After Saturday night, I now know what it is with Bud Selig; I finally got it. Bud Selig was a used car salesman and used car salesmen don’t do negative.
They don’t entertain dark thoughts about their products and never speak in such terms. Even a beat whip hitting on four instead of six with scads of rust just beneath the paint job and Bondo can be sold to the right person – and the used car salesman’ language must reflect as much. So, Bud Selig can’t do negative.
And that’s why he can’t do Barry Bonds.
Bud is watching a guy who, last night, just tied Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record. Bud sat there in a box in San Diego and watched “Mr. Bonds” tie — Hank.
See, Hank is the Range Rover somebody in deep debt drove on to his lot one day. That Range was a beat looking, dirty, Bang & Olufsen system not working, dubs scratched, Pirellis on swole with no tread, beat looking.
When the Range came in, Bud thought its owner was on his way to get it cleaned and was stopping in to get his son something cheaper. He just knew the Range wasn’t meant for his cat lot. When the owner got out and said to bud, give me $4500 and it’s yours,” Selig almost peed himself.
But he did what all good salesmen do: he tried to “play negative.” He tried to do the, awww shucks, I don’t know, it doesn’t look too good what’s up with those tires is that scratch the remnant from an accident do I have to replace the calipers is the chassis rusted negative talk.
Inside, though, Bud was about to burst. He walked around the car just once. He knew he had what would be the biggest sell he would ever have.
Bud was right. Bud’s Range Rover in the Negro Leagues rough was Hank Aaron.
Hammerin’ Hank was that guy who referred to himself in 3rd person as much as Rickey Henderson, the guy known as surly to the press to the point where he sometimes cursed them, the guy who admitted he sometimes took amphetamines before they were outlawed in clubhouses but after they were illegal without a prescription.
Hammerin’ Hank was the guy who, when he received all that hate mail, realized he was breaking a record that would allow him to live forever as the guy who withstood all manners of racial epithets to break the most hallowed record in all of baseball and at the time, in all of sports.
He knew he was famous forever, so he suddenly softened his stance, reworked his image, and became – lovable.
Lovable until someone was about to break that record he set and steal his thunder, and relegate him to an afterthought, that is.
Thankfully for Hammerin’ Hank his owner Bud Selig just happened to have elevated himself from the dark days of one lot dealer of the Milwaukee Brewers to “previously owned” franchise head of Major League Baseball.
Thankfully for Hammerin Hank Bud was and is there to keep hope alive in the name of that now-vintage washed and waxed, new Pirellis, runnin’ on all cylinders Range Rover named Henry Aaron. Henry loves Hank. And Hank loves Henry. Hell, Hank loves Bud as much as he does his wife. See, Henry’s wife can’t keep “Hammerin'” in the limelight, but Bud can, Hank’s wife can’t continue to make him money and keep him relevant – but Bud can.
See, all Bud has to do is turn to his pet bulldogs in the press to do the work for him. You take younger men who know Hank Aaron as a baseball card and not as a human and allow them to speak for you and Hammerin’. They know a little bit about this guy who is about to break the bank, I mean break the record once held by Hank. they know enough about him that he’s probably cursed most of them when he asked them to leave him alone one day after a game and they snidely responded by continuing to pepper him with questions instead.
They can’t talk to a baseball card and they’re mad as hell that they can’t get under the skin of the man who cursed them. So, what do these pressmen do?
They act like actresses, that’s what they do. They ask, how am I supposed to feel as if they’re torturedly trying to find their motivation to play a part in a one-act play no one will ever remember.
Today, after the man they hate so has tied Hammerin’s record, they try their damndest to bring down the heavens on the man who tied Hammerin’.
They say The Man comes off as a miserable guy, as if “miserable guy” is some sort of excuse to exude hate. Then a book completely dismissed in literary circles as a work of fiction is conjured by the pressmen as some sort of biblical account of a prophet’s lost years in Egypt. The book is so shady they feel the need to prop up the fictionalized account of The Man’s baseball existence with the lie that The Man never brought a suit against the disciples of Bud and Hammerin’ who wrote the steroids equivalent of the New Testament.
And just for good measure they throw in other sundry falsehoods like “size of The Man’s body, size of The Man’s head. Finally one of the more chipmunk, scared of his own shadow, let alone a game full of them, types squeals about how the justice system is failing in The Man’s case. Wait, but it worked in the Duke Lacrosse players’ case. But it failed us in the O.J. Simpson case. But it worked in ….
Well, you get the drift.
(By the way, just how do write a column saying you attended an NCAA Final Four men’s basketball game, talked with former players, and quote them in your column, when you weren’t there at all? How do you do that and not get fired from your job and not be castigated by your peers and blacklisted from all sports media outlets thereafter? Are you sure your name isn’t Derren Brown?)
So, I see now how it all works.
I see how the pressmen count opinion as fact and create tales repeated so often they become replacements for truth because all they can do is press their faces against windows to glass doors of edifices – sports – they can never enter.
These same pressmen assail Bud the used car salesman not realizing that used car salesmen are shrewder than they ever could be. The used car guy will take the heat of nay-saying voices and denigrating comments – as long as he can sell you that beater in the corner of the lot.
Bud knows the game and the pressmen don’t, so they become confused and do not know how to react when The Man is about to break replace Hammerin’; so, like the Hollywood wishing schoolgirls they mimic, they become wanna-be actresses. They try so hard they, in the end defend the guy who would sell them the beater that is guaranteed break down 150 miles down the road.
And Bud has played the pressmen-actresses to the point where they will defend him when he utters the unconscionable:
“Congratulations to Barry Bonds as he ties Major League’s Baseball’s home run record. No matter what anyone thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds’ achievement is noteworthy and remarkable.
“As I said previously, out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty, either I or a representative of my office will attend the next few games and make every attempt to observe the breaking of the all-time home run record.”
Bud Selig, like any good previously-owned car guy who runs the whole franchise, let’s the heat and the words roll off his back like water off a duck. In exchange, he says what he wants and does what he wants.
Oh, and by the way, Bud sold that Range Rover so lovingly nicknamed “Hammerin’ Hank” to the entire sporting world and he’s laughin’ all the way to the bank.
D. K. Wilson is one of the editors of the excellent website on sports, race and politics, The Starting Five.