a bronx cheer from the grandstand
There seems to have been a good deal of excitement stirred recently by the Sandy Koufax awards, administered by Wampum. Named for the Hall-of Fame left hander, these honor left-identified blogs and bloggers. There has been a great rush of nominations and buzz. Ralph Luker last week posted a solicitation for nominations for some of the Cliopatriarchs. I have now discovered that Eric Muller’s and my blog critiques of Michelle Malkin on www.volokh.com and on www.isthatlegal.org have been nominated in the category of Best Series. With due respect to my worthy colleagues (especially to Eric Muller, who richly deserves every prize he receives) and sincere gratitude to the people who nominated me, I wish to withdraw my name from consideration for the award out of protest at its association, however humorously intended, with Sandy Koufax.
It will be recalled that in February 2003 Koufax cut all his ties with the Los Angeles Dodgers after 48 years, because The New York Post, which at the time had the same parent company as the Dodgers, ran a blind gossip item accusing a Hall of Fame pitcher of hiding his being Gay. One sympathizes with Koufax’s disgust at the Post, and to being outed (whether truthfully or falsely). However, as King Kaufman noted in a thoughtful piece in the February 24, 2003 salon.com, Koufax's reaction to an item which had come and gone without arousing significant attention or comment was so extreme as to send a clear message that being thought Gay was shameful and outrageous. Jim Buzinski stated in an article in the same day’s installment of outsports.com, you would have thought from Koufax’s reaction that the Post had accused him of giving weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein. These are serious issues in a society where there are neither federal laws nor laws in most states permitting Gays and Lesbians victimized by housing or employment discrimination to sue for compensation, but where being taken for being gay is arguably still grounds for damages--according to one source, actor Tom Cruise won a $10 million default judgment for defamation against Chad Slater, who had claimed that Cruise was Gay. Just as I was disappointed with my namesake, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, when he publicly made homophobic jokes in 1983, I prefer to disassociate myself from Koufax. I do not know or particularly care about the nature of Koufax’s private life, but since he did not see fit to explain his action, I will take it for what it still appears to me, an expression of anti-Gay loathing (or perhaps self-loathing).
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Richard Henry Morgan - 12/23/2004
Interestingly, Cruise won his default judgement precisely, as the word suggests, because Slater did not contest it. Had he contested it, Cruise would have had to demonstrate real damages. That would have been near impossible (remember paula Jones?).
Recent studies of defamation cases show that even plaintiffs that lose are glad they sued, simply because they found a forum to contest the claims made about them -- that even in losing they found the opportunity to make their case in a public forum and in a manner denied them by the same media that participated in the alleged defamation. It has been suggested that there be legal forums for contesting the truth without having to document damages.
Seems to me entirely plausible that Cruise and Koufax were motivated by anti-gay bias. It also seems to me a remote possibility that Koufax is simply intensely private, and Cruise was just protecting his economic ability to play leading man roles. In any case, there isn't much heroism to be seen here -- and one would like to see public figures step up to that role, though one arguably can't demand heroism. The actions of Piazza and Gere were particularly non-heroic and, like others, may have just reinforced anti-gay bias. I'm looking forward to the day when some high-profile person, in similar circumstances, simply tells people to mind their own business.
Jonathan Dresner - 12/23/2004
That he would play on the Sabbath but not on Yom Kippur does give you a pretty good range where Koufax fell on the Jewish spectrum, and it's the same range where acceptance of homosexuality is rising. Now, anyway. Homosexuality was as taboo and homosexuals as invisible in Jewish communities as it was in the wider culture; there's really not much difference there to speak of.
I would see it as more of a generational than religious thing: Koufax, like Robinson, came of age in a culture where homophobia was a component of manhood, and worked in a field where manhood was a component of, well, income. (There's an untapped market: gay sports fans. They exist, of course, but so far have lacked players in the major sports [except women's tennis, I guess] they could call their own during active play. In the age of niche marketing, this is an inexcusable oversight on some agents' part) I'm not justifying it, only trying to understand it, make sense of it.
Of course, holding up sports figures as moral paragons outside of basic sportsmanlike conduct is pretty dangerous territory, in my opinion, particularly as social mores shift. There are many who are really decent people, but finding ones who are perfect.... well, Diogenes is still looking.
Greg James Robinson - 12/22/2004
I understand your points too. It is not clear what difference it would make if Koufax's views were the result of religious principle, any more than religious principle legitimates white supremacists who claim scriptural support for their views.
In any case, it is easy to take an oversimplified view. I do not doubt the sincerity of Koufax's reigious identification. However, I would not call him a fundamentalist or advocate of "tradition Judaism", however one chooses to define it. While with the Dodgers he seems to have travelled or worked on the sabbath, to have uncovered his head and to have worn clothes of different fabrics, all of which are forbidden by Jewish law. While I do not know Koufax, I would suspect that his attitudes towards homosexuality are influenced by the larger American community in which he grew up than by distinctively Jewish religious teachings or dogma.
You are correct about Chad Slater's accusations about having slept with Cruise. However, it was clear that that allegation was made to demonstrate that Slater had reason to know about Cruise's alleged homosexuality. Likewise, Cruise sued on the grounds of defamation and damage for being called Gay, not simply (or cnot soubt particularly) for being accused of sleeping with Slater. The gravamen of Cruise's position was that it would harm him professionally to be thought of as Gay.
Richard Henry Morgan - 12/22/2004
Koufax takes his Judaism a little more seriously than some -- he refused to pitch in the first game of the 1965 World Series as it fell on Yom Kippur -- he fasted instead. Traditionally Judaism, if I remember correctly, turns a jaundiced eye on homosexuality.
Chad Slater (a porn star) didn't just accuse Cruise of being homosexual, he said he had had a continuing homosexual relationship with Cruise that led to the breakup of Cruise's marriage with Nicole Kidman.
Still, I understand your points.