law school room mate, last year, had a mysterious episode that seemed like a stroke, but the doctors found nothing, and sent him home. Two days later, he dropped dead.

Yuk it up, Perez.

Jerk.