September 2, 2006

Making The Effort

Reader "dpanusky" sent me this article, written by Terry Nau of the Pawtucket Times. I should have posted it awhile ago, but forgot. Sorry.

Headlined "Baseball Writers Should Meet Manny Halfway", it discusses language and the relationship between Ramirez (who Nau says is "probably the least understood superstar in Boston sports history") and the Boston media. It also tells us a little about Roberto Clemente:
As author David Maraniss notes in his fine biography "Clemente," former Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente endured insensitive treatment by baseball writers throughout his career. Writers often quoted his halting English phonetically, stretching out his vowels, having him saying "Theee-se theeengs bother me" in the newspapers.

Clemente was a proud, sensitive and intelligent man. As Maraniss observes, he was also a bit of a hypochondriac. He had almost been killed in an auto accident back home in Puerto Rico in the early 1950s and suffered from chiropractic issues the rest of his life. The Pittsburgh media, and eventually the national media, never knew about the accident. They just assumed he was "jaking it" whenever he took a day off.

In response, Clemente would express reluctance over talking to the media. He had taken the time to learn how to speak English. Still, the writers made fun of him in print. Clemente did not appreciate that lack of sincerity and when the opportunity arose, he would shout down an offending scribe over an innocuous question, just to make his point.
Nau asks a simple question:
How difficult might it be for a baseball writer to take a course in Spanish and develop a small vocabulary in the language, the same way so many Latin ballplayers have done with English?
Having traveled in different parts of the world, it's obvious that making a sincere effort to speak the local language (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.), however poorly and haltingly, helps immeasurably in getting information and advice. It's a simple show of respect. (I will admit, though, it's usually Laura doing the speaking.)

Is the media the equivalent of the boorish American tourist who thinks he'll be understood if he just talks louder in English?

34 comments:

L-girl said...

Writers often quoted his halting English phonetically, stretching out his vowels, having him saying "Theee-se theeengs bother me" in the newspapers.

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

When Asian players first came into MLB, many announcers giggled at their "funny-sounding" names and pronounced them with exaggerated caution. They acted as if they had never heard non-Anglo names! (Although I never heard them giggle over Mankiewicz or Pierzynski - both more difficult to pronounce than any Asian name.)

Anyway, this seemed bad enough to me. I can't imagine writers actually making fun of players' English skills in print - and editors allowing it.

Someone is bound to criticize this as "politically correct". I call it basic courtesy.

L-girl said...

I just read the story you linked to - great stuff.

9casey said...

Who cares........Really....Just play.....Yeah they should learn spanish to work in America. That is what is wrong with this country. Liberal left wingers cow towning to latin and spanish speaking population....My ancestors were not cow towed to ....Just learn english.simple as that...Last time I checked this is still America..

Writers should learn a little spanish..PLEASE

Woti-woti said...

It's common courtesy. The real test of mediot laziness is reminding us all the time about their access to players, yet not bothering to take the time to ask a new guy how he would like his own name pronounced. Jesus.

L-girl said...

Yes, how ridiculous that someone should ever learn the first language of the person his job depends on!

Imagine that! Suggesting that anyone in America learn another language! The very thought.

That is certainly what's wrong with this country! Nothing else. Just that. People suggesting that someone learn a bit of a language other than English. If it weren't for that, the country would be in fine shape, yes indeedy. There'd be full employment, universal health insurance, all the troops would come back with all their limbs, and everyone would suddenly agree on same-sex marriage and abortion rights. If only the stupid liberals didn't "cow town" to Spanish-speakers.

Just wondering, is that Denver or Dallas? The cow town, I mean.

redsock said...

9casey, calling theo a "metrosexual" one day and now this.

damn, man, get a grip.

Last time I checked this is still America..

I hear that's exactly what they howled down South in 1865 when slavery was outlawed.

My ancestors were not cow towed to ....

So your ancestors followed the herd? They would be udderly appalled at your spelling -- which I shouldn't milk for laughs -- but I cudn't help myself.

L-girl said...

Jere: Yes, I approve of spelling/usage flames when they serve the forces of niceness. :)

9casey said...

damn, man, get a grip.

No kiddin huh!


I-girl thank you for pointing out my errors in spelling. I will work on that for you....

But do bring the war , health care, and unemployment into the conversation.

It's baseball!

The forces of niceness. I am not trying to mean . I just see it everyday.

I do not know anything about you or what you do.

But the Clemente - Ramirez angle in my mind is a little far fetched.

I love Manny as a ballplayer, when he plays, does he tank it when he thinks things don't goes his way, no doubt.

But to blame the media for not learning spanish, c'mon.

Ben said...

But to blame the media for not learning spanish, c'mon.

Why not? They're the ones who want to talk to Manny, not the other way around. I'm sure Manny would love to play ball without the media.

Berserker said...

Sorry to but in, me being new here and all, but Manny has lived here since the early 80's. He lived near the Bronx I think...

He graduated high school in the city is is fluent in English. The problem is he is functionaly illiterate. He didn't care much for school, and didn't do very well. He chose to focus on baseball instead, probably with people telling him it was a mistake.

Who cares if he is an idiot. Who cares if he can tie his own shoes. Reporters like to tear people down. The fans just want him to play ball.

Berserker said...

And I'll save you the trouble of ripping me...

Yes, I too am illiterate. No thunder for you.

redsock said...

Berserker, I'm not sure where you are. New York?

Manny went to high school in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan.

I lived in Washington Heights from 1990 to 2005.

I remember reading about Manny in a series of articles by Sara Rimer in the New York Times. This was in 1991, which I believe was his senior year. Somewhere in this blog is a picture of Manny from that series.

There were a few follow-up stories when he was drafted by Cleveland and a few more regarding his time in the minors.

I have no idea if Manny can or cannot read, but the idea of great athletes getting a pass in school is not new.

L-girl said...

But to blame the media for not learning spanish, c'mon.

9casey: I'm not blaming the media. I'm agreeing with the writer who suggests that reporters "meet halfway" - learn a bit of Spanish, in order to increase the comfort level between Spanish-speaking people and themselves. That they make a friggin effort. As I said, their jobs depend on the players. Make an effort.

I don't find this idea even the slightest bit ridiculous. BUT the fact that YOU find it so laughable and ridiculous seems to speak volumes about you and your worldview.

"The forces of niceness" is an expression from an old TV show, Get Smart. It wasn't a comment on your relative niceness or meanness.

I brought war, employment, etc. into the discussion because YOU said: "That is what is wrong with this country. Liberal left wingers..." You say things like that, that's the response you're going to get.

Don't want to read stuff like that, don't make comments like that. I didn't bring it up out of nowhere.

L-girl said...

Manny went to George Washington High. I tutored there for a time. The vast majority of the students spoke very little English.

A student can graduate from high school in New York City, and in many cities in the US, without knowing how to speak English. Whether you like it or not, and regardless of who/what you blame this on, it's a fact.

Who cares if he is an idiot.

I haven't the slightest idea how intelligent Manny is or is not. None of us do. How would we know?

Intelligence is not correlated to speaking English. Hopefully everyone here realizes that Spanish-speaking people are not necessarily stupid. (They may be stupid, coincidentally, but not because they don't speak English!)

L-girl said...

No thunder for you.

I wasn't looking for thunder. I was disgusted by the small-minded, reactionary views being expressed, and by the misdiagnosis of the US's many illnesses.

Jack Marshall said...

Of course more reporters should learn Spanish...to do THEIR jobs. To inform the public. At his station in life, the primary person disadvantaged by Manny's English limitations is Manny...it limits his contact with people in his own country. But he has no obligation to learn to speak fluently if he's willing to endure the frustation. He doesn't have to speak at all to earn his millions...Manny's been more successful not speaking English than I have speaking it, and I speak and write for a living.

But Boston's sports reporters DO need to speak Spanish to inform Boston fans about one of the major sports personalities in the city. Obviously they'd prefer to make fun of him...it's easier.

I'm 100% with Redsock on this one.

L-girl said...

Way to go, Jack Marshall. No one can accuse you of liberal bias, just good common sense.

Berserker said...

Without getting into too much detail, I asked "who cares if he's an idiot" because that was the impression I got from him at the times I saw him. I am in upstate NY. I worked for a sports/talk radio station up here in the late 90's and early 00's.

I have seen over 400 games in that time. After each one the media would go to the clubhouse and interview key players in the game and the everyday stars.

There were 2 reoccuring patterns:
1 - The media liked to pick on Manny. I guess that is probably still true. He was/is an easy target. You could write for weeks on the crap that he came up with. He would mostly try to just smile and ignore them, but it was the same thing after each game, them peppering him with the same canned questions.

2- Nomar, Manny, and Pedro were mum after a loss. Didn't matter what you asked, they wouldn't talk to you. After a key win, or a game where they did something special though, there was absolutely no shutting them up. I go back to a couple of times in the Yankees visitors clubhouse... The Sox had just lost to an extra inning homerun, to a Mr. Boone. I think you know the one I am talking about. There was only one person talking in the whole room. Wakefield. No other player would make a coherant statement. It was the quietest I have ever heard any room after a game. The 3 above wouldn't even bother to say "no comment", or acknowledge you in any way.

Some games later, there was a big comeback against the Yankees. Pedro was unstoppable. You would have needed duck tape to keep him from talking. The first time I met Pedro he was angry because I was standing too close to his locker. He had 2 of them, and I was about 10 feet away, waiting with my questions. The other reporters told me that was just the way he was after a loss. Later he screamed at some girl in the room who was apparently listening in on a conversation he was having with Nixon.

I guess the whole point of this is that, as things often do, they spiral downward pretty fast and neither side wants to make an effort to fix them. Mannys english is just fine after he hits 2+ homeruns in a game. But suddenly he cannot formulate words after he pouts in the dugout? Please, if the stars give the press a hard time, they are going to get it in return. Pedro did the same thing, faking the whole "No habla" bs. They both can communicate if they want to. Manny however was a special case, the media returns the favor of bad treatment.

Jere said...

Sorry, I missed a day here. 9Casey: Do you remember something from your history books where they called the USA a "melting pot"? There is no official language of our country. That's the whole point, you can do whatever you want. Worship the god of your choice, speak in whatever language you want, etc.

People talk a lot about "freedom" in this country. I'm guessing you're a fan of freedom? So why is someone not "free," here in the USA, to speak a different language than YOU do?

And now that I think about it, shouldn't you learn to speak the languages of all the tribes of people that were here long before your ancestors?

L-girl said...

Bersker, no one here claimed Manny can't speak English. The point was, and remains, that the media could make an effort to learn the first language of many of the players on whom their livelihood depends.

L-girl said...

9Casey: "Last time I checked this is still America."

Jere: "There is no official language of our country."

Get it?

Woti-woti said...

Jeez, a language debate outside of Canada--who knew? Without needlessly complicating things with a Canadian comparison, let's just say that learning Spanish would be the smart thing for a US sportswriter to do. Lots of good ballplayers seem to speak it.
In other news, Cla Meredith is something like 4 innings away from a Padres record for consecutive scoreless innings. Who knew?

redsock said...

The Sox had just lost to an extra inning homerun, to a Mr. Boone. I think you know the one I am talking about. There was only one person talking in the whole room. Wakefield.

I'm amazed that they let anyone in the room after that. I guess it's MLB rules.

Gee, I wonder why none of the players wanted to chat with the press.

That's amazing about Wakefield, though, since from other stories, he was (understandably) a sobbing wreck.

Cla

Why can't we get pitchers like that?

...

Cool Fact: When he was with the Expos, Pedro learned French.

9casey said...

Wow ......Just logged on....It's like crossfire....


I can go on and on how society caters to the spanish speaking population. Push 2 for espanol and
signs in english and spanish and so on and so forth.

I have no problem with that just be fair, have it french, russian , italian, Indian , whatever.

Let's just not feel sorry for Manny because he is picked on.
Because of his nationality.

With Love,
9casey
American

9casey said...

Nationallity- sorry he is American.

Woti-woti said...

I'm not surprised Pedro learned French. Probably figured it was the smart thing to do. I'll bet les femmes around Peel and Crescent appreciated his intelligence.

L-girl said...

Cool Fact: When he was with the Expos, Pedro learned French.

Soriano and several other players also speak Japanese, from their experiences in Japan. I wonder if any of the US media has tried to learn a little basic Japanese to communicate with the Japanese players. Somehow I doubt it.

I can go on and on how society caters to the spanish speaking population.

But you don't want to make us all puke? But you don't want to make us all cringe everytime we see your name? Or you don't want to risk sounding that ignorant?

Somehow I doubt it's the latter.

L-girl said...

I'll bet les femmes around Peel and Crescent appreciated his intelligence.

Oo, I would. :-)

L-girl said...

I have no problem with that just be fair, have it french, russian , italian, Indian , whatever.

Where there's a significant population who predominantly read any of those languages, sure, why not.

In NYC, there are Chinese and Vietnamese signs all over three different Chinatowns, and Russian signs in Brighton Beach and some sections of Washington Heights, to name just a few.

When my grandfather was a boy in the early 1900s, there were signs in Yiddish on the Lower East Side. Yes, way back then.

In those days, many immigrants who had been in the US 25 or 50 years longer than those Yiddish-speaking FOBs thought society was crumbling and "catering" to immigrants who should buck up and learn English.

Yet somehow, society lasted long enough for us to hear the same bigoted arguments 100 years later.


(FOB = fresh off the boat)

Berserker said...

Redsock: wakefield was not a sobbing mess. Not sure where you get that. He was sad, I don't remember him crying in some ridiculous manner. He was in full apology mode, but was gracious and took many questions.

Yes the rules are that the media has access to the players after the game. 5 minutes after end-of-game for the winners club house, 10 minutes for the losers. Managers have to be in certain spots for post game also. Players do not have to respond though.

Many teams provide interpreters for the press. None such at Red Sox camp. That being said, no one took better care of us then Fenway. In the Bronx, with unmatched revenue, you get a box lunch(ham or tuna sandwhich, chips, fruit) and soda. In Fenway it was always lobster rolls and shrimp. Classy.

So I'll throw management under the bus for this one. Reporters cannot be expected to learn the native language of every player they report on, especially in the global game it is now. Players aren't required to learn the native language of where they are playing, although that's where the endorsement dollars come in.

The team should accomodate both sides and act as an intermediary. Then Manny can say whatever silly thing he wants and the club can make it fan friendly for him. The club should be helping out here, it would be money very well spent to get him a mouthpiece.

redsock said...

Redsock: wakefield was not a sobbing mess. Not sure where you get that. He was sad, I don't remember him crying in some ridiculous manner. He was in full apology mode, but was gracious and took many questions.

I was thinking of the locker room footage on (I think) the Still We Believe DVD. He was devastated, crying, and Nixon was talking to him.

That was probably before he came out and met the media at the interview tables that they set up.

...

A translator hired by the team would be good for arranged interviews, but could that work when writers are in the clubhouse before games chatting with random players?

L-girl said...

Reporters cannot be expected to learn the native language of every player they report on, especially in the global game it is now.

"That being said"...

You're right, of course. But with such a huge percentage of MLB players speaking Spanish, and Spanish being a relatively easy-to-learn language (compared to English or Japanese), at least to have basic facility, it would go a long way for the ones who bothered.

9casey said...

l-girl is all fired up....

I am sorry I make all of you cringe when when I post.

It's just my opinon whether you agree with it or not.

But I do apologize if I made you cringe or puke.

Wait a minute I am an ignorant bigot. It can't be true to aplogize. It's not in me.

No matter what we are all , even as we try to escape it everyday, products of where we come from and who we come from.

It's not my worldview that determines if I think Manny Ramirez, even though he is one of the best hitters I will ever see, is a lazy quitter and somehow or another if a reporter learns spanish that will change. He is what he is...That's what this arguement started with....and it turned into 32 posts of me being the idiot who is a bigot who can't spell.....

Redsock, I respect and love your writing ....Good Luck

Woti-woti said...

Hey 9casey, as long as you think of roots being like potted-plants and not big ol' oak trees, you never have to apologize for them. By the way, does cow-towning involve a lot of caterwauling?