Thursday, October 27, 2005

Latino Legends

Whenever does something nice, there's often a reason for it. A very non-philanthropic, self-interested reason for it. If a millionaire gives $10,000 to charity, people will say how nice he is. They don't realize that he might have done it just so people will say how nice he is. There's such a thing as "Corporate Image." What you or I would call "giving to charity," an executive would call "investing in the Corporate Image." Ronald McDonald House is an investment in the Corporate Image. The question is, are these charitable acts done mainly out of a feeling of charity, or as a shrewd attempt to improve the corporate image? While I can't deny that charity plays a part, I feel that most of these charitable acts are done, first and foremost, for the sake of Corporate Image. Because what's $10,000 to a man who owns 5 cars?
This was my reaction when I heard that Major League Baseball was sponsoring a "Latino Legends" team. Fans would vote, as in the All-Star Game, for their favorite Latin players in baseball history. This entire exercise is a heartless and insincere ploy for MLB to create good publicity around its racial image, which has taken quite a hit recently. I do not have any evidence for my claims, except for an astute if admittedly cynical view of the "business world." And if you think that Major League Baseball formed the Latino Legends team first and foremost because they sincerely wanted to honor these players, then I have some oceanfront property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.
Let me say, right off, that the idea of the team in and of itself seems like a fine idea. I don't think that Latin players have gotten enough recognition for their huge role in shaping the modern game, nor do I think we as fans realize (or even care to consider) the singular difficulties Latin players face in the game today. If the approach were undertaken with good motives, I think it would be a good start toward embracing MLB's growing Latin flavor.
But a good thing isn't so sweet if done for selfish reasons. Baseball has dealt with several racial crises in the past 20 years, and the treatment and attitudes toward Latinos has been one of the more recent issues. The most famous incident would be the comments of a San Francisco radio host about the "braindead" Latin hitters on the Giants. In a move straight out of a sterile conference room, MLB literally cobbled together the idea of a Latino Legends team and announced it, with voting to take place before the World Series. This was a move not borne of a sincere appreciation for thousands of baseball players, but an artifical creation borne out of someone's PowerPoint presentation amongst very rich people looking to cover their own asses.
It's not actually referred to as the Latino Legends team. It's officially the "Chevrolet Presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team." I actually tried to vote for the team earlier, but declined when they asked for my mobile phone number. Having voted for the All-Star team, I know that MLB is not above sending you a mass of official MLB e-mails informing you that the new Raul Ibanez Elbow Warmers are now on sale for $29.95. How sincere was the sentiment. It further offended me that MLB decided to sell off rights to the team. How insincere and brutally profit-seeking is that? At the risk of becoming hopelessly political, our world has become far too interested in making money and completely uninterested in doing what is right. This is nothing new for baseball. Whereas in the past it was 16 fierce, corner-cutting bigots fighting for a bigger slice of the pie, it is now 30 corner-cutting closet bigots under the umbrella of one multi-million dollar company run by Bud Selig, a man who looks like the failed attempt to clone Bill Gates.
The greatest honor we can give the great Latino players in history is to remember them, not exploit them for good publicity. Roberto Clemente died on a relief mission to his native country. Perhaps the best way to remember him is not to sell reproduction jerseys to the upper-middle class for $400, but to consider the example he set as a human being.

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