“Hey! There's Mitt...right there! Next to that pole In Section 19, And look down in front! There's Jackie Gleason, and Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, and Toots Shor, and oh yeah...The Tooth Fairy, too!”
This post's not about sports per sé. But I think one of the major sporting moments of the last century is a good jumping off point for the discussion at hand—on what I will hereby dub ”Son-Of-A-Bitch-Whistle-Politics”.
THE TIME: October 3rd, 1951
THE PLACE: The Polo Grounds, New York 155th Street and 8th Avenue
THE EVENT: The final game of a 3-game playoff to determine baseball's National League champion between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants.
What would happen that day is simply one of baseball's supremely legendary moments, for it was on that fall afternoon in Harlem when The New York Giants Bobby Thomson ripped a sinking line drive over the tall fence in left field for a walk-off, two-run homer, giving the Giants an incredible come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the crosstown rival Brooklyn Dodgers, and thus capping off an astounding stretch run at the season's close. How astounding was it? The Giants overcame a 13 1/2-game August lead (!) to overtake said Dodgers for the National League crown and go on to the World Series.
Thomson's homer was forevermore dubbed “The Shot Heard 'Round The World”, and by God, it seemed according to the attendees at hand who would speak on it later to have had just about that level of significance.
Big event, big time. It was spectacularly chronicled in the bravura opening of Don DeLilllo's 1993 classic “Underworld”. Frank Sinatra, a stomach-sickened Jackie Gleason, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, and noted barkeep and friend to the connected, Toots Shor are seated in Section 19 just behind the Giants dugout as what seems like all of New York has turned out for the historic game. Leaping from the pages is the garrulous “Great One”, wolfing hot dogs and cup after cup of ballyard suds, a plotzed-from-the-night-before-and-bemused Shor, a prickly, but game Ol' Blue Eyes, and a fussy, fish-out-of-water Hoover, along with a seeming nobody—the teenage local Cotter Martin, who ditched school and turnstile-jumped to gain entry into the rumbling stadium, who by fate's decree manages to nab the prized home-run ball amidst the crazed scrum in left field.
DeLillo's breathless recap/re-telling/re-imagining of the events of the day through the fictional Martin's eyes and the eyes of the four giants he placed there in Section 19 is one of literature's modern marvels. And as he (DeLillo) is famously protective of his words, I cannot run an excerpt here. Get thee to a library or a friend's house where the book lay and read that rollercoaster chapter.
Read it and you will feel as if You. Are. There. Standing at the bustling, head-spinning intersection of real-life and amazing fiction. You would think from DeLillo's pulse-pounding prose about that afternoon at the old four-based horseshoe nestled there at the foot of the 115-foot high Coogan's Bluff uptown that every single one of the 56,000 seats were filled.
But that was not the case that day.
The Polo Grounds held at capacity close to 56,000 people.
Only 34,000 people are documented as having actually attended the game on October 3rd.
The reasons for the light attendance in spite of the game's import are numerous. The Giants were the number three team in town behind the Yankees and the Dodgers and thus, the fan base was a bit smallish. What's more, Brooklynites weren't all that keen on being caught so far away from home to see their beloved Dodgers (as New York baseball was quite territorial) uptown, so their numbers didn't swell the park either. The series also occurred in the midst of an incredible five-title run by the mid-century Yankee dynasty, so in addition to the other detriments, the city's National League attendance was somewhat depressed.
Again, a mere 34,000 people showed up in a 56,000 seat house.
The joke in town though is that if you took the word of every person who pontificates on that day's amazing events, not only would every seat at the Polo Grounds have to have been been filled, but you'd have had scores of thousands more peering down from craggy Coogan's Bluff and from the shoulder of the Harlem River Drive with binoculars and such.
Run an ad in the New York Times asking for remembrances of that day, and damned if you wouldn't get a hundred-and-fifty thousand people responding with tales of old Uncle Ned, their dad Mort, Mom, big brother, a fiancé or a random childhood pal's having warmed a wooden seat that chilly October afternoon while witnessing Thomson's mighty swat.
Everyone wants to have “been there” when history goes down...but in reality, very few actually ever are.
And that grasping “everyone” includes one Willard “Mitt” Romney and the totally self-inflcited recent “scandal” involving his claims of his father, the former Michigan Governor George Romney's having “marched alongside” Martin Luther King as he watched.
Romney, to his eternal, lacquer-headed fucking stupidity trotted that lame-ass line around for months, making the dopey claim as some sort of “Hey! Brother!—we weren't down with all that anti-colored people horse-hockey!” cover for his Mormon faith's up-until-1978 White supremacist teachings.
Mitt's double fuck-up is that he was too bold the bullshit artist to ever try to nuance the claim, yammering about his father's marching with Dr. King, apparently as a tow-headed version of himself looked on proudly—through glistening, equality-welled eyes at his dad's blazing, sole-scuffing courage, or some such mealy-mouthed bullshit. When reporters checked the historical record and started calling Romney the Lesser on it, he then fudged on having actually seen his big, brave, Atticus Finch of a daddy march, and now it turns out that Romney the senior may not have ever been at a fucking march with Dr. King. in the first place.
The historical record on Papa Romney's participation is pretty clear. In spite of Mitt's claim, and several hagiographical, half-assed, real-time reports (unsurprisingly, “The Village Idiot” David Broder is responsible for one of them), Papa's “presence” can't be verified. A spate of 21st century digging has unearthed fairly conclusive documentary evidence that he wasn't at any march with Dr. King—in spite of a couple of hazy, last-minute “eyewitness” reports being trotted about as tepid corroboration.
The record on Mitt's having been present to see his father Rockette-kicking alongside King and Abernathy and Rustin is even more clear-cut. He lied through his Chiclet™-perfect teeth.
“You know, I speak in the sense of I saw my dad become president of American Motors. I wasn’t actually there when he became president of American Motors, but I saw him in the figurative sense of he marched with Martin Luther King. My brother also remembers him marching with Martin Luther King and so in that sense I saw him march with Martin Luther King.”
He added, “You know, I’m an English literature major as well. When we say, ‘I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there — excuse me, the Super Bowl. I saw my dad become president of American Motors. Did that mean you were there for the ceremony? No, it’s a figure of speech.“
So, Mitt lied. Imagine that—a politician shading the truth so hard it leaves a razor-sharp tan line on his ass during the campaign season. And by the by, cats can't drive for shit. Tell us something we don't know.
Well, okay. Allow me to lay something out—something very clear and very simple for probably way too many of you. A something you should understand about...the laughable superficiality of this discussion of race by Romney:
For Black folks, when a White politico on the racial defensive throws the “I marched with Martin Luther King” line out there, it scans as exactly what the fuck it appears to be—namely, damage-control shorthand for “I've got problems with Black people or have allied myself with folks who have problems with Black people, and I'm trying to shut you up about what I'm doing now by citing something I may have done back in the day.”
Let me also put on my Al Sharpton conk-wig for a moment and speak for what I think is the majority of Black folks as I let you in on another little secret:
We laugh up our Goddamned sleeves when that shit gets trotted out. Laugh, laugh, laugh like we're front row at a Richard Pryor concert circa 1974 while getting our ribs tickled with feathers. Because it's used as a a crude “shut-you-up”, a silencer—as opposed to a door-opener to a discussion of America's nagging, debilitating fever that is racism. The hasty, verbal magic bullet of the claim is designed to supply an inoculation against one's present-day ties to groups or policies that are patently bigoted. On the surface, it should almost work. It's very easy to claim that you or someone you knew once walked arm-in-arm with a forty-years-dead historical icon who's no longer here to corroborate said person's attendance. The trouble is that said dead historical icon in spite of the best efforts of historical revisionism was actually reviled by a huge swath of White folk in this country up until the day he died, and his death was openly celebrated by that same huge swath with more than a few highballs and frosty-cold Ballantines being gleefully tipped back.
You need only look at the clowns who try to run that bullshit to understand why the claim is never taken seriously by those who it's directed towards.
Take one look at the crazyfuck, and increasingly retrograde Charlton Heston you know and cringe at today. He just loves to throw his “Hey, I walked with Dr. King, so get off of my back” bona-fides from back in the day out there. But he only very noticeably began to negro name-drop “big time” as soon as he started being questioned and then summarily ridiculed for his proudly standing shoulder-to-sunburned-shoulder with the über-batshit bigwigs of the National Rifle Association's hierarchy. It's crystal-clear where his allegiances lie these days, and it damn sure ain't in the interests of the people who his extremist gun-nut pals routinely find themselves on the wrong side of. And mind you—pics exist of Chuck's ass actually at King marches. He was there. By God, he was really there, but guess what? His latter-day dumbfuckery trashes whatever “legacy” he may have had in that respect.
His compatriot in CYA / Dr.King spooning is the disgusting, sanctimonious creep of a Senator from “The Nutmeg State”—one Joseph I. (“I” as in, “Is it any wonder this droopy gonad-faced worm has abandoned any pretense of progressivism?”) Lieberman. When pressed on his increasing coziness with melanin-hating wingnuts, he too goes to the “I marched with Dr. King” mattresses.
But of course, a mattress gone to by Ol' Lyin'-Ass Joe is going to have that certain smell to it, isn't it? Shit...right down to its rusty non-supportive coils.
Folks who are hip, and really, that's anybody with more than half-a-Goddamned-cerebrum—are sophisticated enough to grasp the reality of these cipherous charlatans claims. It's a dodge, pure and simple—and a patronizing dodge at that. It's reminiscent of another classic dodge in Blackfolkland. Go to a school or church talent show and oft-times you'll see at least one lousy singer screeching and over-melisma-ing a popular song to beat the tone-deaf band. But said singer never wants to be booed off the stage by a displeased crowd, so to inoculate themselves against vocal criticism, the performer will invariably name-check Jesus with an ad-libbed whoop or a holler somewhere near the end of the song. This generally gets a mild applause and semi-effectively “Teflons” the song-mangler from the audience. You see, no one wants to come off as the person who razzed the singer who name-checked Jesus. In those small, slice-of-life cases the dodge can work.
But in the grander scheme of things where we're electing people to high office, said scam just comes off as cowardly and laughable. And not just to Black folks, either. It's such an outdated pander that the only people it “works” on are those already in that politician's camp, allowing them a “See, he respects darkies!” moment of bullshit zen before rushing back to the fundraiser where copies of “The Bell Curve” book-on-tape are stuffed in the out-the-door goodie bags.
And ironically enough—and almost sadly too, for Mitt Romney, his having been caught like a big fat spider in his own sticky web of lies on this issue is actually the secondary trouble for him. You see, even if the statements about the King marches had been true, he'd still have been scoffed at for the shameless, ineffectual pandering of it all.
And let's be real folks...the charge of “shameless, ineffectual pandering” isn't exactly one that Mittsie has much of a defense against, is it?
What he's found in this exercise in spin futility is that the ugly stain of good old American racism is a tough one to remove, especially when those most anxious to wash it away are often the most obviously compromised by it. The “King March” claims were only going to end up as what they ended up as—hot sparks in his dry hay wagon of a campaign. He was either going to set off the blaze of when we looked at how his father reconciled “supporting” MLK while living a faith that openly considered him a lesser human being (a direct contradiction of King's message) were the march statements true—or, now that we know they were at the very least, considerably stretched, torch himself yet again as a man who's known to say pretty much anything to cover his ass at any given moment.
He was damned if he did, and damned if he didn't.
The tears of relief he supposedly shed in '78 when the Mormon bigwigs reversed the faith's racist stance in the face of multi-million dollar suits read as so much salty crocodile effluence no matter how you slice it. Bullshit or pandering—bullshit and pandering.
It's a two-fer fer losers. Which uh...makes Mitt a...well, you can read the polls, can't you folks?
But open that Pandora's Box of disingenuously discussing race if you must, Mittsie. I mean, you're already deemed untrustworthy in general by folks for your Zelig-esque policy tendencies. All you've done here is set yourself up Rudy-style for a bit of investigative digging that's not going to go well once the first big shovelful comes up. You managed to dodge the bullet when this ugliness first started to surface eight months ago.
But back then you were the hunt-er, remember? Now buddy...you're the hun-ted.
What to do? What to do to shore things up a little?
Oooh! You can always claim you taught Richard Pryor that pinch-corded “White Guy Voice” when you met him backstage at a concert in '71 or something. Rich's dead too, so he's not gonna deny it.
Or, you could say you played trumpet overdubs on James Brown's “Get On The Good Foot” in '72. Again, no James, no denial.
Hey! Guess who ghost-wrote sizable chunks of “Roots” for the late Alex Haley?...