I’m not big on social commentary so let me apologize in advance for the following post.
When I sea a headline like Fan apologizes for throwing banana, I assume I’m about to read something pretty funny, preferably with a byline from Dave Barry. And I’m sure if we gave Dave a writing prompt that began with such a headline, he’d be able to come up with something really good. It would probably involve a couple of guys, a lot of beer and a variety of bodily injuries. Sadly, the real story offered no such enticements and instead left me feeling bewildered, melancholy, frustrated and angry.
I’m guessing you’ve heard about this already. Last Sunday, the San Francisco Giants put the finishing touches on a disappointing home stand by being soundly defeated by the Baltimore Orioles. The final score was 10 to 2. The Giants have been struggling lately and the fans are getting a tad impatient. One fan demonstrated his irritation by tossing a banana onto the field. It’s never a good idea to throw anything on the field but a banana is a lot better than a brick, your spouse or a macel tov cocktail. Under the circumstances, however, the macel tov cocktail probably would have caused less of a stir. The now infamous banana landed in the vicinity of Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who is black, and then all hell broke loose.
Jones presumably never saw who threw the banana but immediately assumed the incident was racially motivated. He took to Twitter to voice his displeasure saying “I want to thank whatever slapd– threw that banana towards my direction in CF in the last inning. Way to show ur class you jackass.” And when the Giants learned what had happened they responded with the following. “We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Adam and the entire Orioles organization for this unfortunate incident. The irresponsible actions of this individual in no way reflect the values of our organization or our fans.” The statement from the Giants also included some stuff about a “zero tolerance policy,” and “immediate ejection from the ballpark.”
Let’s back track a bit here. The guy threw a piece of fruit. Granted, it was a dumb thing to do but there was nothing malicious in the act. He wasn’t aiming at anyone or anything. He just happened to pick up a banana that unfortunately landed near a black man. I haven’t identified the fan in question because I think he’s already received far more criticism and attention than his actions warranted. In my opinion, he was guilty of nothing worse than a few moments of poor judgment. Besides, the story is all over the place so you can look him up easily enough it you really want to. He already apologized for the incident and said he was “shocked and embarrassed” by the whole thing. Call me a racist if you want but I believe him.
We can all pretend that racism no longer exists in this country but, despite our best efforts, it continues to rear its ugly head. Even the incredibly diverse world of professional sports is not immune. We were reminded of that again last month when Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper thoughtlessly used “the N word” at a Kenny Chesney concert. Instead of catching passes from teammate Michael Vick, Cooper suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a well deserved shit storm. After a series of what appear to be heartfelt apologies to the Eagles, Eagles fans, his parents, the world at large, and anyone else who would listen, Cooper was excused from team activities while undergoing what is commonly termed sensitivity training. He was back with the team in time for the Eagles’ first preseason game which he did participate in. No word on the mood in the locker room but one can assume it was rather tense.
Is there a difference between an obvious racial slur and a seemingly innocent incident that could be construed as being racially motivated? I don’t have an answer to that one. I only wish that Giants fan had thrown an apple and I’m damn glad there weren’t any watermelons nearby. Oh, and if he was targeting Jones, if his act was both deliberate and malicious, then I’m an overly optimistic sap and I’m heartily sorry for giving him the benefit of the doubt.