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Soup of This Day #280: It’s Not Easy Being Green

January 1, 2013

Buddy Rich
The late drummer Buddy Rich, who beat The Muppet’s Animal in a drum battle, had such a short temper that he once belligerently threatened to fire trombonist Dave Panichi for sporting a beard – Photo: Paul Spürk, 1975. Paul Spürk is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

There’s a story around a conversation that the great jazz drummer Buddy Rich had with a nurse in his last days. It’s probably apocryphal but I’d like to believe there is a beat of truth in the nurse asking if anything was making Rich uncomfortable, and in his quickfire reply:

‘Yeah, country and western music.’

As funny as that seems to me, I’m not against country music. When it’s good it really is something – The Jayhawks, Wilco, Johnny Cash, Kinky Friedman, Willie Nelson – All of them brilliant and either out-and-out country or heavily tinged by it.

When country music is bad, it’s no more @#$% than the latest pop tunes can be. I’m thinking here of One Direction – Mostly because the little I’ve heard is pretty awful and later in this post I’m referencing a roundabout. Roundabouts generally have many directions and thus are really quite useful. A roundabout with only 1 direction is just going to @#$% everybody off no end.

This post though isn’t mainly about going around traffic control measures – Instead the theme is about going around being made to feel uncomfortable.

Like Torii Hunter.

Torii is a 37 year old Major League Baseball (MLB) slugger and right fielder who recently signed on with the Detroit Tigers after 4 years out west with the Angels. Despite his age he got a decent deal – 2 years for $26m – that is perhaps reflective of his 4 All-Star gongs, 9 Golden Gloves and 1 Silver Slugger award.

The man can play baseball.

Yet there is something about the game that sits uneasy with him. The man has some deep-seated concerns:

‘For me, as a Christian… I will be uncomfortable because in all my teachings and all my learning, biblically, it’s not right. It will be difficult and uncomfortable.’

If a team-mate came out and professed to being gay.

Yep, if 1 of Torii’s clubhouse hombres turned out to be batting for the other team, metaphorically speaking, then he’d be uncomfortable. Presumably more so than if they turned out to be batting for the other team literally – At least then they’d no longer be in the same clubhouse making Torii uncomfortable.

To be fair to Torii, there is nothing wrong with it being uncomfortable and difficult to have gay colleagues – Just so long as that is Torii’s problem – His thing to sort out. He’s indicated that he’s been open to teachings and learning so maybe that whole not feeling right stuff will add to what he’s got from the Bible.

I reckon Buddy Rich, a self-taught thumper of skins, could have learned something from country music too. Maybe that’s what he was uncomfortable about – That he had a short time to live yet couldn’t make it through 1 last Johnny Cash album.

Torii did try to explain via some follow-up comments which I’ll reproduce here:

‘I’m very disappointed in Kevin Baxter’s article in which my quotes and feelings have been misrepresented. He took two completely separate quotes and made them into one quote that does not express how I feel as a Christian or a human being . I have love and respect for all human beings regardless of race, color or sexual orientation. I am not perfect and try hard to live the best life I can and treat all people with respect. If you know me you know that I am not anti anything and to be portrayed as anti-gay in this article is hurtful and just not true.’

Ok. I’m not going to take a swing at that. I figured instead that I’d segue to a story about a roundabout, as promised above.

The roundabout in question is in the Pakistani city of Lahore, in particular in the Shadman area of that metropolis. The roundabout has been known as Fawara Chowk but recently the local government decided to name it after Bhagat Singh, a freedom fighter who was hanged in that very square by the British nigh on 80 years ago. Singh was a radical revolutionary who took an active role in opposing British colonialism and striving for the freedom of his country.

Which technically was India, where Bhagat Singh, a Sikh, is a revered icon.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country that really does not get along with India. And it’s mutually-assured-destruction-type not getting along to boot, fuelled by grievances real and imagined, and now possibly a roundabout.

Which is a shame because roundabouts are wonderful things. They are generally safer than traffic lights – This is because they force traffic to slow down and if collisions do occur they do so at an angle. Cars that strike each other in this way do less damage to each other than in a perpendicular, or t-bone, type of impact.

Yep, roundabouts force you to tackle things obliquely, to take a compromise tack, and to do it slowly and with consideration. Plus you can whack a garden in the middle or maybe even some wetlands, which always looks nice and is great for the wildlife.

In spite of this inherent contemplative nature, this roundabout is now at the centre of controversy over the renaming and it doesn’t matter which direction the authorities drive in because somebody will be unhappy regardless. They don’t have to be – Pakistani historian Saif-ur-Rehmann Dar has a phlegmatic take on how people should look at the situation:

‘History is continuity, individuals can accept or reject it on their personal liking and disliking – but it cannot be disowned.’

It’s a little bit like that for Torii Hunter – It’s almost a lock that he has already played with gay team-mates. He has been in the majors for over 25 years, sharing locker-rooms with 100s, if not 1000s of colleagues. If you’ve had LGBT people in the military throughout ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (DADT) then it’s a safe bet that you’ve got gay players in the much tamer environment of a ball club.

Let’s call that statistical inevitability history then. Torii can accept or reject that to his own personal taste. He can pretend that he’s not had gay people in close proximity to him or he can accept that it has happened and that it has made no difference in his life.

What he can’t do is disown gay colleagues simply because of their sexual orientation. A world where we do that can only head in 1 direction – A sort of compassion-less purgatory on Earth, and not just for the LGBT folk that are leading to a difficult baseball career for Torii. Surely that kind of scenario will be uncomfortable for all of us.

Let me finish up with a nod for an organisation that seeks to make sure that nobody gets to be made to feel uncomfortable in the sporting arena – The You Can Play Project.

This North American based group, originally driven to ensure that LGBT players were not exposed to homophobia in ice hockey, now advocates and educates that for all sports:

Locker rooms should be safe and sports venues should be free from homophobia. Athletes should be judged on talent, heart and work ethic, not sexual orientation.

Their message is a simple 1 and it turns out that in some respects it’s no roundabout after all Torii – It’s a pretty straight-forward (bad pun intended) road to go down:

If you can play, you can play.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

  1. I heard Animal wanted a rematch but Buddy chickened out. I would have preferred a best-of-seven to settle it once and for all. My money would have been on Animal.

    • Animal could’ve taken him – Just not sure it would have been above board – There’s something wild about Animal…

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